Lawsuit: State operation to catch sex offenders entrapped innocent men to boost arrest numbers
Sun., May 2, 2021
Quentin Parker believes the sting operation that identified him as a “dangerous child predator” in 2019 failed its mission. Though charges against him were ultimately dropped, he claims in his recent lawsuit against Washington State Patrol that dishonest detectives manipulated him and “forever tainted and destroyed” his life for their own financial gain.
According to the suit filed in Thurston County Superior Court this February, detectives funded by a nonprofit now under criminal investigation pretended to be women and girls on social media to entrap men, boost arrest numbers and gain hefty donations for their task force.
Parker, 32, was an active-duty soldier stationed at Joint Base Lewis McChord south of Tacoma in February 2019 when he was arrested in one of Washington’s Operation Net Nanny stings, the complaint for damages said.
Washington State Patrol detectives used the handle “Rowdy Ronda720” to message Parker on a dating app called Skout. Detectives said they lost all but the last messages between “Ronda” and Parker, according to the suit.
“New in town. Single mom,” Rowdy Ronda’s profile said, according to the suit. “I have three girls to share. Looking for likeminded people that are into ddlg/incest/young taboo. No curious wanted, only serious. Young fun. Taboo.”
The suit points to Urban Dictionary’s definition of “ddlg” as Daddy Dom Little Girl, a kink fantasy in which one partner is a “caregiver or ‘daddy’ and the other is childlike. It is NOT a relationship between an actual father and daughter or any minor child,” the complaint said.
Parker showed up at the address “Ronda” gave expecting to role-play with her and another adult woman, according to the suit. At that address, a team of officers in SWAT-like apparel aimed guns at Parker and arrested him, the suit claims.
During Parker’s three-hour interrogation, he repeatedly told officers he showed up for a fantasy role-play with adults, according to the suit. Detectives knew the common definition of DDLG involved consenting adults but did nothing to prevent Parker’s malicious prosecution, the suit claims. Parker was charged with two counts of second-degree attempted rape of a child.
Parker’s story, as told in the complaint, echoes that of Jace Hambrick, who was convicted in Washington after police used similar tactics, according to a report from The New York Times Magazine. Then-20-year-old Hambrick showed up at an address for sex with a person he knew as Gamer Gurl. Hambrick asked for her age and Gamer Gurl said 13.
“Why did you post an ad in craigslist if your (sic) 13? You mean 23?” Hambrick messaged Gamer Gurl, according to the New York Times. Hambrick and the Gamer Gurl account had also exchanged photos, in which a then-24-year-old female Vancouver police officer posed as Gamer Gurl. Hambrick told the Times she appeared to be in her 20s and her insistence on being 13 seemed like fantasy talk.
When Hambrick arrived at the address Gamer Gurl provided, the same adult female officer from the photo appeared at the door and waved Hambrick in before police officers emerged from a back room and arrested him, the Times reported.
“If she was 13, I was going to turn around and walk away,” Hambrick told detectives, the Times reported.
In the Spokane area, Homeland Security agents running Net Nanny operations say they have arrested roughly 40 suspected child predators per year in recent years. While Homeland Security agents estimate the average age of sex trafficking victims in Spokane is 13 or 14, local FBI agents and police who focus on arresting pimps rather than sex buyers estimate the average is closer to 30.
“We’re not seeing hundreds of juveniles being trafficked in our city, and we’ve got people whose full-time job is to look for that,” Christian Parker, FBI supervisory special agent in Spokane, said in August.
Of the roughly 300 people arrested in online-predator stings in Washington from 2015 to 2020, about a quarter were under 25, the Times found with data from WSP and court records. In 89% of cases, there was no evidence suspects had child porn in their possession and 92% had no history of violent crime. They were sentenced on average to six years in prison, the Times reported.
Hambrick was sentenced to 13 months to life in prison with a minimum of 10 years as a registered sex offender.
Though Parker’s charges were dropped, the lawsuit claims WSP and a nonprofit they partnered with continued to slander him as a “child predator.” Operation Underground Railroad, a nonprofit that donated thousands to WSP to fund Net Nanny operations when they began in 2016, published a news release naming Parker as one of 22 “dangerous sexual predators who targeted children.”
The news release on the nonprofit’s site indicates it was written by WSP and includes logos from O.U.R. and WSP side by side.
Vice World News, through a series of public records requests, found that while O.U.R. often claims to partner with local law enforcement on trafficking investigations, the extent of each partnership is usually “a modest donation.”
An earlier Vice investigation found that many of the organization’s claims are misleading or unverifiable. In one case, the organization took credit for rescuing a sex trafficking survivor who testified in court that she escaped on her own.
Still, the organization has gained acclaim as conspiracies about child sex rings have gathered steam. In 2019, President Donald Trump appointed the nonprofit’s founder to co-chair a federal anti-trafficking policy council.
Starting in 2016 with donations for the then-burgeoning Operation Net Nanny, Washington State Patrol received about $200,000 over five years from O.U.R. before deciding in 2020 to decline further donations from the organization, said Chris Loftis, a spokesman for WSP, in January.
Loftis declined to interview in April, saying WSP does not comment on pending litigation.
In January, Loftis told The Spokesman-Review that the nonprofit’s news releases influenced WSP’s decision to refuse donations.
“In the early days of a fledgling project (donations were) critical and very much appreciated and we used it to develop the process of the Net Nanny operations,” Loftis said. “But over the course of the last year it became increasingly apparent that O.U.R. needed us more than we needed them. And they were using our success in the promotion of their activities.”
Operation Underground Railroad, another defendant in the Parker lawsuit, is also under criminal investigation by Davis County, Utah in the organization’s home state, FOX13 of Salt Lake City reported last October.
“We never had a sense to think what they were doing was untoward or illegal or unethical,” Loftis said in January, “but we have to be careful that as law enforcement other entities don’t borrow our moral and ethical authority granted to us by the public.”
The detective who spearheaded Operation Net Nanny, Carlos Rodriguez, moved to work at Operation Underground Railroad after retiring from WSP. Loftis said it’s not uncommon for WSP officers to move to nonprofits after retirement. Rodriguez could not be reached for comment.
Operation Underground Railroad spokesperson Emily Evans declined to interview.
The suit filed by South Bend, Wash. attorney Harold Karlsvik seeks compensatory damages for Parker and his wife based on several alleged crimes, including illegal arrest, unnecessary force, defamation, malicious prosecution and abuse of process.
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