By Natalie Johnson / firstname.lastname@example.org
A Chehalis teen accused of victimizing W.F. West High School classmates in an elaborate “sextortion” scheme pleaded guilty and was sentenced this week to counseling and probation under the state Special Sex Offender Disposition Alternative, a probation program for juvenile sex offenders.
The sentence is a big break for the 17-year-old who pleaded guilty to 12 felony charges Friday including three counts of first-degree dealing in depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct, one count of possession of such depictions and eight counts of second-degree extortion, said Superior Court Judge James Lawler Friday morning.
“You have had your big chance,” Lawler said. “There are severe consequences if you mess this up.”
The teen will have to be honest and pass polygraph tests about his conduct, Lawler said, warning that lies and violations of the terms of his sentence would be difficult to hide.
If the teen violates any of the terms of the SSODA, the state will conduct a hearing on whether to revoke it, forcing the teen to serve the remainder of his sentence in custody.
“What’s waiting for you on the other end of that hearing … is you being locked up until your 21st birthday,” Lawler said. “This case is so extreme, I’m telling you we’re not going to go in baby steps. If there’s a violation, I will revoke this.”
The Chronicle does not name suspects charged in Lewis County Juvenile Court.
The SSODA sentence was recommended by two sex-offender specialists, said Rickie Anders, of Lewis County Juvenile Court.
In addition to counseling and other requirements, the teen will be required to complete 80 hours of community service. He will be given credit for 139 days already served in Lewis County Juvenile Detention and will be supervised by Juvenile Court for up to three years.
“I think I’d like to say I am definitely sorry for the things I’ve done and the hurt that has been caused to people who don’t deserve it,” the teen said Friday during his disposition hearing in Superior Court.
Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer, Anders and the teen’s attorney, Elissa Brine, all recommended the SSODA sentence.
Meyer spoke Friday about the affect the teen’s admitted actions had on his victims.
“While this isn’t a crime in which (the teen) offended physically … it is very offensive to those that were involved,” Meyer said. “I know that is something (he) needs to appreciate and take into account.”
He will not be allowed to contact any of the victims.
Brine said her client understands the severity of his crimes and is looking forward to treatment and the possibility of having a normal life.
“(My client) does feel bad about this … and he is ready to move forward,” she said. “… I believe he knows this is a carrot and a stick.”
On Feb. 26, the Lewis County Prosecutor’s Office asked Lawler to allow them to charge the teen as an adult due to the severity of the charges against him.
The suspect was 15 when he allegedly created numerous social media profiles under a female alter ego, then used the accounts, and explicit images and pictures of women he found online, to contact male classmates and send them the explicit content.
In return, he would ask for pictures and video of his victims. If the victims tried to stop, he reportedly threatened to send their explicit photos and videos to their family and friends, which he did in several cases, according to the Lewis County Prosecutor’s Office.
The boy was 16 when contacted by investigators, and turned 17 this month.
Lawler ruled the teen would be charged in Juvenile Court, in accordance with his attorney’s position, evaluations by mental health professionals and a recommendation from Juvenile Court.
The boy has been on house arrest, meaning he does not have to wear a tracking anklet as in electronic home monitoring, but must be accompanied by parents when he leaves the house, since that hearing.
“What I want to see is somebody who grows and learns and gets something out of this treatment,” Lawler said Friday. “This is not going to be easy. The work is just starting for you.”