A defendant in a 2017 internet luring sting was sentenced Monday to probation and ordered to successfully complete the terms of a deferred judgment.
Lawrence Durham was ordered to spend four years on probation for his earlier guilty plea to attempted contributing to the delinquency of a minor. He drew a deferred judgment on his plea to attempted internet luring, under an agreement that called for no jail time.
No conviction will enter on that charge if Durham successfully completes conditions.
Durham was caught up in a sting last April that also led to four other arrests and prosecutions.
According to an arrest affidavit, he responded to a Craigslist ad that asked for “a boss” for sexual relations. Durham asked the age of the person posting the ad and was told he was speaking to a “mature” 14-year-old; at that time, Durham said he was going to pass because 14 was underaged, according to the document.
He eventually agreed to meet up at a local hotel, though he expressed misgivings and said it was a “set up” so he was just playing along.
The person posting that ad was part of a sting operation by local law enforcement and the FBI. Although Durham showed up to the hotel with money, he told arresting officers he hadn’t agreed to actually participate with the “girl,” who in reality was a law enforcement official posing online as a child.
“Mr. Durham did offer some pushback when he found out she was 14,” Chief Deputy District Attorney Seth Ryan said at sentencing Monday.
This was a factor in the plea deal that was offered, as was a psycho-sexual examination report that was “one of the more positive” he’s seen, Ryan said.
Durham has no prior criminal history; did not endorse rape myths; served eight years in the military and has steady, longterm employment, Ryan added.
Instead, Durham exhibited only moderate denial during his pre-sentence investigation process.
“This situation is unusual” because there was not an actual 14-year-old victim, the CDDA added.
However, Durham was “actively involved in the internet sex culture,” showed a tendency to objectify women, and a low level of empathy, Ryan said.
All factors were considered in offering the plea deal, he said.
The case represents an “outlier in his life,” public defender Kori Zapletal said, adding her client is ready to cooperate with what the court orders.
“I feel very confident this is an appropriate sentence for you,” District Judge Keri Yoder told Durham.
She imposed the probation sentence and deferred judgment as called for under the plea agreement.
Durham must register as a sex offender while completing his deferred judgment. He can pursue de-registration after.
Four others were arrested as part of the same sting.
Nicholas Love, now free on bond, is charged with attempted sexual assault on a child, internet luring, attempted patronizing of a prostituted child and attempted contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
He withdrew from an earlier plea that would have given him a deferred judgment for attempted internet luring; Love is set for a new plea hearing and sentencing Nov. 5.
Cody Wright, now free on bond, pleaded guilty to internet luring of a child and child abuse, according to court records. He is set for sentencing Dec. 10.
Dale Morales, now free on bond, was charged with attempted patronizing of a prostituted child, attempted sexual assault on a child, attempted internet luring and attempted contributing to the delinquency of a minor. He is set for trial in January, but a Nov. 13 plea hearing also has been set.
A fifth defendant, deemed “least culpable,” is completing a deferred judgment for attempted internet luring of a child.
Katharhynn Heidelberg is an award-winning journalist and the senior writer for the Montrose Daily Press. Follow her on Twitter @kathMDP.