A California Court of Appeal that last month rebuked a Huntington Beach Police Department (HBPD) sting operation targeting adults in pursuit of minors for sex on Craigslist has refused a California Attorney General's office request to reconsider its decision, but nonetheless softened it stance in the case.
The June 10 opinion overturned the 2011 convictions of Venson Villapando for attempted lewd conduct with a 13-year-old girl, who was in fact a decoy persona created by undercover, HBPD police officers.
A three justice panel concluded that there was "substantial evidence" of entrapment and that Superior Court Judge Gregg L. Prickett, a former prosecutor appointed to the bench in 1995 by then-Gov. Pete Wilson, denied the defendant justice by failing to allow the jury to even consider entrapment as a defense.
The appellate panel--Richard Fybel, Raymond Ikola and David A. Thompson--ordered a new trial for Villapando, who unwittingly communicated in text messages and emails with the decoy from July to December 2009.
Just before Christmas that year, the Brea resident drove to a Huntington Beach Carl's Jr. to meet the girl.
She promised intercourse in exchange for $100 she claimed she needed to pay her cell phone bills.
But Villapando changed his mind in the fast food restaurant's parking lot before entering the establishment to meet the girl, and was immediately surrounded by cops as he attempted to drive away.
Without explaining their reasoning, the justice announced on June 27 that they were altering their earlier ruling by deleting the mention of a court case that declared "the application of the entrapment defense depends upon whether 'the intent to commit the crime originated in the mind of the defendant or in the mind of the entrapping officer.'"
They also deleted this sentence from their opinion: "The record supports the finding that the intent to commit the charged offenses, by seeking out a 13-year-old girl, originated in the mind of the police officers involved in the investigation, not in Villapando's mind."
It troubled the justices that the police lured men to respond to the adult section sex ad by not revealing the supposed female's age as a minor until after receiving responses and that in the weeks before Villapando drove to meet the girl they altered the girl's MySpace account to indicate she was 17 years old.
The justices' editing retreats from siding with Villapando's entrapment argument by retaining a sentence that states the defendant "was arguably induced by the police to pursue the fictional 13-year-old Jess, as they appealed to [his] sexual fantasies and urged him to continue the exchange of communications and meet for sex."
County court records don't show that a re-trial has been scheduled.
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HBPD launched the sting operation because there seems to be an endless supply of sexual predators searching for underage kids to molest in Southern California.