SANTA FE, N.M. — An attorney on Tuesday criticized a Santa Fe Police online sex sting which led to the arrest of his client, calling it “lazy” and “cheap.”
“They would have taken a hit had we gone to trial,” Attorney Arturo Nieto said after his client, 37-year-old Octaviano Vigil of Santa Fe, was sentenced for a non-sex crime misdemeanor as part of a plea deal.
Vigil was one of four men arrested in February last year as part of an online sex sting, in which city police pretended to be children online. The officers engaged in conversations with the men, who believed the officers to be young girls.
Vigil was nabbed in this way and was charged in state District Court with two felony counts of child solicitation by electronic device and criminal sexual communication with a child.
State District Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer asked Nieto and Assistant District Attorney Joshua Granata about the investigation. Granata told the judge that the facts of the case led the state to believe Vigil was not a sexual predator.
Although an original report of the sting stated officers looked for predators on “social media sites,” a term typically used to refer to sites such as Twitter and Facebook, the exchange between Vigil and the undercover officer was initiated on craigslist, where people can place classified and personal ads.
Nieto said his client placed an ad on the site’s personal section seeking adult companionship. He said the personals section of craigslist has a disclaimer stating that it’s for adults only.
Nieto told a reporter following the hearing that the assumption for his client would be that everyone responding to him would be over 18 and if they represented something else, then it was “fantasy play,” which he said was protected speech.
Granata, the prosecutor, told the judge that after a “girl” contacted Vigil, they began to exchange text messages which had sexual content and that, in the messages, Vigil was led to believe he was talking to a 15-year-old girl.
Nieto said his client tried to terminate the discussion with the girl and took no steps to meet her. Granata said Vigil backed out of meeting up with the girl, but police ultimately decided to arrest him based on the messages.
Granata and Nieto disagreed whether Vigil was immediately alerted that the “girl” was 15. Granata said he was, while Nieto said Vigil was having “amorous exchanges” before the age was revealed.
“I think he was hooked before they revealed the age of the person,” Nieto said.
Marlowe Sommer sentenced Vigil for one misdemeanor count of attempted contributing to the delinquency of a minor. He will be on supervised probation for one year, during which time he must attend counseling, avoid talking to minors who are not family members on social media websites and avoid meeting with minors who are not supervised by a parent or guardian.
A Journal message to a Santa Fe police spokesman seeking comment on the sting was not returned.
Another man arrested in the same sting, Shawn Charlee, 35, took a similar plea Feb. 15 before state District Court Judge Sheri Raphaelson, according to court documents. Police alleged Charlee drove to Santa Fe from Tuba City, Ariz., thinking he was about to meet a 13-year-old girl for sex.
Police charged Hunter Schumaker, 20, and Jared Oshell, 35, in the same sting.
Attorney Tom Clark represented both men. He said Oshell took a plea to attempted contributing to the delinquency of a minor one month ago and was sentenced to one year of unsupervised probation. A grand jury declined to indict Schumaker.
Clark said the messages between undercover officers and both men began on craigslist. He said Oshell told police he wasn’t into children, but the undercover officer continued to communicate with him.