WA: Portland man arrested in Clark County sting acquitted of child sex abuse in new trial

Source: columbian.com 10/2/23

A Portland man was acquitted last month after being granted a new trial on appeal, nearly five years after he was convicted in connection with an undercover child sex sting.

A Clark County Superior Court jury Sept. 8 acquitted Jace Hambrick, 27, of attempted second-degree rape of a child and communicating with a minor for immoral purposes.

He was one of several people arrested in February 2017 after responding to an advertisement posted by an interagency task force posing as minors online.

In Hambrick’s case, he responded to a Vancouver detective’s post in the Casual Encounters category of Craigslist about a girl looking for someone to talk to about video games. Initially, that’s what the conversation centered on.

Court records show the detective messaging Hambrick said multiple times they were a 13-year-old girl before and after the conversation turned sexual in nature. Hambrick, then 20, expressed doubt that a 13-year-old would be posting on Craigslist, and, at one point, he said he thought the fictitious girl was joking about her age.

When Hambrick arrived at a Vancouver apartment to meet the girl, detectives arrested him, according to a probable cause affidavit.

On May 21, 2018, Hambrick’s bench trial began in Clark County. The following day, Judge Gregory Gonzales found Hambrick guilty of both counts, court records show.

Despite his convictions, Hambrick maintained his innocence. His defense attorney at that time filed multiple motions, including asking the judge to reconsider his verdict and to vacate the convictions. All of the motions were denied, according to court records.

New trial

Hambrick’s defense attorney, Charles Lane, raised several issues with the investigation. He said Craigslist requires users to affirm they are at least 18 years old, so Hambrick assumed he was talking to an adult.

At one point in the conversation, Hambrick asked the fictitious girl to send him a photo. The photo he received was of a 24-year-old woman, who turned out to be a Vancouver police officer, Lane said. That officer also answered the door when Hambrick arrived at the apartment, court records show.

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I hope this encourage others to appeal their convictions!

I hope it encourages others not to engage in risky behavior in the first place

I think many more of these types of cases would be overturned if the victims (and by victims, I mean the persons arrested – there were no child victims) had the resources to fight back.

You can’t be convicted of attempted rape of a child when there is no child involved. Congratulations Jace. I hope that you can put this behind you and move on with your young life. I wish you the best of luck.

If you’re communicating with someone on an adult dating website and they tell you they’re a minor, take it at face value. None of this “you have to click the ‘I’m 18’ button to be there”, or “the pic they sent totally looked like an adult”. If you don’t know the person and they’re telling they’re a minor, just disengage. If an adult is trying to pretend they’re a minor on a dating website, that’s already a red flag regardless of who’s behind the computer; its either a child, a cop, or someone with mental health issues.

“Lane, the defense attorney, said when the sting operations first began, defense attorneys and prosecutors alike didn’t know much about how they were operated or funded. At the time of Hambrick’s case, investigators did not do enough to ensure the suspects were actually intending to meet minors, he said. Since then, agencies have made changes to how they conduct the stings, he added.”

So basically LEOs used this man as a learning curve for their sting operations. What a bunch of sick basta*ds!

This is the story of my son, Jace. I will be on the registry matters podcast on oct 28th to speak about his trial if anyone would like more information.