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.
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.