PORT TOWNSEND — A Jefferson County prosecutor said a Sequim man sought sex with children while his attorney said the man was seeking only adult role-playing during opening statements on the first day of a trial of a man who was arrested during a Net Nanny sting in 2018.
The second jury trial of David Lee Sprague, 35, began Wednesday morning in the Jefferson County Superior Court after a mistrial was declared at the end of the first trial in February. Jury selection had begun Monday.
Sprague was charged with first-degree attempted rape of a child and second-degree attempted rape of a child, both Class A felonies punishable by a maximum of life in prison and/or a $50,000 fine.
Sprague was one of 10 men arrested in the March 2018 Net Nanny operation targeted at child sex predators.
Court documents allege Sprague answered a Craigslist ad posted by an undercover State Patrol sergeant March 22, 2018, and proceeded to engage in email and text messages with an undercover detective.
The detective was posing as a mother who was offering her daughters, 12 and 8, for sex.
Sprague sent dozens of suggestive text messages and several photos of his body parts to the detective, according to court documents.
The following day, the undercover detective gave Sprague an address in Port Hadlock, and Sprague was taken into custody after he arrived at the residence with his phone, three condoms and lubricant, according to court documents.
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Julie St. Marie said during her opening statement that Net Nanny operations are geared toward people who take “substantial” steps towards the act of having sex with a child, versus “simply expressing interest.”
Throughout the messages back and forth between Sprague and the detective, Sprague allegedly made a “definite statement of intent” toward having sex with the two girls and was compliant with all the demands made by the detective, such as taking a selfie at the QFC in Port Hadlock and arriving at the house at a specific time, St. Marie said.
Defense attorney Richard Davies of Jefferson Associated Counsel argued in his opening statement that Sprague is not guilty of the charges, as Sprague believed he was participating in “adult sexual role play” and would be meeting up with adult women who were acting like children.
Davies said Sprague had used Craiglist for sex before the Net Nanny incident. However, those situations were “more vanilla and role play” with adults.
Among the messages Sprague sent to the detectives, Davies said Sprague had sent a message saying “I love daddy daughter and mom son play,” stating his belief that the situation was role playing with no children actually involved.
In her preparatory statement before the defense made its statement, St. Marie said that in none of the description in the ad nor in the subsequent text conversations with Sprague did the detective ever use the words “pretend” or “role play.”
St. Marie also stated Sprague made explicit remarks about what he wanted to do with the two girls.
Witnesses St. Marie plans to call during the course of the multi-day trial include the undercover detective, other members of the Net Nanny task force and an ex-girlfriend that Sprague had a relationship with last fall, whom he allegedly told he wanted to have a family without incestrial limitations, where the parents would have sex with the children, St. Marie said.
Davies said that ad or the messages from the detective never said the situation was not role play. Davies argued that Sprague made multiple references to the situation being fantasy, and the detective never corrected him.
Sprague did ask for photos from the detective to prove she was not a bot and the situation was with adults, and the photos sent back were of a 22-year-old officer who made herself look like a younger girl, Davies said.
In regard to the ex-girlfriend, Davies said the couple had participated in mom/son and dad/daughter role play but in conversation between them about having sex with his own kids, Sprague allegedly said, “To be honest, that hasn’t crossed my mind,” further saying he had “fantasized about it, but not with his own kids,” Davies said.
Davies also called the claim about incestrial limitations made by St. Marie “preposterous” and that all Sprague’s messages were consistent with role play.
Davies plans to cross-examine the witnesses St. Marie calls forward, call forward Sprague and an expert in human sexuality, whom Davies said can describe how the situation has “all the hallmarks of role play.”
Sprague’s is the first jury trial conducted in Jefferson County since Gov. Jay Inslee postponed them until July 6 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Court officials implemented several changes to the Superior Court courtroom.
Among them: Jury members were wearing face masks and sitting 6 feet apart in separate chairs, and when the jury was being shuffled between seats during the final selection, court staff used disinfectant wipes between people.
Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone at 360-385-2335, ext. 5.