Pubdate: Thu, 6 Aug 2009
Source: Willamette Week (Portland, OR)
Page: Cover Story
Copyright: 2009 Willamette Week Newspaper
Author: James Pitkin
Photo: JAIL BAIT: Tigard Police Officer Oddis Rollins used this photo 
to lure Shawn Walsh into Washington County. Walsh had 3.5 grams of 
pot when he was arrested. [Illustrations: Mia Nolting]


One Cop Shop's Prostitution Sting: Phony Ads on Craigslist of Hot 
Women Offering Sex for Weed.

Early one April morning, Shawn Walsh hopped online in his one-bedroom 
apartment in Oregon City and turned to the Casual Encounters section 

Casual Encounters has done for sex what bathhouses and swingers' 
parties used to do--made it convenient, available and anonymous.

Walsh uses Craigslist because, frankly, he wouldn't have much luck 
scoring at a club in Old Town, or even at a bar in Oregon City.

Thirty-eight years old with a paunchy gut and a goatee, he grew up in 
Canby and used to work as a mechanic until he broke his back in 1991. 
Now he's divorced, supporting himself on disability checks and by 
selling auto parts online.

On April 13 this year, he clicked into Casual Encounters and found 
this personal ad: "Tuesday is my Friday!! Wanna smoke and....;)"

The ad said a 23-year-old woman had posted it. Walsh clicked on the 
link and read more.

Tuesday is my last day at work this week and I wanna party on Tues 
night!! I'm a hot blonde who has all the right moves." The ad 
promised to trade those moves to anyone who could offer some "420," 
or marijuana.

Walsh wrote back from his Hotmail account: "Hi how you doing my name 
is Shawn. I have some bomb 420 and would like to share it with you 
tomorrow night."

"Perfect," came the reply from  "I've got a 
little pretty pussy for you to play with while I smoke all your weed 
;) Wanna work a little trade like that??" The message was signed Kayla.

That would be great. I like to play with pussy," Walsh wrote.

"I promise," the next message said, "this sweet pussy will be the 
best payment you've ever got for some bud. As long as you got sum 
good weed, I've got the best pussy for u. All night long if u can 
last that long."

Attached to the email was a picture of three young women sitting on a 
bench at night. They looked like slightly buzzed sorority sisters who 
had just stepped out of a bar on spring break.

"I'm the blonde on the right," the email said. "I havent had any dick 
in months so you'll have to be gentle at first."

They arranged to meet at 11 pm Tuesday, April 14, at an address on 
Southwest Hermoso Way in Tigard. Walsh made the half-hour drive from 
his home in Clackamas County west to Washington County.

When Walsh pulled his black Chevy pickup onto suburban Hermoso Way, 
he was surrounded by Tigard police. Officer Oddis Rollins, who had 
placed the Craigslist ad and written the emails, asked Walsh to step 
out of his truck.

Walsh had 3.5 grams of weed in his pocket--normally enough to earn 
him nothing more than a ticket. But because he'd agreed to trade 
drugs for sex, the cops charged Walsh with misdemeanor prostitution 
and delivery of drugs, a felony, and booked him into Washington 
County Jail. But Walsh insists he was just looking for a good time.

"I think they were looking to bust some huge drug dealer, I don't 
know," Walsh tells WW. "But the way they went about it, who are they 
gonna bust besides someone like me?"

It's not unusual for police to conduct stings to catch prostitutes or 
the johns who hire them. Portland police do so several times each 
year, including along 82nd Avenue.

But Walsh's arrest was part of a recent sting operation by Tigard 
police that observers call highly unusual. For one thing, the ads 
were written to appear as if they were from a promiscuous 
girl-next-door type rather than a professional hooker. Even more 
strange was the offer of trading sex for pot.

According to public records, Tigard police spent about eight months 
posting such ads online. During that time, they arrested 24 men from 
all over the Portland area, including an Oregon Department of 
Transportation employee, a Portland State University student and a 
former TV news producer visiting from Yakima, Wash.

Tigard police didn't stop the practice until the Washington County 
District Attorney's Office finally told them in May the tactic was 
producing cases they couldn't prosecute. The reason: Prosecutors felt 
they couldn't prove some of the men arrested ever intended to commit 
the crimes they were being charged with.

Much like Dateline NBC's controversial series To Catch a Predator, 
the tactic by Tigard police has been assailed by defense attorneys, 
by those who fell into the trap and even by some law enforcement 
officials. Some describe the stings as a classic example of 
entrapment and police overreach.

"The police officers participating in this scam are using the same 
tactics that predatory sex offenders would use," says Alex Hamalian, 
a prominent public defender in Portland who was not involved in the 
cases. "Some guy who is so weak he has to turn to the Internet for 
sexual gratification is calling these cops, and they are taking 
advantage of his desperation...that's the epitome of entrapment."

Even Oregon's top law-and-order activist is critical.

Kevin Mannix is a former Republican gubernatorial candidate and 
author of Measure 11, a 1994 ballot measure that created mandatory 
minimum sentences for violent offenders. More recently, he wrote 
Measure 61, a failed 2008 ballot initiative that would have provided 
mandatory minimums for drug dealers and thieves as well.

Mannix says the Craigslist stings in Tigard leave him squeamish.

"How far do we go in trying to capture predators, in lowering 
ourselves to the same cesspool? At some point, you make yourself as 
dirty as the predator," Mannix says. "This might be what I call the 
virtual version of crossing the line."

Or, as defense attorney Gabe Bickle-Eldridge puts it: "Tigard must be 
a really great place to live if there's no crime, and police need to 
spend their time trying to create crime and attract drugs to their community."

Even now, Tigard's mayor and police chief both insist the sting was justified.

"I stand behind our police," says Tigard Mayor Craig Dirksen, who 
says he was briefed on the stings while they were under way. "I 
wouldn't say they were bringing [criminals] in. I would say people 
outside the community were choosing to come in."

Tigard lies nine miles south of downtown Portland, but also a world away.

A bedroom community of 50,000 residents, Tigard is white (82 
percent), relatively well-off ($61,000 median household income) and 
best known by outsiders for its 1.46-million-square-foot Washington 
Square mall.

Politically, the town is a suburban battleground, with registered 
Democrats outnumbering Republicans there for the first time in 2006. 
Still, senior Bush adviser Karl Rove deemed Tigard a safe haven for a 
fundraising visit on behalf of the local Republican Party in 2007.

To some degree, Tigard's effort to do something about prostitution is 

Last August, Tigard made statewide news after police found a 
15-year-old girl being pimped out of a local Motel 6. The next month, 
the 80-member police force decided to place ads on Craigslist 
offering sex for drugs.

Tigard police spokesman Jim Wolf says they chose pot specifically 
because it was the most common drug they found associated with 
prostitution. It was also the drug most commonly offered by johns and 
demanded by prostitutes in exchange for sex, Wolf says.

While prostitutes are most often paid in cash, it's not unheard of 
for johns to offer payment in drugs or other goods. Detective Mary 
Wheat, a Portland police spokeswoman who formerly acted as a decoy in 
prostitution stings, says she was offered drugs in those stings. 
Once, a john offered to pay her with cash and beer.

Such deals are still considered prostitution, Wheat says, and those 
johns get arrested along with ones offering $50 bills. But she has 
never heard of Portland cops posting ads offering sex for drugs.

"It's just not a priority," Wheat says.

Tigard's Craigslist campaign was primarily the work of two cops on 
the swing shift from 2 pm to midnight.

Officer Oddis Rollins, 33, was hired by the Tigard Police Department 
as a rookie cop in 2004. Officer Thomas Hahn Jr., 34, has been with 
the force since 2005, after serving with the Columbia County 
Sheriff's Office and the Tualatin police.

Both refused repeated requests to be interviewed for this story. A 
third Tigard cop, Officer Thomas Clarson, 35, wrote similar 
Craigslist ads starting this year. He also refused to be interviewed.

The three were directly responsible for writing the ads and the 
corresponding email exchanges with the suspects. But their superiors 
the operation. Those commanders include Lt. Rob Harburg and Sgts. 
Neil Charlton and Tom Duncan of the Tigard police.

Tigard Police Chief Bill Dickinson says he knew his cops were trying 
to bust johns as well as prostitutes, but he says he did not know the 
specific nature of the investigations while they were happening.

Nonetheless, he defends those investigations today.

"If somebody comes here and wants to engage in sex for a fee, that's 
illegal," says Dickinson. "I'm interested in trying to keep that 
activity out of our city. That's our goal. Whatever we do, that 
should be a priority."

The three officers who wrote the ads--Rollins, Hahn and Clarson--are 
singled out by local defense lawyers for the relish they seemed to 
put into their work. The cops constructed personas for the women they 
portrayed, using photos that Hahn testified in court were pulled 
randomly from the Internet--an act that defense lawyer 
Bickle-Eldridge believes may qualify as identity theft.

The emails they wrote during their long hours on the swing shift are 
lewd and, in some cases, outright pornographic.

On May 8, Rollins placed a Craigslist ad titled "420 chic for a d*ick."

"Looking for a guy to chill with tonight," the ad said. "Need u to 
bring over some 420 and trade me for a hot bout of good ol fashioned 
sex! Any type of sex is cool, front door, backdoor. Whatever!"

A 55-year-old bald man from West Linn responded--"Come over to my 
place and i'll smoke you out. Do you like mutual oral?"

Rollins' response: "Of course I love oral! I love to be licked and 
have a tongue shoved way deep in my pussy! Thats hot. I love sucking 
dick too. Ive got a nice tongue stud that would drive you crazy! If 
you wanna come out, bring your bud and you can exchange it for some 
hot oral action;) Maybe more if u think u can handle it!"

The man asked Rollins if he was STD-free and whether Rollins would 
swallow his semen. Rollins promised him "the hottest bj of ur 
lifetime"--in exchange for an eighth of an ounce of marijuana.

They met at the same address on Hermoso Way--a ranch-style home that 
houses a lawyer's office. The man was arrested for delivery and 
prostitution, but prosecutors dismissed the case.

The Washington County DA's Office concluded many of the cases Tigard 
PD brought it were too weak to prosecute--adding weight to those who 
believe the Craigslist sting shows signs of a runaway law enforcement agency.

Rob Bletko, Washington County's chief deputy district attorney, 
doesn't go that far. But it was Bletko who advised police to shut 
down the operation.

"It casts too wide a net," says Bletko. "Are they simply intending to 
hook up? Are we dealing with a drug dealer, or [just] someone in 
possession of drugs who intends to share them with somebody else?"

Such cases were starting to prove problematic for the DA's office. It 
lost one case when a defense attorney argued the crime wasn't 
committed in Washington County because the man had been online at 
home. And a prosecutor dismissed Walsh's case after a grand jury 
declined to indict him for delivery.

Bletko says he first became aware of the troubles in April, when a 
deputy district attorney in his office declined to prosecute a 
Beaverton man arrested by Tigard police. The man had responded to an 
ad Rollins put on MySpace advertising private performances by a 
dancer named "Kayla."

Initially, Rollins hinted the dancer wanted money for sex. But after 
exchanging emails where the man bragged about his sexual prowess, 
Rollins negotiated a deal in which the imaginary dancer would pay the 
man $20 for each orgasm she had.

The man was arrested for prostitution when he showed up on Hermoso 
Way with condoms, tequila, triple sec, and a bottle labeled "Stamina 
RX--Warning: Extreme Sexual Experience."

Deputy District Attorney Allison Brown tossed out the case, noting it 
was Rollins who initiated the sex talk after the man simply asked 
about exotic dances. "We cannot prove the suspect actually intended 
to pay for sex," Brown wrote.

But Rollins challenged her decision, and the case ended up on 
Bletko's desk. He agreed with Brown's call.

"I told them we are not going to prosecute these cases, that it's a 
bad practice," Bletko says.

Wolf, the Tigard PD spokesman, at first told WW his agency stopped 
posting the ads because commanders had reviewed the program. After 
Bletko gave his version, Wolf admitted it was the DA's office that 
had prompted police to shut it down.

For those caught in Tigard PD's web, however, the damage was already 
done. Some were found guilty of delivery and now have felonies on 
their records. Others pleaded guilty to lesser charges. Some had 
their cases dismissed by prosecutors. Still others are awaiting trial.

Defense attorney Bickle-Eldridge has defended seven Tigard Craigslist 
cases so far. In three, he says, his clients were scared and pleaded 
guilty to lesser charges of drug possession. Two other cases were 
dismissed by the DA's office. Two more are set for trial.

Bletko says his office will continue to prosecute cases they believe 
have merit or in which a felony was committed.

Bickle-Eldridge has filed notice in court that he plans to use an 
entrapment defense.

"It just seemed like it was some rogue police officers who were 
having some fun with this and basically ruined some people's lives 
who didn't deserve this," Bickle-Eldridge says.

People like Michael White.

White is a 31-year-old who makes his living blowing glass and selling 
pipes he makes to head shops. He wears tie-dye and, yes, smokes a bit of pot.

Last Nov. 14, White was sitting at home in Beaverton at 11:30 pm when 
he saw an ad on Craigslist labeled "Looking for 420 in exchange for 
whatever!" The attached pic showed a plump woman in a bikini mugging 
for the camera. White responded and asked if she was real.

"Hells yeah i'm real," came the reply. "I only got 15 minutes to 
exchange for some bud, what u want?"

"Hmmm... how about eatin your pussy?" White wrote back. "Can you cum 
that quick? I've got a tongue ring :) I love making a girl cum... 
I'll jack off later to thoughts of your eyes rolling back in your head."

White arranged a meeting outside his condo. He was carrying one of 
his homemade glass pipes and 0.2 grams of bud--about the size of a 
thumbnail. He was arrested for prostitution and delivering marijuana 
within 1,000 feet of a school--a class A felony. But this time the 
cop was from Tualatin: Officer Cameron Montrose.

For a brief time last fall, police from Tualatin, which sits four 
miles south of Tigard, were posting Craigslist ads promising sex for 
drugs. They arrested five men on similar charges, including White.

Tualatin Mayor Lou Ogden refused to comment, saying he knew nothing 
about the operation and needed to talk to the police first. Tualatin 
Police Chief Kent Barker defended the sting.

"You can't tell me it's just someone who wants to party," Barker 
says. "It looks like all the other prostitution listings; it's just 
thatthis particular undercover prostitute wants to exchange money for drugs."

After 30 days in jail, White pleaded guilty to delivery of marijuana 
and was sentenced to time served plus two years of probation.

"I was set to fight it, but man, after 30 days, they say they're 
gonna let you go, it's like, 'I'll sign whatever you want, just let 
me out of jail,'" he says.

The ad the police posted looked nothing like prostitution, he says.

"The thing about Craigslist, there are people hooking on there, and 
you can tell those ads. I wasn't looking for that. I just wanted to 
meet a girl," he says. "The whole thing just blows my mind."

Now he's ordered to attend rehab. The bust cost him nearly $1,000 in 
fines. And it will be seven years before he can have the felony 
erased from his record. Until then, it will be difficult to find 
housing or a steady job.

In the meantime, White has some advice for Washington County law enforcement.

"If you've got time on your hands, go to the kids' chatroom and try 
to catch some pedophiles," he says. "Leave the stoners alone."

In 2008, Tigard had 142 reported assaults, 46 robberies, 221 
burglaries and 1,347 instances of theft. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake