A retired California Highway Patrol lieutenant brought a key-lime pie, camera and condoms to a meeting in a Laguna Beach park with an undercover agent posing as a 13-year-old girl, a prosecutor told a jury Tuesday.
“Stephen (Robert) Deck, the man sitting there, drove an hour from his home in Carlsbad to Laguna Beach,” Senior Deputy District Attorney Robert Mestman said in his opening statement in the defendant’s retrial. ” He thought he was going to meet a 13-year-old girl for lewd conduct. It didn’t turn out the way he expected.”
Deck, 63, was convicted in December 2009 of felony attempted lewd acts on a child younger than 14 and sentenced a month later to a year in jail and five years of probation. The conviction was upheld by the state Fourth District Court of Appeal, but was later overturned by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Deck cannot be jailed if convicted a second time, so what’s mainly at stake is whether he has to register as a sex offender.
According to Mestman, Deck began corresponding online with “Amy” — who was actually a volunteer from the Perverted-Justice.com organization that works with law enforcement — and asked her about her “sexual preferences” on Feb. 12, 2006. Six days later, he arranged to meet the fictional teen at a park in Laguna Beach.
He showed up with a camera and a pie in hand, and the condoms were in his car when he was arrested in a “coordinated sting” that also resulted in the arrests of a dozen other men, Mestman said.
During a search of the defendant’s home after his arrest, he told investigators, “You know, you’re going to have intent issues in this case,” the prosecutor said.
“Even on that day, he was already planting the seats of an intent defense,” Mestman said, telling jurors that Deck understood how stings operate and how they are investigated. The police lieutenant even mentioned the Perverted Justice organization in one of his chats, the prosecutor said.
“He’s a police officer so he knows the law,” Mestman said. “But he’s so sexually charged and wants to meet Amy … so he drives for an hour … to Laguna Beach to meet this 13-year-old girl with pie.”
Jurors will also hear evidence of sexually charged chats with others online that the defendant believed to be underage girls, Mestman said.
The issue in the case is when Deck arrived for his meeting with “Amy” at 8:30 that night “was he planning to have sex with a minor,” defense attorney John Barnett said. “What was he planning on doing when he got there?”
On his way out the door to meet with Amy that night, he texted that he had a sore throat and did not want to get the girl sick, so any physical encounter was ruled out, Barnett said.
He texted, “Remember, I’m sick so no kissing or nothing. I’m going to bring you some pie,” according to the defense attorney. “He tells her explicitly we’re not going to have any sexual contact.”
He repeated as much in a telephone call on his way to the meeting with another “decoy” on the line, Barnett said.
Barnett acknowledged that his client engaged in “sexually charged” online conversations involving a “Daddy thing” in the run-up to the arrest, calling it “very unpleasant stuff,” but noting that no charges were ever brought related to those chats.
If Deck was so crafty about evading arrest, he wouldn’t have used his own phone and identified himself to the coordinators of the sting, Barnett said, adding that Deck also insisted on a meeting in a public place.
“He’s not going to have a private meeting with this girl,” the defense attorney said.