A Kalispell man has been given an 8-year suspended sentence to the Department of Corrections a year after he was caught trying to have sex with an underage girl who turned out to be an undercover agent.
Justin Allen Zeiss was sentenced before Judge David M. Ortley in Flathead County District Court on Oct. 22 after pleading Alford to felony sexual assault of children. An Alford plea is when a defendant does not admit guilt but acknowledges that prosecutors have enough evidence to persuade a judge or jury of guilt.
Zeiss was one of six local men captured during a sex sting run by the Montana Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force in August 2014. Zeiss is the fifth to be sentenced this fall. The sixth suspect, Christopher Paul Adams, is expected to go to trial this winter.
As part of his punishment, Zeiss will have to register as a Level I sex offender.
According to court documents, Zeiss responded to an ad offering a 12-year-old girl for sex in August 2014. He eventually started speaking on the phone with an undercover agent posing at the girl’s stepmother. Prosecutors say he told the agent “he respected that the woman was trying to arrange an enjoyable sexual experience for her 12-year-old stepdaughter,” and it’s “worth doing right. It’s a once in a lifetime experience.” He also allegedly said he saw his participation as an “honor.”
Agents instructed Zeiss to meet at a Kalispell location, but he asked the agent to meet him outside. They spoke, and the agent said Zeiss discussed having sex with the girl. He was arrested soon after and charged with sexual assault of children.