Sex Sting Suspects Plead Not Guilty

The first five men charged with sexual abuse of children following a sex sting operation appeared in Flathead County District Court on Thursday

By Beacon Staff

Five of the six local men who were nabbed in a sex sting operation last month have pleaded not guilty in district court.

Kalispell-area residents Justin Allen Zeiss, 34; Joshua Frederick Naethe, 34; Christopher Paul Adams, 37; Benjamin David Emrich, 32; and Karl Cilroy Wortley, 34, all appeared in Flathead County District Court on Thursday. The sixth man, Daniel Anthony Hall, 33, is scheduled to appear in court on Sept. 11.

All six men are charged with felony sexual abuse of children. They are each individually scheduled to stand trial this winter.

According to charging documents filed in court, each of the men responded to undercover Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) agents posing either as an adult woman offering a 12-year-old girl for sex or as an underage teen.

Of the local men arrested, court documents say that five of them allegedly sought out sexual conduct with a 12-year-old, while one individual, Emrich, allegedly propositioned an agent posing as a 14-year-old for sex.

According to charging documents, the agent responded to Emrich’s own online sex ad and, posing as a 14-year-old, told Emrich she was “too young” for him, but he allegedly responded with requests for photos of her.

Investigators reported that on Aug. 18 Naethe responded to an online ad offering a 12-year-old girl for sex, allegedly saying he was interested in assisting the girl in “how to become a woman.”

Prosecutors say he started communicating with the agents via text message. Agents gave Naethe a physical address in Flathead County for the meeting, and he was confronted by officers when he arrived.

He allegedly admitted that he was at the residence to engage in sexual acts with the girl, and had bought condoms for the event.

Zeiss also allegedly answered the Aug. 18 ad, and eventually started speaking on the phone with an undercover agent posing as the girl’s stepmother and texting her as well.

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.

Wortley allegedly responded to the ad, saying he wanted to help the girl lose her virginity, and agents reported sending him a photo of what appeared to be a 12-year-old girl.

Charging documents allege that Wortley then sent sexually explicit messages about the girl, and that he indicated he would bring condoms to meet her. By Aug. 19, agents had texted him an address in Flathead County, where officers confronted him and found condoms in his pocket. Wortley allegedly admitted to going to the residence for sex with the girl.

Prosecutors say Hall also answered the ad seeking to help the girl “become a woman,” and court record includes Hall’s alleged text messages that include sexually explicit conversations about the girl.

Officers arrested Hall at a Flathead County residence, and allege that he admitted he had texted an adult woman concerning the ad placed online.

Adams allegedly communicated with agents from Aug. 18 through Aug. 20, and charging documents outline some of the sexually explicit conversations about the girl, including discussions about her virginity.

Investigators say that Adams requested an address to meet with the girl for sexual acts on Aug. 20, and was confronted by officers upon his arrival. Officers reported finding condoms, lubricant, and a sex toy on Adams’ person when he arrived, and he allegedly admitted to sending the texts and emails about having sex with the 12 year old.

Felony sexual abuse of children carries a maximum penalty of 100 years in prison and a maximum fine of $50,000. Offenders are also required to successfully complete the educational, cognitive and behavioral phases of a sexual offender treatment program.


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