Guilty pleas in Vernon luring case

Asked if he had anything to say to the court, David Clayton Willerth rose slowly out of the prisoner dock

Asked if he had anything to say to the court, David Clayton Willerth rose slowly out of the prisoner dock.

Willerth, who pleaded guilty Tuesday morning in Vernon Supreme Court to 18 out of 25 counts ranging from possession of child pornography to communicating via computer to lure a child under the age of 16, glanced over to the gallery where his wife, mom and sisters were sitting.

The man with the shaved head and full beard, wearing red prison garb and white running shoes, then looked at justice Peter Voith and apologized.

“I’m sorry to everyone I hurt,” said Willerth, 40. “I want help. I do. I don’t want to re-offend. I never want to come back here (court) again.”

Willerth will find out his fate from Voith Friday at 9 a.m. after Crown and defence presented their final submissions Tuesday.

Crown lawyer Shirley Meldrum is seeking a prison sentence of six-to-seven years, while defence lawyer David Johnson said he’ll ask for a three-year term in a federal penitentiary so Willerth can get counselling, along with time already served.

Crown stayed seven charges against Willerth.

Court heard how the Vernon man posed as a modeling agent under a fake name on a social network site in May 2013 and offered young girls contracts and money if they would send him nude photos.

In total, Willerth was linked to 16 girls between the ages of 12 and 15.

“The offences were planned and predatory,” said Meldrum. “He developed an account on the social network site to contact girls, then he would search their friends. He used one girl to recruit other girls.”

Meldrum said Willerth attempted to meet a number of the victims but “he didn’t meet any of the girls.”

Willerth’s previous criminal record was entered as an exhibit which included charges of criminal harassment against 16- and 17-year-old girls over a 15-month period by using the Internet.

“The offences are different but the circumstances are the same,” said Meldrum, adding Willerth was on probation for those offences when he committed the offences he pleaded guilty to on Tuesday.

Meldrum said Willerth’s intent was to see how far girls would go to be a model, and to meet girls to have sex.

A risk assessment on Willerth said his behaviour was “calculated and premeditated,” and labelled him a “moderate-to-high risk for sexual violence.”

Johnson, like Meldrum, said one of the factors the court must consider is Willerth entered guilty pleas.

“He did so rather than go to trial which could have been onerous,” said Johnson. “Instead of having the girls endure a trial, he admitted to a number of counts.”

Johnson said while his client did receive nude photos, he did not distribute them, nor did he extort anything using the photos as leverage. He deleted the photos, said Johnson, who feels his client is a good candidate for rehabilitation.

“He knows what he did is wrong and that bodes well,” said Johnson. “He admitted tricking young girls because young girls are easy to trick. He wants counselling.”

Willerth has been in custody since July 18, 2013.

Crown is also seeking a DNA sample, a 10-year firearms prohibition, and wants Willerth added to the sexual offender registry.

 

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