by Matt Rosenberg July 12th, 2013
A 55-year-old lawn service owner from Seattle’s Wedgwood neighborhood this week in King County Superior Court pled guilty to a felony sex offense and was sentenced to nearly a year in jail. After police noticed his online post in the “Casual Encounters” section of Craigslist seeking sex with a mother and daughter, a detective responded, posing as the father of a 13-year-old girl “who wants to experience sex with older men.” A series of email exchanges ensued in which the age of the fictitious girl was underscored and the suspect made clear that he understood that, and wanted have regular, oral and anal sex with her. A meet-up was arranged at the Edgewater Hotel, 2411 Alaskan Way on Seattle’s downtown waterfront.
After the man met the father – actually a detective from the SPD’s Internet Crimes Against Children Unit – the two went up to a room where the girl was supposed to be and the man was arrested upon entering.
Pleads to attempted child molestation, 2nd degree
Charged then, last December, with attempted rape of a child in the second degree was Bradley T. Heerdt, who according to police and other records resides in the 8800 block of 38th Ave. NE in the city’s Wedgwood area. Court and other records show he is a 1975 graduate of Bishop Blanchet High School in Seattle. This Monday July 8, more than seven months after the initial arrest, a pre-trial settlement was reached in which Heerdt pled guilty to a lesser felony crime of attempted child molestation in the second degree. His trial had originally been set for June 10 but was delayed as plea deal negotiations progressed.
Plea statement: “intentional” steps to liaise with 13-year-old
Heerdt’s guilty plea statement to the court read in part, “I took substantial steps to have sexual contact for sexual gratification with a fictitious 13-year-old girl…whom I believed to be 13 years old..My commission of the above-described crime (of attempted child molestation in the second degree) was intentional. I took a substantial step in committing the crime by going to a pre-arranged location and bringing condoms and lubricant with me.”
He has been sentenced to 11.25 months in jail, with credit for time already served. Online King County jail records indicate he was held for 19 days in late December and early January before release on bond. Ian Goodhew, Deputy Chief of Staff to King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg, said that the amount of time served is still to be officially calculated, and that Heerdt has been “authorized to do work release, so he can go to work during the day and report back to jail at night.” The sentence also includes 12 months of community custody after jail time is fully served, plus successful completion of a sexual deviancy program and no contact with minors without approval.
Child molestation in the second degree is a Class B Felony under state law punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $20,000, or both. However because Heerdt was charged in the end only with attempted molestation the maximum penalties could only be three-quarters of those, and came to considerably less than that because he was a first-time offender.
Backdrop: ongoing offensive against child sexual exploitation
Heerdt’s case is not an isolated one. There have been growing concerns among City of Seattle elected officials including Mayor Mike McGinn about child sexual exploitation made easier by Web advertising, and an escalating role taken jointly in recent years by Seattle Police, the Northwest region FBI and other law enforcement agencies in identifying and apprehending suspects using online venues where they attempt set up sex – often paid – with or involving underage females. Sometimes on their own as in this case and sometimes working with other agencies, police detectives in the region as one part of their work to combat child sexual exploitation set up stings of suspected johns, child abusers, pimps, and users or sellers of child pornography.
Heerdt appears to have been a lonely and sexually compulsive man but not any sort of sexual predator, according to a 23-page special report submitted to the court this week at sentencing by his attorney and written by Tacoma psychiatrist Paul Spizman. It was based on a four hour-plus interview Spizman conducted with Heerdt that was explicitly not confidential, but was voluntary, and supported by limited polygraph tests used to test Heerdt’s truthfulness, according to the report.
Spizman writes that Heerdt said he had never sexually victimized anyone, and has had no actual sexual contact with minors at any time. He also had no prior criminal convictions. According to Spizman’s report Heerdt said he started dating only in his mid-30s and did not have a serious relationship until the age of 43. He also increased his exposure to Internet pornography in 2012 and for more than 20 years had successfully sought massage therapists for sexual encounters; using the Internet, and specifically Craigslist for that in more recent years. He also masturbated two to three times daily in his 40s and into his 50s, he told the psychiatrist. About the crime to which he pled guilty he told the psychiatrist that he was seeking something “totally new” and “different.” He also stated depression and wishing he had a girlfriend were at the root of his crime.
In a statement to the judge in his case dated July 5, Heerdt emphasized that he lives with and cares for his elderly and ailing mother and needs to continue to be regularly available to cook and shop for her and take her to medical appointments. He also said he has done “a lot of soul searching” and has repented and is in recovery from his sexual compulsions. This now includes daily bible reading, weekly bible study classes, and participation in a church-formulated sexual addiction treatment online class called Setting Captives Free which he is completing at a public library because he no longer owns a computer. “Before I would hide my loneliness and I was using sex to fill that void….I am a very different person now…,” Heerdt wrote.