A California man was sentenced to up to three years prison on Tuesday in connection with a sting conducted July 7-8, 2022.
Michael Lawrence Harness, 47, used an app to contact someone he thought was a 15-year-old girl, but was actually a police decoy.
Harness admitted attempted sexual abuse of a child under the age of 16.
“There is no doubt he thought he was talking to a 15-year-old,” prosecutor Chelsea Mazza said in asking for a 19-48 month prison sentence. “We’re finding children being recovered from being trafficked as young as 11-years-old. We have a very real problem in Douglas County.”
Attorney Nadine Morton said that Harness was a veteran who had very little criminal record before his arrest.
“He doesn’t seek out people who are underage,” Morton said. She pointed out that the dating app he used requires users be 18 years or older and includes a disclaimer that people might be using different personas.
Harness called the incident a lapse of judgment.
“I’m trying to be a better person,” he said.
A psycho-sexual evaluation found that he is not at high risk to reoffend.
However, the evaluation also included something Harness said that District Judge Tod Young highlighted at sentencing.
“It was a one-night thing, and she was asking,” Young read. “That type of thinking is very dangerous. You’re a predator.”
Once Harness is released from prison, he will have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.
Another man arrested in connection with the sting is denying a charge of attempted abuse of a child by sexual exploitation and soliciting a child for prostitution.
Brit Oern Hall, 45, appeared in Douglas County District Court on Tuesday with attorney Maria Pence.
A four-day trial was set for Sept. 18-21.
It’s the second trial so far in the case. Aaron Michael Fisher, 26, is denying charges of lewdness and is also scheduled for a trial in September.
Nine men were arrested in the July sting conducted by Douglas County Sheriff’s investigators, the Reno Police Department’s Human Exploitation and Trafficking team and the FBI.
Harness is the third person involved with the sting whose sentencing The Record-Courier has reported.
One of the suspects, Chonlagum Satarattiwong, 22, is the subject of a $150,000 warrant after he fled back to his native Thailand.
• An Arkansas man has been ordered back to Nevada to face trial for failing to register as a sex offender.
Melvin Gene Gibson, 43, appeared virtually in Douglas County District Court on Tuesday to deny the felony charge.
Gibson’s name and photo appears on the Nevada sex offender registry as a Tier 1 offender.
He has a California conviction in California for attempted sexual battery in 1997, two convictions for open and gross lewdness in Carson City from 1999 and a count of statutory sexual seduction in Elko.
He will be permitted to participate in a pre-trial hearing virtually but was told he would have to return to Douglas County for the trial.
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