After a nearly decade-old conviction for attempting to have sex with someone he thought was a 13-year-old girl was overturned on appeal, a retired California Highway Patrol lieutenant has again been found guilty of the crime.
An Orange County Superior Court jury on Thursday convicted Stephen Robert Deck, 63, of a felony count of attempted lewd acts on a child under 14.
Deck’s original conviction was overturned in 2014 when two of three judges on a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals panel determined that the prosecutor trying the case misstated a portion of the law to jurors during closing statements. Orange County prosecutors decided to retry the case.
Because Deck already served his original one-year jail sentence and five years of probation, his latest conviction means he’ll now be required to register as a sex offender.
“Justice was served,” Senior Deputy Dist. Atty. Robert Mestman told reporters. “It was the right verdict. The evidence was overwhelming.''
Deck, who spent two decades with the CHP, was among roughly a dozen men swept up in an undercover sting operation by the Laguna Beach Police Department in 2006. He had been chatting online with a person he believed was a 13-year-old girl named Amy, but was in fact an adult volunteer from a nonprofit organization that works with law enforcement to catch sexual predators.
Deck continued online conversations and phone calls with an undercover officer. He made graphic sexual comments and eventually arranged to meet with the girl in Laguna Beach. Officers arrested him when he arrived at a park with key lime pie and a digital camera. Authorities said they found expired condoms inside his car.
Defense attorney John Barnett declined to comment to reporters after the verdict was read.
He argued during the trial that Deck did not plan to have a physical encounter with the girl that night. On his way to meet her, he texted that he had a sore throat and didn’t want to get her sick, Barnett said.
He texted, “Remember, I’m sick so no kissing or nothing. I’m going to bring you some pie,” according to the defense attorney. “He tells her explicitly we’re not going to have any sexual contact.”