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This article was published 7/12/2018 (1085 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
SAN LUIS OBISPO, CALIF. — A former pastor from Winnipeg is on trial in California, facing allegations he travelled to the city of Arroyo Grande to have sex with a supposed 15-year-old girl he met online.
Nathan Rieger, 53, has pleaded not guilty to a felony count of meeting with a minor for lewd purposes.
If convicted, he faces up to four years in state prison, according to court records.
Rieger is accused of engaging in sexually explicit online conversations with an Arroyo Grande police detective, who he believed was a teenage girl.
He was arrested Aug. 10, in an Arroyo Grande parking lot, where he had allegedly planned to meet the girl.
Rieger worked as a pastor at the Winnipeg Centre Vineyard Church, and resigned after he was arrested.
Jury selection for the trial began Monday, and jurors heard opening statements Wednesday.
On Thursday, San Luis Obispo deputy district attorney Julie Antos called to the stand James Jolly, an Arroyo Grande police detective who specializes in investigating internet crimes against children.
Jolly described for jurors an online chat he conducted with Rieger, under the guise of being a 15-year-old girl, over the course of a week in early August. It was unclear from Thursday’s testimony what online platform they were using, but Rieger reportedly communicated with Jolly using the name "Anon."
Jolly testified, in response to Rieger’s requests, he sent outdoor selfie photos of an unspecified woman and stated repeatedly his avatar was 15 years old.
Rieger, who stated he was 37, began the conversation with flattering comments such as "You’re beautiful," but he soon became more explicit, asking the supposed girl about turn-ons and past sexual encounters, according to testimony.
Jolly described how he carefully maintained the conversation by using vague language and by encouraging Rieger to explain his intentions.
"I’m looking for (him to say) something very black and white that’s difficult to interpret any other way," Jolly told the court. And Rieger allegedly did, saying he wanted to introduce the girl to "new pleasures," among other extremely graphic comments.
Throughout the conversation, Jolly repeatedly reminded Rieger his avatar was 15, wasn’t old enough to drink, and had to "sneak out" from her grandmother’s house to meet, according to a transcript of the communication displayed for jurors.
Jolly said he worked over several days to encourage Rieger to show he understood he was suggesting committing a crime.
"My career could be at stake because of your age," Rieger allegedly wrote. In another comment, Rieger allegedly wrote: "I know (the age of consent) is 18. But I think I still want you."
According to the transcript, Rieger allegedly told the avatar he was an "experienced Dom" — or male dominatrix — and sex is "much nicer without a condom."
However, Rieger was apprehensive about meeting the supposed girl, allegedly writing he had been "catfished before." He allegedly requested the girl send another photo, this one in which the girl touched her nose to ensure he was talking to a real person.
After Jolly produced such a photo, Rieger allegedly wrote: "All of my doubts are gone... Let’s do this."
— San Luis Obispo Tribune