Twelve years ago, California Highway Patrol lieutenant Stephen Robert Deck drove 45 minutes to Laguna Beach's oceanfront from his home in San Diego County for a rendezvous with a girl he met online name "Amy," who was in fact an adult decoy working undercover for Perverted Justice , which NBC's To Catch a Predator made nationally-known.
Deck told the decoy, who he thought was a 13-year-old girl, he wanted "to eat her beautiful, young c – – t," receive oral sex and "stuff daddy’s c – – k" inside her.
During their online conversations, Deck repeatedly asked "Amy" to tell him when her parents were not home.
The sting with "Amy," nabbed 12 men across California for Perverted Justice.
Most defendants were punished with a year in jail.
Two got 18 months in state prison.
But Deck got the most generous punishment after Orange County Superior Court Judge Marc Kelly, a former prosecutor, decided law enforcement officers can be held to a lower standard of conduct than average citizens, saying that cops like Deck have "earned leniency" when they violate the law.
Kelly sentenced Deck to five years probation, a $200 fine, a class on sex addiction as registering for life as a sex offender even though prosecutors asked for four years, and even though deck had attempted to molest two other non-decoy minors.
Deck appealed his punishment handed down by Judge Kelly nonetheless, but lost in the California Court of Appeal and in a subsequent complaint filed in U.S. District Court Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald's court.
However, in 2014, the Ninth Circuit overturned Deck's conviction for an attempted lewd act on a child under 14.
A panel of judges issued a non-unanimous ruling that Deputy District Attorney Robert Mestman erred in his closing statement on a technicality about when deck intended to commit a lewd act against the decoy, who he believed was a child.
"The contention that Deck did not intend to commit a lewd act on the night of the meeting was absolutely central to his defense," the panel opined. "In closing argument, defense counsel told the jury that, while Deck’s conduct may have been reprehensible, it did not constitute an attempt."
Meanwhile, the panel determined Mestman "didn't need to prove Deck intended to engage in a lewd act on the night of the meeting” was actually a legal misstatement.
"The prosecutor told jurors that although the evidence showed Deck intended to engage in lewd conduct that night, they could convict him even if they agreed with the defense that the evidence raised reasonable doubt about when Deck would have followed through," the judicial panel wrote.
"The trial court never correctly instructed the jury that, in order to convict, it had to find Deck had moved beyond preparation and intended to engage in a lewd act on the night of the meeting."
Now, the Orange County district attorney's officer, who could have abandoned the case as a loss, is reopening it.
"Stephen Deck was the most shocking of the predators that arrived as he was an active law enforcement Lieutenant. In all our years of working chat-rooms across the nation, he is the highest ranking state law enforcement official to solicit any of our profiles Most shocking regarding Deck is that he, of all the predators that arrived at Laguna, would have been the most in the know about our sting the prior month in the neighboring county of Riverside. Despite all this, the lure of an underage sex partner was too strong. Deck's intentions are stated in the very first line of his chat with our decoy."
Make no mistake about it, Stephen Deck wasn't looking for just any female in the rooms that night, he was looking for a younger female in the San Diego Yahoo Regional Room. He even shaves four years off his legitimate age. Deck was subtle, trying to work his way into the friend position before launching into explicit talk. Look at how Deck drops the idea casually about him visiting his target in Laguna.
Deck wastes no time after getting comfortable to bring up the "mom element." Once he's assured that the child knows all about discretion, he moves in to try to bring up the idea of a romantic relationship. Deck's conversation is textbook grooming 101. This was a man with a plan and he carried it out in the typical fashion of slow and methodical of internet groomer predators.
"More compliments and more laying the foundation to exploit the decoy. Deck then moves back to the shared interest he researched prior to the conversation on our decoy's Myspace," Perverted Justice wrote in a caption over a screenshot of Deck's conversation with the decoy.
After two days of chatting with her, Deck picks up his conversation on Valentine's Day, talks about expensive hotels, spas and how he wants her to kiss him deep and passionately.
He writes how he's nervous about meeting.
John Barnett, an attorney who has made a career defending dirty cops — including the cops involved in the Kelly Thomas and Rodney King cases — is now representing Deck.
Deck, who retired, now collects taxpayer-funded medical disability.