Ex-pas­tor faces trial, ac­cused in teen sex case

The Tribune (SLO) - - Front Page - BY MATT FOUN­TAIN

A for­mer pas­tor from Canada is on trial in San Luis Obispo Su­pe­rior Court, fac­ing al­le­ga­tions he trav­eled to 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 as a teenage girl. He was ar­rested Aug. 10 in a park­ing lot on West Branch Street, where he had al­legedly planned to meet the girl.

Rieger was re­leased from San Luis Obispo County Jail in lieu of $25,000 bail af­ter his ar­rest, ac­cord­ing to court records.

Ac­cord­ing to the Cana­dian Broad­cast­ing Corp., 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 is un­clear from Thurs­day’s tes­ti­mony what on­line plat­form they were us­ing, but Rieger com­mu­ni­cated with Jolly us­ing the name “Anon.”

Jolly tes­ti­fied that, in re­sponse to Rieger’s re­quests, he sent out­door selfie pho­tos of an un­spec­i­fied woman and stated re­peat­edly that his avatar was 15 years old.

Rieger, who stated that he was 37 years old, 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 said.

And he al­legedly did, say­ing he wanted to in­tro­duce the girl to “new plea­sures,” among other ex­tremely graphic com­ments.

Through­out the con­ver­sa­tion,

Jolly re­peat­edly re­minded Rieger that 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 that 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 that he was an “ex­pe­ri­enced Dom” — or male dom­i­na­trix — and that sex is “much nicer without a con­dom.”

But Rieger was still ap­pre­hen­sive about meet­ing the sup­posed girl, writ­ing that he had been “cat­fished be­fore.” He 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 the photo, Rieger al­legedly wrote: “All of my doubts are gone. ... Let’s do this.”

Tes­ti­mony re­sumes Fri­day.

Matt Foun­tain: 781-7909, @mat­tfoun­tain1

Nathan Rieger

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