The 29-year-old man who was allegedly trading sexual images on Grindr with what turned out to be a 13-year-old boy in Layton pleaded guilty to dealing in materials harmful to a minor, a third-degree felony. Prosecutors agreed to dismiss one count of sexual exploitation of a minor, a second-degree felony.
David B. Ellis was arrested June 7 and released on $15,000 bail.
According to Utah law, to be convicted of the offense of dealing materials harmful to a minor, a person must, “knowing or believing that a person is a minor, or having negligently failed to determine the proper age of a minor,” intentionally distribute or exhibit material harmful to minors. Each separate offense is a third degree felony punishable by a minimum mandatory fine of not less than $1,000, plus $10 for each article exhibited up to the maximum allowed by law; and incarceration, without suspension of sentence, for a term of not less than 14 days, but could be as much as five years.
To be guilty of sexual exploitation of a minor — which was dropped in this case — attorneys would have had to prove that Ellis knowingly possessed child pornography. Sexual exploitation of a minor is a second degree felony, with each separate image being a separate offense, with a possible sentence of one to 15 years in prison and up to $10,000 for each offense.
Police say that the 13-year-old downloaded the Grindr app onto his smart phone, posed as an 18-year-old and began interacting with men, including Dakota Freeman, 20, of Clearfield and Ellis. Grindr is an Android and iOS-based app that calls itself the “largest and most popular all-male location-based social network” with a requirement that users be 18 years of age. Most men using the service are seeking sexual relations with other men, though some are seeking longer-term relationships.
Freeman is accused of meeting the boy, entering his hotel room and engaging in sex with the minor in the bathroom while the boy’s parents slept. The father awoke upon hearing Freeman allegedly leave the room and called police. Ellis showed up while police were investigating the initial call and police arrested him.
Freeman entered not-guilty pleas to two counts of sodomy upon a child, a first-degree felony. His court hearing is scheduled for Jan. 4.
A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Jan. 28 where Briggs could be sentenced to up to five years at the Utah State Prison.
No charges against the 13-year-old boy have been filed in the case.