A Portland man whose conviction in an undercover child sex sting was recently featured in The New York Times Magazine had it overturned Tuesday after the Washington Court of Appeals found that his right to a jury trial was violated.
A Clark County Superior Court judge found Jace Thomas Hambrick guilty in August 2018 of second-degree attempted rape of a child and communicating with a minor for immoral purposes. He was sentenced to a minimum prison term of 18 months — a sentence he has already served.
Hambrick, now 24, was arrested in February 2017 as part of a weeklong operation, launched by the Washington State Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, in which officers posed as minors online. Nearly a dozen people were arrested, primarily in the Portland metro area, for allegedly communicating with and trying to meet up with minors for sex. The ages of the fictitious children ranged from 6 to 14, police said at the time.
Hambrick’s case was featured in an Aug. 26 story by The New York Times Magazine that explored online-predator stings in Washington.
On appeal, Hambrick argued that his right to a jury trial was violated because he never personally waived his right; his attorney did it on his behalf. He also argued that there was insufficient evidence to support his attempted child rape conviction and no substantial evidence to support his other conviction.
In January 2018, Hambrick’s Vancouver-based defense attorney, Steve Thayer, filed a written jury trial waiver with the court that did not include Hambrick’s signature. On the morning of trial, Thayer confirmed he had filed the waiver. Hambrick was present at that time but did not speak, according to the record.
The state conceded that Hambrick’s jury trial waiver was improper, prompting the appeals court to overturn his convictions. However, the higher court found there was sufficient evidence to support his convictions.
Clark County Prosecutor Tony Golik said Wednesday that his office has not yet decided how to proceed and has a meeting scheduled next week to discuss it.
Efforts to reach Thayer for this story Wednesday were unsuccessful.