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Friday, March 1, 2024
March 1, 2024

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Man sentenced to more than two years in prison for soliciting teens at Vancouver Mall

By , Columbian Local News Editor

A man who solicited two teenage girls — one of whom was a juvenile — for sex in the parking lot of Vancouver Mall in March was sentenced Thursday to nearly three years in prison.

In December, a Clark County Superior Court jury found O’Neal Payne III, 33, guilty of commercial sex abuse of a minor, a felony, and fourth-degree assault with sexual motivation, a gross misdemeanor. Payne represented himself at trial.

Before sentencing, Payne, who appeared via Zoom, asked for a new trial. He told the judge he heard that the mother of one of the victims spoke with a juror and said they were doing this to “sue” him. The lengthy discussion ended with Judge John Fairgrieve denying the request, over Payne’s objections, because it was not timely. The judge eventually muted Payne’s microphone so the hearing could continue.

The prosecution recommended that Payne be sentenced to the high end of the sentencing range of 34 months, echoing the findings of a pre-sentencing investigation. Deputy Prosecutor Kelly Ryan said Payne has repeatedly denied doing anything wrong and has not taken responsibility.

According to a probable cause affidavit, a girl, whose age wasn’t included, and her 18-year-old friend arrived around 8:15 p.m. March 11 in the parking lot of the mall. The friends said they were sitting in the younger girl’s car when Payne approached.

Payne entered the back seat of the car without permission. He pulled out a stack of cash with his signature on it and asked the teens to come back to a hotel room to have sex. They declined, and he became upset and left. As he was leaving, Payne caressed the 18-year-old’s cheek, the affidavit says.

Nothing in court records suggests the two teens were prostitutes; the law applies in any instance where someone offers another money to engage in sexual conduct.

Video surveillance reportedly captured Payne entering the girl’s car. He was located at a nearby motel and detained. Police said both victims positively identified him as the man who solicited them for sex. During his arrest, Payne made comments about girls wanting his cash, the affidavit says.

When it was his turn to speak before sentencing, Payne said, “I know I’m innocent. I have no reason to lie about this.”

Fairgrieve sentenced Payne to 34 months in prison on the felony. He also sentenced him to 364 days on the gross misdemeanor, with that time suspended for two years. Payne will be required to register as a sex offender, as well.

As the judge spoke of Payne’s refusal to accept responsibility or show remorse, Payne interrupted and said, “I can’t show remorse for a crime I didn’t commit.” Fairgrieve muted Payne’s microphone again and continued, saying, “He used his allocution to attack the victims and their families.”