Federal program targets online child predators
A Tri-Cities father is going to prison for trying to rape a 13-year-old boy who was home alone.
Andrew L. Sanders, 35, didn’t know at the time that he was part of an online child sex sting and he really was chatting with an undercover detective.
He was arrested after walking inside the house to meet up with the boy. That was two years ago.
This week, Sanders apologized to his family in court before being sentenced to at least four years and 10 months in prison.
His guilty plea for second-degree attempted rape of a child comes with a life sentence, which means he must serve the full mandatory minimum before a state board will review his behavior and treatment while behind bars and determine if he is ready to be released.
2 sons at sentencing
Sanders’ wife and two young children, ages 4 and 10, attended the sentencing in Benton County Superior Court.
Deputy Prosecutor Laurel Holland questioned in open court the decision to have the kids present since she was going to be discussing graphic details of the crime.
But Sanders and his attorney reportedly said it was OK since his older son already heard about it at school and the younger one didn’t really understand.
“Ultimately, it’s the defendant that has perpetrated this crime, but the family is going to have to deal with the ramifications of him not being in his home,” Holland told the Tri-City Herald.
The family now lives in Richland, but was living in Pasco in July 2017 when Sanders committed the crime.
Sanders was one of 26 men arrested in the Tri-Cities Net Nanny Operation, which targeted online child predators who either placed their own ads or answered postings seeking to have sex with minors.
Asked boy for nude picture
He posted an ad that talked about meeting on Road 68 late that night. An undercover detective replied in an email that he was bored, but was probably too young for Sanders at “almost 14,” court documents said.
Prosecutors say Sanders ignored the age issue, told the boy he was “pretty damn horny” and asked him to send a nude picture of himself.
The undercover detective refused to send a photo, but Sanders continued to communicate via email. Sanders tried to arrange a meet-up and offered to perform certain sex acts, documents said.
The two then switched to text messages, and ultimately Sanders showed up the following day at the house where investigators were waiting.
When Sanders pleaded guilty this past May, it was with the agreement that prosecutors would dismiss a second felony charge for communicating with a minor for immoral purposes and recommend the bottom of the standard sentencing range for the attempted rape.
Sanders’ lawyer had pointed out that it was an attempted crime resulting from an online sting by law enforcement, and that no real minors were involved.
‘Come to grips’ with prison
A community corrections officer wrote in his presentencing report that it appeared Sanders had “come to grips with the fact of going to prison for a better part of 4 1/2 years.”
Sanders, when asked about his thoughts on having to register as a sex offender, said he doesn’t fear the label, the report said.
He will have to register for life with the felony conviction.
Sanders also must get an evaluation and follow the recommendation for sex offender treatment.
Attorney Dennis Hanson told the court he had to explain to Sanders and his family that the defendant wasn’t eligible for a sentencing alternative that would have shortened his prison time in exchange for up to five years of intense treatment.
That’s because Sanders’ crime involved him seeking out children for the sole purpose of raping them or getting sexually explicit images and videos of them.
Judge Bruce Spanner told Sanders that in his time on the Superior Court bench, he’s heard from a number of people who either were sexually abused themselves as a child or know someone who was.
It is from those interactions, the judge said, he’s aware that sexual abuse has a significant impact on minor victims for the rest of their lives.