William Wallace, Minot, found guilty of luring a minor by computer

It took a jury less than an hour Wednesday to find William Joseph Wallace, 59, Minot, guilty of Class C felony luring a minor by computer in July 2016.

The Supreme Court had ruled in November that Wallace must be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea in the case and allowed to take the case to trial because he hadn’t been informed about a mandatory five year term of probation.

Wallace fell for a police sting and thought he was meeting a 16-year-old girl for sex. In actuality, the female he had been corresponding with was former Minot Police Department Detective Krista Cousins, who had placed an ad with salacious wording in the escorts section on Backpage.com Backpage.com required that the women who were advertising list their age as 18 or older, but Cousins testified during the trial on Tuesday that the language in the ad is understood by the people who viewed it to mean “underage.”

Cousins testified that all of the several other men who responded to the ad backed off when she asked them if they were OK with a younger female, but Wallace did not and continued to call and text sexually explicit messages in response to the ad. Cousins also testified that she has received training in how to avoid entrapment in a sting operation by making someone do something illegal.

Eventually Cousins, posing as the underage girl, set up a meeting outside the Sleep Inn at Dakota Square Mall. Cousins told Wallace that she couldn’t rent a hotel room since she was only 16. Wallace showed up about an hour later on July 13, 2016, in a Chevy Silverado truck registered to his company, Bill’s Refrigeration. He had also made phone calls and sent messages from an account associated with his company.

His public defender, Charles Sheeley, argued in closing that Wallace didn’t actually know the person he was corresponding with was supposed to be only 16 up until right before the arranged meeting outside the Sleep Inn, and his actions didn’t fit the statutory definition of luring a minor by computer. Ward County Assistant State’s Attorney Marie Miller countered in her closing argument that Wallace did know days prior that the girl was supposedly only 16 and Wallace had talked in one message about wanting “Sweet 16.”

Wallace had originally pleaded guilty to the charge on Dec. 3, 2017, and was sentenced to five years, with a requirement that he serve 18 months in prison and four years of supervised probation. He was also ordered to register as a sex offender. The sentence was later modified to require three years of supervised probation in November 2017. It was then amended again in March 2018 to change the length of probation to five years, after Judge Todd Cresap and the lawyers determined that the state requires five years of probation for an offense of this type. Wallace appealed and the Supreme Court ruled that he must be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea because he hadn’t been informed that the state required a mandatory minimum five-year period of probation. Wallace’s sentence was vacated in November and the trial was ordered.

Wallace went to trial on Tuesday, with a jury of 10 men and two women. Testimony began Tuesday afternoon and the closing arguments were given Wednesday morning. The jury deliberated for about 45 minutes. Judge Richard Hagar ordered Wallace, who had been out on bond, be taken into custody after the verdict was read.

Court records show that Hagar sentenced Wallace on Wednesday to five years in prison, with a requirement that he serve 20 months, and gave him credit for 13 months, 20 days already served in jail. Wallace will be on supervised probation for five years and must register as a sex offender. He must also pay $525 in court costs.

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