WEST SEATTLE CRIME WATCH: High Point man charged with buying sex from 16-year-old

Charges are now filed in a case that’s attracted some national attention because of the defendant’s profession. 36-year-old High Point resident Jess Cliffe is charged with one count of commercial sexual abuse of a minor for allegedly buying sex from a 16-year-old he met online. Cliffe is described as the co-creator of the popular online game Counter-Strike. He’s been mentioned before here on WSB for his work on the website Vintage Seattle, noted when he moved to West Seattle in 2008, as well as volunteer work at what was then Kitty Harbor, mentioned here in 2010.

Charging papers say Cliffe’s arrest follows an investigation dating back to last June, when detectives interviewed a 16-year-old girl who said she “began to use (an online dating site) to meet with men who offered to pay her money to have sex with her.” She identified two men, and one, police say, turned out to be Cliffe. When detectives first met with her, she told them she had discontinued her contacts with him at some point between April and June. She said they made arrangements mostly via texting and that he picked her up at an intersection near her Beacon Hill residence and drove her to his house in High Point. She said they had at least three encounters in which he paid her $300 for an hour, including one in which she said he recorded video without her consent. She said she wasn’t sure he knew her age; he told detectives he thought she was in her early 20s, and they say her profile on the website said she was 18.

After five months of investigation, the documents say, police went to Cliffe’s house last Wednesday; he agreed to meet them an hour later at the Southwest Precinct, where he is reported to have told them he was a user of multiple dating websites, but when shown a photo of his accuser, he initially said he didn’t recognize her. That changed, the charging documents say, after detectives showed him call and text logs they obtained via a search warrant – he said he only had one meeting with her; she mentioned three. When told she was 16, the documents say, he “acted as though he was surprised to learn that before saying that a person has to be 18 years old” to join the dating website, and “immediately began questioning the legal responsibilities of the website for not incorporating an effective system to prevent minors from creating (an) account.” Police subsequently arrested him, and he was booked into King County Jail early Thursday, with his bail set at $150,000 on Friday; he got out Friday night after posting bond. Next step in the case will be arraignment in about two weeks.

42 Replies to "WEST SEATTLE CRIME WATCH: High Point man charged with buying sex from 16-year-old"

  • m February 6, 2018 (1:06 pm)

    Seems kind of unfair to him. Although he certainly shouldn’t be flirting around with minors, it sounds like he was never made aware of her age. 

    • Oakley34 February 6, 2018 (2:16 pm)

      ‘Flirting around’?  

      He paid for sex.

  • Smittytheclown February 6, 2018 (1:29 pm)

    So, she lied about being 18 and this is his fault?  Is it illegal to date an 18 year old?  It might be creepy (if you’re 36) but illegal?

  • newnative February 6, 2018 (1:45 pm)

    yes, it’s HIS fault. adults should control themselves. 

  • Lisa February 6, 2018 (1:45 pm)

    Um, he PAID her for sex. We do have prostitution laws here. (Which go both ways, if I’m not mistaken.)

  • SaraB February 6, 2018 (2:06 pm)

    Statutory rape is called “statutory” because it doesn’t matter what you thought or what the victim told you about their age, or even if they showed you a fake ID.  If it is proven that you had sex with a minor, and you are not also a minor, you are guilty of rape because minors do not possess the legal capacity to consent.   And if you feel sympathy for someone who is guilty of raping a minor, you might want to think about why you care so much about the feelings of predators.   

    • Buttercup February 6, 2018 (2:21 pm)

      Thank you Sara. We hear do much about sex trafficking and people are trying to condone his behavior. We don’t know if she was being forced, mental issues or drug problems. Or a combination of any of these. As an adult this man should know that his action bog paying for sex only encourages these illegal activities and atrocities.

  • ProudPapa February 6, 2018 (2:06 pm)

    Oops. That’s why it’s always a good idea to ask for ID before buying sex online.

    • Buttercup February 6, 2018 (2:23 pm)

      You are contributing to sex trafficking if you are buying sex on line or supporting the behavior.  If you are I don’t think I would call you proud papa

      • ProudPapa February 6, 2018 (3:20 pm)

        Never have…never would. It is wrong and absolutely disgusting.
        The intent of my comment was to point out his ridiculous defense for his action: He “immediately began questioning the legal responsibilities of the website
        for not incorporating an effective system to prevent minors from
        creating (an) account.”

        But the website said she was at least 18!

  • Wsres February 6, 2018 (2:17 pm)

     PROSTITUTION IS ILLEGAL. Regardless of her age. Seriously people, what the hell are you standing up for this guy for- he paid a minor (knowingly or not) multiple times for sex. Do you have children? This is so disturbing that some of you can treat this so non challantly. 

    • Buttercup February 6, 2018 (2:24 pm)

      Thank you Wsres. These people make me sick to my stomach.

    • Seattlite February 6, 2018 (2:43 pm)

      He has probably done it before but got caught this time.  He’s a total predator and should be recognized as a predator.

  • SaraB February 6, 2018 (2:22 pm)

    WSRES – Yes!  I’m deeply, deeply disturbed by what I’m seeing my neighbors saying on this thread.  I hate all caps, but I feel compelled to shout:  HE IS A PREDATOR WHO SOLICITED A MINOR FOR PROSTITUTION! SAVE YOUR SYMPATHY FOR THE VICTIM. 

  • RespectIndividualFreedom February 6, 2018 (2:48 pm)

    Sex with a minor is bad.

    Aiding sex trafficking is bad.

    Forced prostitution is bad

    I have no opinion on this guy’s situation. That is up to a court to determine.

    But to conflate all sex for hire with trafficking or force or child molestation is ridiculous.

    Selling sex or Paying for sex between two FULLY CONSENTING ADULTS is none of our business.

    Progressive moral police can be just as wrong as conservative moral police, in my opinion. This is one of those threads.

    • SaraB February 6, 2018 (3:11 pm)

      Good lord, save me from sanctimonious logical fallacies.  Consensual sex between adults isn’t what we’re talking about here, is it?  Did you read the part about how she is 16 years old?  

      • colleen February 6, 2018 (4:32 pm)

        I think you’re a bit confused about both the meaning of ‘sanctimony’ and the widespread social acceptability of purchasing  sexual services. Particularly when the services are those  of very young girls . 

  • Mark B February 6, 2018 (2:55 pm)

    Don’t you think just the age difference is creepy anyway? Also the fact he is building on line game that kids can play???

  • wscommuter February 6, 2018 (3:12 pm)

    Reality check – actually, 16 IS the age of consent in WA re statutory rape.  So this would not be charged as Rape of a Child 3rd Degree (in WA, ROC is age-defined … 11 and under, 1st degree, 13 and under, 2nd degree and 15 and under, 3rd degree – if I remember correctly).  

    The exception to that where a 16 year old can be a victim of statutory rape would be specific statutory circumstances where the perpetrator is in a position of authority, such as teacher, clergy, etc.  

    Not defending this guy – I agree with the concerns about sex trafficking, esp. re young women.  But unless I’m wrong on the statute, no such charge here other than Patronizing a Prostitute – misdemeanor.  

    • SaraB February 6, 2018 (3:23 pm)

      Thanks, WSCommuter.  I must be misremembering what my Criminal Law professor taught me.

  • mkl February 6, 2018 (3:27 pm)

    There’s  a WA law that specifically targets commercial sexual abuse of a minor. Per WSB’s link above,  this is what he’s been charged with.

    http://app.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=9.68A.100

    RCW 9.68A.100

    Commercial sexual abuse of a minor—Penalties—Consent of minor does not constitute defense.

    (1) A person is guilty of commercial sexual abuse of a minor if:
    (a) He or she provides anything of value to a minor or a third person as compensation for a minor having engaged in sexual conduct with him or her;
    (b) He or she provides or agrees to provide anything of value to a minor or a third person pursuant to an understanding that in return therefore such minor will engage in sexual conduct with him or her; or
    (c) He or she solicits, offers, or requests to engage in sexual conduct with a minor in return for anything of value.
    (2) Commercial sexual abuse of a minor is a class B felony punishable under chapter 9A.20 RCW.
    (3) In addition to any other penalty provided under chapter 9A.20 RCW, a person guilty of commercial sexual abuse of a minor is subject to the provisions under RCW 9A.88.130 and 9A.88.140.
    (4) Consent of a minor to the sexual conduct does not constitute a defense to any offense listed in this section.
    (5) For purposes of this section, “sexual conduct” means sexual intercourse or sexual contact, both as defined in chapter 9A.44 RCW.
    • Wsrez February 6, 2018 (3:38 pm)

      Again, isn’t PAYING for sex illegal?!?!?!?! Wtf? Stop with the law book excerpts. This adult made PAID a young women (teen) for sex. It’s not a statutory rape issue when he’s PAYING for sex. I don’t give a shit how old she is. Disgusting. I’m disgusted at some of these comments. Our society is going down the shitter if there is even an argument about what happened here. Ick ick ick

      • relax February 6, 2018 (4:19 pm)

        Jeez….chill out.  Nobody is denying that this person is a creep and broke the law.  The discussion relates to what laws were broken and what the possible penalties could be.  Looks like a misdemeanor at best.  That’s a shame.

  • H February 6, 2018 (3:39 pm)

    he also filmed her without her consent…

  • Orange February 6, 2018 (3:43 pm)

    Wow that’s crazy Counter Strike is one of the most popular video games in the world. Too bad he threw away his bright future.

  • Junction Lady February 6, 2018 (3:45 pm)

    I hope the 16 yr old girl has been presented with some constructive options to help her get out of the downward spiral of the sex trade.  

    Anyone who pays for sex is disgusting.

    • B.W. February 6, 2018 (8:50 pm)

      Paying for sex is better than drugging unsuspecting people, or raping.

  • XtraXtra February 6, 2018 (4:58 pm)

    Historically prohibition has bred some of the worst criminal elements.  If prostitution weren’t prohibited MAYBE it would be a safe way for someone to make a living.  But it is completely prohibited, so it is a huge contributor to both sex trafficking and exploitation, and is a decidedly unsafe way for anyone to make money.  While it’s clear that any sane, compassionate, adult would agree that human beings have a right to use their bodies as they see fit, that cannot be accomplished today in a safe way that doesn’t support horrible crimes.  Maybe in Nevada, I don’t know if that’s working or not.  On the other side, to say things like anyone who pays for sex is disgusting, is just the far-right religious moral position to take when you’re uncomfortable with sexuality in general.  e.g. A paraplegic who may never find a partner should have the ability to experience that part of life without the shame piled on by the sanctimonious religious puritans in this country.

  • Guy Olson February 6, 2018 (6:08 pm)

    I hope he goes to prison. What a terrible thing to do to a child. I can only hope justice is served.

  • NotOnHolden February 6, 2018 (6:43 pm)

    think the 16 year old can consent to sexual activity (not prostitution) does Washington have the age difference contingency?  Was she truly doing this on her own or under the direction of an adult pimp?  

    Anyway, I’m all about consenting adults being able to sell and pay for their own sex. It’s the filming without consent I have a huge problem with and that should be illegal no matter what age the sex worker is.

  • Swede. February 6, 2018 (7:14 pm)

    I’m a bit curious how come he is being identified (and in practicality ‘guilty’ since people won’t care afterwards about any actual legal decision…) but not her. She did also break the law, more of them actually.

    Not trying to defend the creep but do think naming people in public before a conviction, especially when it comes to sexually related crimes, does effectively both destroy any form of fair trial and the persons life. So if that’s up to journalists or blogs at least they should wreck all involved persons. 

    • WSB February 6, 2018 (7:34 pm)

      Our general policy, stricter than most, is to generally not identify suspects until and unless they are charged. With some exceptions, depending on circumstances (two such cases this week alone). That’s a relatively high bar – suspects are not charged until and unless the prosecutor’s office believes they have enough evidence that a conviction would be likely. But some media outlets don’t hold to that any more – this defendant was identified by at least one regional outlet last week, four days before he was charged. Today’s charging papers were the first confirmation I had that the alleged crime happened in West Seattle, which is what made it a story here. Meantime, even if the 16-year-old girl (whose name is not in the court documents) had been accused of a crime in this case, we would not be identifying her as we don’t identify juveniles unless they are charged as adults, and this is not the kind of case in which that is a possibility. – TR

      • Swede. February 6, 2018 (7:45 pm)

        Thank you for the explanation. Makes sense and sounds fair. 

  • TJ February 6, 2018 (7:56 pm)

    16 is indeed the age of consent here. A old coworker who was 24 at the time was dating a 16 year old, whose parents wern’t thrilled, but all was good legally. While this guy seems like a creep, remember she was on this site claiming to be 18. She also needs to 100% be charged as well. Everyone knows the old saying that prostitution is the oldest trade in the world. He needs to be charged with paying for it, and she needs to be charged with turning a trick, as they say

  • mark47n February 7, 2018 (4:56 am)

    As to age of consent, it interests me that a child of 16 isn’t trusted to make many decisions and is considered to be too immature to be reliable but can give consent for sex. There are no Romeo and Juliet allowances in this state, a 16 year old, a child in the eyes of parents everywhere, can have a sexual relationship with virtually anyone and there’s not a thing that can be done about it. This state is so restrictive about so many things but any adult man can manipulate a 16 year old into the sack as long as there is no other longstanding relationship or supervisory relationship, then the age gap must fall within 60 months. 

    As to the prostitution angle; while he should no doubt be charged, should she? Probably, after all, she’s of age, right? She’s reached the age of consent so she’s liable for those decisions, right? Oh, wait, she’s not 18 so her legal liability is limited. She looks like an abused angel because she’s a wee young girl, lured by the big bad man, so she couldn’t possibly be responsible because he offered her a lollipop and free hugs…along with $300/hr.

    I don’t have all of the details, and they matter, but legal is legal even is I find it reprehensible (like Nazi’s, Trump and Marmite). A 16 year old is not responsible for themselves, isn’t defined as able to make decisions for themselves in any arena of life except, and infuriatingly, in issues of healthcare, oh, and sex. They cannot sign a contract and have virtually no legal liability. If we provide the ability to legally consent to having sex then shouldn’t both parties involved in a sex crime (prostitution) be charged with that crime? How can only one person be culpable? 

    Ironically, if a 16 year old girl has a child she is still subject to the rule of her parents, who must still provide for her but is the ultimate authority for her child and is legally responsible for providing for that child even though she’s a child, too. This also goes for the boy that is the other half of the baby making equation. 

  • MrB February 7, 2018 (11:48 am)

    While I don’t condone his behavior this is a perfect example of why you never talk to the police without a lawyer present, even if you believe you’ve done nothing wrong. He was a fool to begin with and a bigger fool to think he could outsmart the cops. He’ll have lots of time to reflect on his actions at Walla-Walla.

  • AgeofRage February 7, 2018 (2:22 pm)

    Something I often pondered as a 16 year old many moons ago; I can drive myself to a record store, putting all pedestrians and fellow drivers lives’ in the hands of my decision making ability and motor skills, but I can’t buy an album with swear words on it when I get there.

    • Swede. February 7, 2018 (3:04 pm)

      You can also decide, for yourself, to quite school, and buy, own and transport rifles of any kind…

  • NotOnHolden February 7, 2018 (4:41 pm)

    One more time for the people in back IT IS ALLEGED THAT HE FILMED HER WITHOUT CONSENT.  

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