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.