Walker conviction upheld in Internet luring case
The Colorado Court of Appeals last week affirmed the Internet luring conviction of former Grand Junction High School administrator Johnnie Walker, rejecting claims that judge or prosecution error tainted his 2009 jury trial.
Walker, longtime activities director at the high school before his arrest and subsequent resignation in 2007, was sentenced to 10 years to life probation and registered as a sex offender after a Mesa County jury found him guilty of attempted Internet luring of a child and attempted child enticement.
Walker was arrested for entering an Internet chat room, in a series of chats, and communicating with “pink_polka_dotzzz,” a profile created by a person believed by Walker to be a 14-year-old girl. Instead, the profile belonged to a Texas resident, Jason Steitle, posing as an underage female.
The chats lasted several weeks and grew increasingly sexual, capped by Walker providing his phone number and talk by Walker about driving to pick her up, driving her to the mountains, blindfolding her and taking her to a secluded cabin.
At that point in the chats, Steitle informed Walker who he’d really been chatting with and mailed transcripts to news organizations and the Grand Junction Police Department.
Walker claimed he believed the Internet profile belonged to an ex-girlfriend, not an underage girl.
Among several claims made on appeal, Walker’s defense centered on arguments District Judge Thomas Deister improperly allowed jurors to view a montage of pictures found on Walker’s computer. The pictures showed several young girls, many of them posed in a sexual manner.
Prosecutors used the evidence during trial to rebut Walker’s claim be believed he was chatting with his ex-girlfriend.
Walker’s defense disputed how the montage came into existence. A police investigator testified at trial it may have been a computer-generated file, not the act of Walker actually saving each of the pictures into a file.
Deister denied a mistrial motion as Walker’s defense argued the evidence was irrelevant and prejudicial.
In its review of the case, the Court of Appeals said Deister was right.
“We conclude that viewing photographs of underage females in provocative poses, irrespective of whether (Walker) saved the images or affirmatively created the montage, was logically relevant,” reads the court’s ruling released May 23.
“The other act evidence was highly probative in showing defendant’s sexual attraction to underage females and thereby directly rebutting his defense,” the ruling said.