Court upholds conviction for Bay Area man busted by undercover posing as teen

SAN FRANCISCO — A state appeals court upheld the conviction of a man convicted through Contra Costa’s first trial that stemmed from a cop posing as a teen girl online.

William Butte, of Martinez, was convicted in 2019 of three felonies — meeting a minor for lewd purposes, attempted lewd act upon a child and sending harmful material to a child. According to court records, he arranged to meet a cop posing as 15-year-old “Lizzy” online for the purpose of sexually abusing her. The appeals court decision says Butte responded “OMG, I love it” when “Lizzy” told him she was 15.

On appeal, Butte’s attorney argued, in part, that deputy district attorney Adam Wilks violated Butte’s rights by referring to him as a “pedophile” in his opening statement. The appeals court judges noted that jurors were admonished that opening statements aren’t evidence, and concluded the use of the term was fair.

“Here, the prosecutor’s opening statement made clear this case involved a law enforcement officer posing as a 15-year-old girl; there was no mention of prepubescent children,” the court’s 12-page decision, issued Jan. 19, says. “We find it unlikely that the jury understood the word ‘pedophile,’ in this context, to mean Butte was sexually attracted to prepubescent minors.”

The appeals court also supported the trial judge’s decision to exclude a proposed defense expert who was going to testify that a reasonable person would have concluded that “Lizzy” was 18 or older, based in part on “on a computer automated analysis of language used, which he said could indicate the age or gender of a person,” the decision says.

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Author: Nate Gartrell