Thu, April 02

Jury seated in 'Yavapai Six' online sex sting
Beaver Creak man among those on trial

CAMP VERDE - Fourteen jurors - 12 plus two alternates - were seated Wednesday for the trial of Samuel Bassett, who was indicted on 40 counts after an arrest in an online sex sting operation.

The sting, conducted by Yavapai County Sheriff's Detective Pam Edgerton, involved engaging men in online conversations while Edgerton pretended to be a young girl. First, she would contact them on a website that required age-verification to prove the participants were 18 or older; then, she would ask them to move to a Yahoo site with no age restrictions and tell the men she was actually a minor.

Bassett, 35, of Lake Montezuma, who calls himself one of the "Yavapai Six" - men who feel they were unfairly targeted in the sting - was arrested in March 2011. Edgerton said he had befriended her online persona and sent sexual images and child pornography.

He now faces 27 counts of aggravated luring of a minor for sexual exploitation, 11 counts of sexual exploitation of a minor under 15 and two counts of luring a minor for sexual exploitation.

As proceedings got under way Wednesday, Yavapai County Superior Court Judge Michael Bluff asked Bassett, if a plea bargain were offered, would he take it?

"No. No, sir," Bassett said.

The trial will likely turn on two key legal concepts: Can there be luring of a minor if no minor was actually involved, and did the sting operation entrap the men arrested?

The Arizona Court of Appeals a few months back gave Bassett and his attorney some potential ammunition to prove the first argument when it ruled that defendants cannot be charged with "dangerous crimes against children" if the person chatting with the defendant was an adult.

Also on hand to watch the jury selection was another member of the Yavapai Six, Jeff Balys, whose trial is set for later this spring.

The seven-woman, seven-man jury were set to hear opening statements Thursday. The case is expected to last through next week.

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