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Thu, April 02

3rd sex sting defendant tries to avoid predecessors' fate

PRESCOTT -- Jeff Balys, one of the "Yavapai 6" arrested in an online sex sting, was in court Tuesday so a judge could set his trial date.

Balys, 46, of Cordes Lakes, and his attorney, Eric English, are trying to do what other Yavapai 6 defendants Bradley Binkley and Samuel Bassett have been unable to accomplish: convince a jury that what he did - chatting with an adult Yavapai County Sheriff's detective posing as a teenage girl - is not the same as if he'd done that with a real child, and that Balys didn't break the law.

Balys faces four counts of luring a child for sexual exploitation and one count of aggravated luring.

At a court appearance last year, he asked the judge, rhetorically, "If chatting online is luring, then what's attempted luring? Thinking about it?"

So far, Bassett and Binkley have not tried the entrapment defense that Balys has talked about. One argued that there was no proof that pictures he emailed of girls having sex were really photos of underage girls; the other contended that he knew the person he was chatting with - YCSO Detective Pam Edgerton - was actually an adult.

Neither jury agreed with those arguments and both men were found guilty.

Balys has been outspoken in claims about his innocence. He asked to have his first attorney, former public defender John Thornton, replaced because he didn't want to take the plea agreement that Thornton recommended. The plea, he argued, was based on the concept that Balys could be accused of a "dangerous crime against a child" - which, Balys correctly said, an Arizona court had recently thrown out because a similar sting did not actually involve a child.

"If I had listened to him (Thornton), I'd be sitting in jail," Balys said.

On Tuesday, English, the man who replaced Thornton, said he would need several days for a trial. English said his plans include enough witness testimony to require a five-day trial, not the three-day version originally contemplated.

Yavapai County Superior Court Judge Tina Ainley said the trial, with an eight-person jury, would take place in October.

-- Scott Orr, The Daily Courier

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