By Joe Beck
WOODSTOCK -- Three male defendants, including a former Winchester city official, were convicted of soliciting a prostitute Monday in Shenandoah County General District Court.
A fourth defendant was cleared of the same charge after General District Judge W. Dale Houff concluded the prosecution's evidence fell short of what state law requires to prove someone has solicited a prostitute.
James William Deskins, 59, the former director of the redevelopment authority in Winchester, pleaded no contest to the charge. Houff gave him a six month suspended jail sentence and fined him $500, the same sentence imposed on two other defendants, Luis Valdez of Harrisonburg and Justin Michael Gibson of King George.
Jason Mitchell of Stafford pleaded not guilty and won his case after defense attorney Charles Ramsey argued that Mitchell was a bystander who did not exchange money or ask for sex while he was in a motel room with a woman who was acting as a police informant.
The defendants were among seven men arrested in a prostitution sting conducted by law enforcement officials from the Mount Jackson and New Market police departments with help from the Shenandoah County Sheriff's Office.
Authorities say the woman informant advertised sexual services on the Internet and then scheduled meetings at the Super Eight motel in Mount Jackson with the defendants.
The defendants were arrested after they appeared at the motel on March 27, according to court documents.
Commonwealth's Attorney Amanda Wiseley played a police videotape of the interaction between Mitchell, one of the other defendants, and the woman in the motel room.
"This man never said anything to you about sex," Ramsey said, addressing the woman, who testified at the hearing. "This man here never said anything to you about sex. This man . . . standing next to me was just there."
Wiseley contended Mitchell's presence in the room with the other defendant, his laughter and overall demeanor showed Mitchell was there for the purpose of soliciting illicit sex.
"They're acting in concert together," Wiseley told Houff of the two defendants.
But Houff said that even though Mitchell appeared to know what was happening in the room, there wasn't enough evidence to meet the standards required under state law to prove Mitchell was soliciting a prostitute.
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or email@example.com