Luke Lovell told the court Tuesday morning that he tried to have sex with a 13-year-old girl because he was lonely.
The Pocatello, Idaho, man said he had recently relocated to Idaho before he was caught soliciting the fictitious Jackson girl for sex.
He said his bad judgment was loneliness coupled with health issues.
“I was taking some medication and for the first time in my life I started drinking alcohol,” he said. “Bad judgment ensued, and I sincerely apologize.”
Lovell pleaded guilty Tuesday morning in Teton County District Court to one count of soliciting to engage in illicit sexual relations, a felony.
The change of plea comes three months after he pleaded not guilty.
His attorney Dick Mulligan and Teton County Prosecutor Erin Weisman settled on a plea agreement in the case that leaves sentencing discretion up to Judge Timothy Day.
Lovell turned himself into the Teton County Jail on June 27 after police said they caught him trying to have sex with “Taya Parker” on Kik, a chat app.
An undercover agent with the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation was posing as Parker.
Lovell, 38, was making arrangements to visit Teton County to have sex with Parker near the Tetons, according to court documents.
Graphic content warning: Some descriptions in the balance of this article may be disturbing. — Eds.
His texts included lewd propositions about having sex with the teen.
“If you get caught big deal, you get grounded,” Lovell told Taya. “If I get caught, I’m going to jail.”
Lovell asked the girl for a topless photo and asked if she would be interested in having a threesome, if he could record them having sex and if she would snort cocaine with him.
“There were requests for anal sex and oral sex and sexual intrusion,” Weisman said in court. “The defendant was aware that the individual was under 14.”
Lovell asked the teenager about her mom’s work schedule and about school, Weisman said.
When DCI agents intervened and interviewed Lovell in Idaho, he said he had just been joking around.
Lovell has been on house arrest since bonding out of Teton County Jail.
He’s allowed to leave for errands on Saturdays and Latter-day Saints worship on Sunday mornings, according to the court’s terms of release.
Lovell was fired from his job at Idaho State University in July, not long after he turned himself over to authorities. He worked there as an interactive video conferencing classroom specialist, according to a university representative.
Mulligan said his client is now “gainfully employed” by a call center.
Judge Day ordered a presentence investigation to be completed before Lovell’s sentencing.
But Day also questioned the plea agreement because it gives him discretion on sending Lovell to prison for two to four years or suspending the prison sentence for probation.
Day asked Mulligan and Weisman to research an old Wyoming Supreme Court opinion that Day had recently come across dealing with a judge’s authority to order probation before making a final judgment in a case.
“You are never too old to learn,” Day said. “I was enlightened by reading that case.”
Before the next hearing, which will likely be in a few months, Day said, “I would suggest that counsel review that case and confer and I will be doing the same.”
Day said the plea agreement could hinge on whether he and the attorneys agree on their interpretation of the Wyoming Supreme Court opinion on deferring sentences.
This version of the article removes the word "Mormon" from the headline and replaces it with "Idaho." Although Lovell's lawyer used his religion as part of his defense, upon further reflection, editors decided that including that detail in the web version's headline was unnecessary. — Eds.