Last December, a young woman calling herself Aspen walked into Aja's, a downtown lingerie-modeling parlor, looking for a job. She told the owner, Ky Christy, that she forgot ID, but a friend who worked there confirmed that Aspen was 18.
So Christy, an easygoing 32-year-old Vietnamese-American and self-confessed lousy businessman, hired her to perform private striptease shows for his customers.
As Christy is quick to admit, that was a mistake. A big mistake. It turns out Aspen was really 16.
But was Christy's screw-up so horrible that he should be sent to state prison for 20 months and be labeled a sex offender for life? Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schrunk, in a roguish cop-out, says the law gives him little choice. Christy and his attorney, Lisa Ludwig, disagree.
A few days after Aspen started working at Aja's, her mom found out and called the cops. When an undercover vice officer, Greg Duvic, asked Aspen to put on a masturbation show with another model, she agreed.
Duvic says that unlike many lingerie-parlor owners, Christy had no criminal record and was never even rumored to promote prostitution. He had been trying to sell Aja's for months before Aspen walked in the door. Aspen told police that upon being hired, she was instructed "just to dance."
But still, hiring an underage stripper is illegal, so the case went to the DA's office.
To get a sense of what other prosecutors might do, Willamette Week reporter Nick Budnick called Clatsop County District Attorney Josh Marquis--a prosecutor loathed by criminal-defense lawyers for his tough-on-crime ways. When the case was posed to him hypothetically, Marquis said that he would probably offer a plea bargain of 10 days in jail and very strict probation.
What did Shrunk's office do? It charged Christy with six counts of "knowingly using a child in a display of sexually explicit conduct," a statute written to curb child pornography and a charge that carries a prison sentence of anywhere from five to 28 years.
When told of the actual case, Marquis backtracked, saying "Clatsop County doesn't have a problem with lingerie parlors like Multnomah does."
Regardless, Christy and his attorney were shocked by the prospect of at least five years behind bars for failing to check an ID. So last month Christy pled guilty to a lesser charge, agreeing to a 20-month sentence. He'll also be registered as a sex offender, joining the ranks of 9,700 Oregonians whose neighbors are warned of their proximity every time they move. While his photos won't be posted on the Internet (as is the case with sex offenders in some states), anyone will be able to call the state to learn of his status.
Christy's plea will become official at a Sept. 16 court hearing, if Judge Jerome LaBarre agrees to the deal. What's bizarre is that Christy probably would have gotten a lighter sentence by having sex with Aspen, thus committing statutory rape. If he'd sold her crack cocaine, he might have done no jail time at all.