Judge takes sex sting case under advisement

NEW ULM — Brown County District Court Judge Paul Westphal took a three and one-half hour sex sting operation case court trial under advisement July 27.

Paul R. Lund Jr., 47, of Cottonwood, was charged with a felony after being caught in a prostitution sting on Aug. 29, 2017. He was among eight males arrested in a case that involved hundreds of text messages sent between them and law enforcement. The arrestees believed they were going to meet with 16-year-old girls to have sex.

In the sting, undercover investigators in a rented Springfield residence acted as 16-year-old females willing to trade sex or sex acts for money or narcotics. Anadvertisement was posted online on Aug. 20, 2017. After suspects initiated email conversations, they were directed to text message undercover agents at their cellular number, according to court documents.

Assistant Brown County Attorney Dan Kalk said the evidence is “fairly overwhelming” with discussion of rates and other details.

“It’s pretty clear Mr. Lund agreed to hire the individual for sexual penetration,” Kalk said. “He asked her if she would guarantee he wouldn’t get busted. The (online) post said (age) 18 because that’s the youngest a poster can be. He sought the youngest possible prostitute he could get. He understood perfectly that she was 16. He knew he’d been caught.”

Defense attorney Jacob Birkholz said the state is trying to shift the burden of proof.

“It has to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt,” Birkholz said. “The key factor here is who the actor reasonably believed. The best evidence is the ad and the photos. They were of someone age 18 or 20 years old or older. The state has no affirmative evidence of age. The whole story is a lie. It’s beyond credibility.”

Lund testified he punched in “Sioux Falls escorts” on Google out of curiosity and for a little fun, clicked on “Skip the Games,” a photo and a phone number before sending a message.

“I assumed it was someone 18 years old,” Lund said. “After getting two photos I had doubts. The girl looked older than 18. I asked her about birth control. Talking dirty is fun. I got so curious, I couldn’t stop myself.”

Lund said he drove towards Springfield, pulled off the road near Walnut Grove and thought about it for a while, then continued to Springfield. At the residence he was told to come to, he said a female cop answered the door, he took a step forward, was pulled inside and arrested. Officers found $267 on his person. Sex rates discussed were $200 to $250.

The undercover sting operation included the Brown and Nicollet County Sheriff’s Office, New Ulm and Springfield Police and the Mankato Department of Public Safety.

The investigation was made possible with grants received from the Minnesota Women’s Foundation “Girls Are Not For Sale” campaign and the Minnesota Department of Justice.