Jury trial continues for Willmar man

NEW ULM — A two-day jury trial for a 39-year-old Willmar man facing a felony prostitution charge for allegedly hiring a 16-year-old girl for sex continues in Brown County District Court Friday.

Joshua T. Lippert was among eight suspects charged in a week-long undercover sex sting operation in Springfield in August 2017. Suspects ranged in age from 20 to 70. Court documents detailed suspects and law enforcement sending hundreds of text messages to each other.

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

“This is a classic case of entrapment with law enforcement posting online ads and having someone ‘play a woman,’ get the man involved before telling him she is under age 18,” said New London defense attorney John Mack.

“Evidence will show how reluctant (Lippert) was until he was talked into this by someone who said the girls’ mother was drunk and she had no food or money,” Mack said.

A divorced trucker who said he had no criminal record, Lippert testified that he has been searching dating sites for years but never involving a teenager until last August.

“I found dates with women age 25 to 40 on Craig’s List and had sexual relations with a couple women,” Lippert said. “I was looking for female companionship. I used Craig’s List to buy stuff. I wouldn’t want to be with someone so young as under 18, but she talked about needing money before she said she was under age 18. I never thought of it as prostitution. She made me feel guilty because I tried to get away from it.”

Investigators acted in an undercover capacity as 16-year-old females willing to trade sex or sex acts for money or narcotics according to court documents. The first advertisements posted online on Aug. 20, 2017, drew many responses, according to New Ulm Police Department Senior Investigator Jeff Hohensee.

After suspects initiated a text conversation, law enforcement directed them to text message them at an undercover cellular number. Investigators text messaged Lippert Aug. 20-26. There was a total of 214 text messages between Lippert and undercover law enforcement.

The online ad initially listed the girl as 18 years old because they must be at least that old to post. A text message to Lippert later read that the girl was 16 years old. Lippert asked her if she is a police officer, and was told she was not. Lippert then agreed to have sexual intercourse and sex acts in exchange for $100, according to court documents.

Lippert arrived at the Springfield undercover residence at 4:58 p.m. on Aug. 26 and was arrested without incident. He had $145 in cash and three condoms when he entered the residence.

Assistant Brown County Attorney Dan Kalk asked Lippert if “Ashley” (the undercover name) asked him for $100 to have sex with him. Lippert agreed that she told him she would charge him for sex and that he maybe would do it for that price.

In addition, Lippert agreed that he texted “Ashley” a photo of his groin and asked her to send him nude photos of herself.

“We got a bond going. We talked about fishing and she said she wanted me to cook fish for her,” Lippert said about his relationship with “Ashley.”

Lippert testified he felt coerced into coming to Springfield and felt “bad” for “Ashley.”

District Court Judge Robert Docherty defined the word “hire” as retaining another to perform work or services for money or other compensation.

The jury trial with nine men and three women continues at 9 a.m. Friday in Brown County District Court.

Fritz Busch can be emailed at fbusch@nujournal.com.


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