Bellingham man sentenced to 12 years for trying to sexually assault '8-year-old girl'

A Bellingham man was sentenced to 12 years in prison for possessing child porn and trying to meet up with a girl he believed was eight years old. 

Clayton Harker, 28, was arrested in December 2022 outside of a Bellingham hotel. According to court documents, he believed he was going to have access to an 8-year-old girl to sexually assault, but the "child" was actually an undercover Homeland Security Investigation agent who was corresponding with him. 

According to court documents, law enforcement learned of Harker while investigating another suspect. The other suspect used Snapchat to pressure young people to send explicit images, saying he would pay them as "models." Investigators found the suspect communicated with Harker, so they extended their investigation to him as well in Nov. 2022.

When he was arrested at the Bellingham hotel, police also seized materials he brought with him, including video equipment, according to court documents. 

He was later found guilty of attempted enticement of a minor and possession of images of child sexual abuse. 

During a sentencing hearing, Judge Richard Jones said, "The court finds these cases extremely troubling. Fictitious individual or not, you had a clear thought in your mind to act on your desires."

Assistant United States Attorney Matthew Hampton asked a judge to give Harker 30 years in prison because Harker "told agents that he regularly solicited minors to send him sexually explicit imagery over the internet and would use threats and extortion when necessary to induce these children to send him that imagery." 

"Simply put, Harker has cut a swath of destruction across the lives of vulnerable minors whose only mistake was to cross paths with a predator. The threat he poses is real. And neutralizing that threat will require incapacitation through lengthy confinement followed by close supervision for the remainder of Harker’s life," Hampton said.

Harker will spend 12 years in prison and then will be on 15 years of supervised release when he gets out. He will also be required to register as a sex offender.