EVERETT — A former middle school teacher wept and repeatedly rocked from side to side Thursday as he stood before a Snohomish County Superior Court judge to face punishment for a sexually charged online conversation with a stranger he thought was a 15-year-old girl.
Bryson Condotta, 35, had been a history teacher at Alderwood Middle School in the Edmonds School District. He resigned early this year and voluntarily surrendered his state teaching credentials after he was caught in a September sting dubbed Operation Anvil.
The joint investigation by the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Marshals Service focused on adults who search online classified ads to find underage people for sex.
Condotta, who is married and the father of a newborn girl, was accused of arranging to meet a 15-year-old for sex after answering an ad posted on Craigslist. The then-teacher sent messages describing in graphic terms how he hoped to pass the time with the girl he met online. He also provided a photograph showing him in the classroom.
It wasn’t until Condotta showed up at a south county apartment for a face-to-face meeting that he realized the messages actually had been traded with undercover detectives.
The Bothell man wound up pleading guilty to one count of communication with a minor for immoral purposes, a gross misdemeanor.
A tearful Condotta on Thursday said his actions were “selfish and wrong.” Now required to register as a sex offender, he dreads the day he will have to explain his misconduct to his daughter.
“This will be a shame I live with the rest of my life,” he said.
Since his arrest, Condotta has maintained that he never was going to follow through on plans to have sex with an underage girl. Instead, he claimed he was going to counsel her.
A sex offender treatment provider examined Condotta and determined that he likely was being truthful when he said he’d never engaged in similar conduct.
Judge Joseph Wilson wasn’t as convinced.
The judge said “there is no doubt in my mind” that if a teenage girl actually had answered the door, Condotta would have followed through on the sex talk, if not that day, then maybe later.
Time on the bench, particularly in juvenile court, has taught him much about how trauma and misfortune shapes the lives of young people who wind up selling themselves for sex online, Wilson said.
He said the case presented difficult questions.
One the one hand, Condotta had no history of trouble with the law, not even a traffic ticket. On the other, the judge said, he was caught apparently preparing to sexually exploit a broken, hurting kid.
The maximum punishment under the law was a year in jail. Deputy prosecutor Justin Harleman asked for a two-month sentence. Condotta’s attorney made a pitch for one month.
Wilson instead ordered Condotta taken into custody immediately, ordering that he remain locked up until Monday morning.
He suspended another 360 days behind bars, warning that jail time awaits the former teacher if he engages in any criminal conduct during the next two years.
The judge also ordered Condotta to perform 350 hours in community service, and directed the work to be done at a mission for homeless people.
“I want you to see broken people, to see who it was you would have preyed upon,” Wilson said. It is his hope, the judge said, that “their hurt may put in your heart” compassion and understanding.
The front of the courtroom was filled with family and friends who have stood by Condotta, including his wife. Before sentencing, the former teacher said he was grateful for their support.
Wilson told Condotta he should be grateful, too, for those people who have turned away, deciding to cut him from their lives.
People have reasons for the choices they make, the judge said.
Scott North: 425-339-3431; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @snorthnews.