FERNDALE – A Ferndale man must serve 6½ years in prison for trying to cross the Canadian border to have sex with a preteen girl, a U.S. federal court judge in Seattle ruled Friday.
Christopher David Johnston, 40, posted an ad last year on Craigslist’s casual encounters section looking for a “young lady to spoil,” according to a complaint filed in U.S. District Court. He got a response from a Homeland Security agent posing as a 12-year-old girl from Abbotsford, British Columbia.
“Honstly I just wanted to say hi and give u props for a hella legit ad,,,im prolly 2 young but still wanted to at least say props 4 keepin in reals,” the agent wrote.
Over the weeks that followed Johnston exchanged sexually charged emails and texts that grew more and more graphic. He asked for sexual pictures, and described in lurid detail what he wanted to do to the girl. Over text Johnston said being with a young girl is “all I think about and all I want,” the charges state.
Transcripts of the disturbing conversations take up most of the 14-page criminal complaint.
On May 20, 2015, he arranged to meet the girl for sex at a hotel near Abbotsford. U.S. border authorities kept him under surveillance all day as he caught a ride to the Northwood Casino, and rode his bike east to a hayfield where a barbed wire fence marks the international boundary.
“this border crossing things a challenge, and I don’t wanna get caught I can see Canada from where I’m sitting right now I’m about 100 yards from the border,” Johnston texted at 11:04 a.m. “I’m just watching to see when I can bust a move and cross safely.”
Ten minutes later he was arrested, about 60 feet from Canada. He was charged in federal court in Seattle, and last fall he pleaded guilty to attempted travel to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a minor.
“Even where there is careful oversight by parents, children are vulnerable to those seeking to use the ubiquity of social media and the internet to victimize and exploit them,” federal prosecutors wrote in Johnston’s sentencing memorandum. “These same tools also provide predators ample opportunity to meet, share strategies, and validate their darkest desires. Johnston’s sentence should be a cautionary tale for those who find themselves similarly tempted.”
On Friday U.S. District Judge Richard A. Jones ordered 6½ years in prison and 10 years probation, and recommended drug and sex offender treatment, as suggested by prosecutors.
Johnston must register as a sex offender when he is released from prison.
Local court records show Johnston has been convicted of at least 10 felonies, for drug possession, burglary, forgery and several counts of theft. His last prison sentence was for breaking into the IT department at St. Joseph hospital in 2009.
At the time of his arrest in May, he had five pending felony cases in Whatcom County, where he was accused of check fraud, theft, methamphetamine possession and the burglary of $10,000 in tools. Those cases have not been resolved.