Former Mesquite detective pleads guilty to sexually exploiting St. George boy

Composite image | Background photo by Peter Csaza/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A former detective with the Mesquite Police Department accused in federal court of sexually exploiting a St. George teen has changed his plea to guilty under a stipulated sentence at a hearing Monday afternoon.

Gary Erickson, 50, of Bunkerville, Nevada, had been charged with one count of travel with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years. He pleaded not guilty at an arraignment May 13.

Read more: Mesquite detective accused of sexually exploiting St. George teen charged in federal court

Under the stipulated agreement, Erickson pleaded guilty in order to secure a sentence of five years in prison.

He entered the plea Monday afternoon at a hearing before U.S. District Judge Paul D. Kohler in St. George

If the court decides on a harsher punishment, Erickson has the right to change his plea back to not guilty.

Former Mesquite Police Det. Gary Erickson, Mesquite, Nevada, September 2017 | Photo courtesy of the Mesquite Police Department, St. George News

A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for Oct. 8 at the 5th District Courthouse. The judge ordered that Erickson undergo a psychosexual evaluation prior to the hearing.

He was arrested in September 2018 after the parents of a 15-year-old boy in St. George contacted police saying their son had been involved in “sending and receiving nude photographs to (and) from an unknown adult male,” according to the affidavit filed by the Washington County Attorney’s Office.

Read more: Mesquite police officer accused of sexually exploiting St. George boy

In an interview at the Children’s Justice Center, the teen said that he met Erickson, whom he knew as “Eric Smith,” through Grindr, an LGBTQ dating social media app. He said that the two of them had eventually arranged to meet, at which time they allegedly engaged in sexual acts though Erickson reportedly knew that the boy was a minor.

The teen gave police a description and Erickson became a suspect after he was positively identified in a photo lineup several days later. He was arrested on Sept. 12 and fired from his job at the Mesquite Police Department.

Originally, he was charged by the Washington County Attorney’s Office with three second-degree felony counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, third-degree felony dealing in materials harmful to a minor and misdemeanor sexual abuse of a minor. Those charges were dropped when the case was handed over to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay T. Winward previously told St. George News that the federal indictment against Erickson was based on the fact that he traveled from Nevada to Utah to commit the alleged acts, which invokes federal jurisdiction because the acts involved interstate travel.

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Twitter: @STGnews | @MikaylaShoup

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