Charged with commercial sexual abuse of a minor; allegedly began at SeekingArrangement.com.
The King County Prosecutor’s Office issued the charge to 36-year-old game developer and Valve Software employee Jess Cliffe on Monday, alongside the release of a statement of probable cause. This document repeats many details from Friday’s bail hearing at a King County courthouse, which initially disclosed accusations of multiple instances of sexual contact with a minor, along with one instance of videotaping an encounter.
The listed “juvenile victim” was 16 years old at the time of the alleged incidents, and she was initially referred to Seattle Police by Child Protective Services due to “reports of CSEC [Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children] activities.” The woman (who has not been identified by Seattle Police) explained that she had used the website SeekingArrangement.com to “meet with men who offered to pay her money to have sex with her.” Subscriber information for the phone number of one man matched Cliffe’s name and home address.
As mentioned in the bail hearing, the alleged victim accused Cliffe of filming their final sexual encounter without her consent. Monday’s statement noted what she told investigators happened after that encounter: in a car ride back to her neighborhood, the alleged victim mentioned the potential illegality of their arrangement (to which Cliffe allegedly “countered that it was technically legal as he was paying her for her time”). Then she almost accused him in that car ride of filming child pornography. She “decided against it as to not upset him in addition to the fact that he could not be certain that he was aware of her true age of 16 years,” she told investigators.
Police eventually served warrants to AT&T, Verizon, and SeekingArrangement.com, which revealed messages sent between Cliffe and the alleged victim on June 5 and 6 of last year and photos that matched Cliffe’s appearance. Police went to Cliffe’s home on the night of January 31 to inform him he was “named in an assault investigation,” and he met investigators hours later.
After being informed of his Miranda rights, Cliffe confirmed to investigators his use of multiple websites to arrange dates with women, and that, in some cases, those included “arrangements” that included “payment for their time.” (He described one of those sites’ URLs as SugarDaddyArrangement.com, which investigators had not tracked at the time.) He denied recognizing photos of the alleged victim.
Moments later, Cliffe was presented with message logs sent by his accounts to the woman, and he said he “was unable to recall or connect the communications or any other recollections to photographs” of her. Still, he corroborated enough of the information that investigators had already established, including the alleged victim’s physical description, some of her personal background details, and the logistics of how the date began and ended. All this established “probable cause” in the eyes of King County investigators. (In his description of the alleged victim, Cliffe told investigators that the woman “appeared to be 23 years old.”)
Cliffe’s next hearing is scheduled for February 25. He has posted $150,000 bail. Cliffe continues to be suspended from his employment at Valve Software, and the company has not responded to requests for comment since confirming Cliffe’s suspension to Ars last week.
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