NEWBURY – A Waltham man who served eight years in the military was ordered held on $10,000 cash bail after his arraignment Monday in Newburyport District Court, two days after his arrest in Byfield for allegedly trying to have sex with an underaged teen.
When James Cook, 33, arrived on Kent Way near Interstate 95 on Saturday morning with condoms and $280 in cash, he believed he would be meeting a 14-year-old girl he met on the social media platform Snapchat.
Instead, Cook was met by Newbury police Detective Sgt. Aaron Wojtkowski, who had posed online as the young girl, and Newbury police officers. Cook was arrested without incident and charged with enticing a child under 16, sending obscene matter to a minor and distributing obscene matter, according to court testimony.
At the arraignment, Essex County prosecutor Michelle Belmonte asked Judge Peter Doyle to hold Cook on $20,000 and not allow him to have contact with anyone 18 or younger. She also asked that his passport be confiscated and that he be banned from using the internet.
If found guilty, Cook faces a sentence of up to five years in state prison.
In her argument for bail, Belmonte described how Cook contacted who he thought was a 14-year-old girl from Byfield on Sept. 1 and asked if she was free to meet him for "dinner n' a movie."
"And maybe a make-out session," Belmonte said, reading from Wojtkowski's report.
Cook and Wojtkowski exchanged a series of increasingly graphic messages until Cook asked to meet "her" on Sept. 14. Cook made it clear that he would be wiling to pay her to be with him and would like to be her "sugar daddy."
"I swear you're the first underaged girl," Belmonte said, again reading from the detective's report.
Cook also sent Wojtkowski two photos of his genitals – one covered by clothing and another exposed, according to the report.
On Saturday about 9:10 a.m., Cook arrived in a black Dodge Dart with veteran license plates at the location suggested by Wojtkowski. Police then arrested him. While he was being searched, Cook told an officer that he "(expletive) up," according to Belmonte.
When police searched his car, they found 10 condoms, $280 in cash, a laptop computer, three flash drives and a cell phone, according to court records.
In asking for high cash bail, Belmonte pointed to a similar arraignment just weeks earlier when Wojtkowski allegedly lured Dalton resident James D. Lafrance to Newbury under the same pretenses. Lafrance was arraigned Aug. 28 and ordered held on $20,000 cash bail.
Cook's attorney, John Salsberg, asked that his client be released on personal recognizance, telling Doyle that Cook had every reason to return to court and that he had served eight years in the Marine Corps.
Cook spent four years in Somalia combating ship pirates and later served in Thailand and Japan. He later spent four more years on inactive duty before leaving the Marines, according to Salsberg.
"If the court orders him to be here in court next time, he'll be here next time," Salsberg said.
Salsberg said it was unfair for Belmonte to compare Cook to Lafrance, saying that unlike the Dalton man, Cook didn't bring along alcohol or firearms to the scheduled meeting.
Doyle split the difference, setting bail at $10,000 but agreed with every other request made by Belmonte. Cook is due back in court Oct. 22 for a pretrial hearing.
With the assistance of the Massachusetts Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, Wojtkowski has posed as a minor on several occasions, leading to the arrests of several men looking to have sex with children or teens.
Assisting Wojtkowski with Cook's arrest were police from Salisbury, Rowley, West Newbury, Georgetown and Ipswich.
Staff writer Dave Rogers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @drogers41008.