A former Canadian pastor who was caught in a sting operation conducted by Arroyo Grande police received a two-year prison sentence Wednesday for a felony conviction of arranging to meet a minor for lewd purposes, according to the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s office.
Nathan Rieger, 53, will need to serve the prison sentence in California, despite an attempt by his attorney to persuade a judge to let him serve the time in Canada. Rieger does however, already have about 73 days days of time served and other credits.
Last summer, Arroyo Grande officers arrested Rieger as part of an effort made to catch adults who use the internet to seek sex with underage girls. Rieger had planned to meet a 15-year-old girl in a parking lot on West Branch Street, where he was ultimately arrested.
During Rieger’s trial, which garnered media coverage in Canada, jurors heard testimony about the online conversation between Rieger and an Arroyo Grande police detective who was posing as a 15-year-old girl. They chatted for a week last August, according to trial testimony.
Rieger stated during the chat that he was 37 years old, and he made numerous sexual comments. Rieger said during the chat that his career could be at stake because of the supposed girl’s age, but he still wanted to be with her.
Prior to his arrest, Rieger was a pastor at the Winnipeg Centre Vineyard Church. He resigned from the role following his Aug. 10 arrest.
Rieger took the stand in his own defense during the trial and claimed he was just role-playing, and he thought the supposed girl was an adult woman who was role-playing, as well, according to the Tribune. In December, a San Luis Obispo jury convicted Rieger following a week-long trial and a half day of deliberation.
The former pastor faced a maximum prison sentence of four years.
Rieger’s attorney, Charles Magill, argued during Wednesday’s sentencing hearing that Rieger should only be sentenced to probation since he has attended sex addiction groups since his arrest. Magill said Rieger is attempting to address his issues.
Deputy District Attorney Julie Antos argued Rieger denied his crime when he took the stand during trial and perjured himself under oath. Antos also argued Reiger showed no remorse for his actions since his initial interview with a detective.
Judge Jacquelyn Duffy denied a motion by Magill to let Rieger serve his sentence in Canada. Duffy also ordered Rieger to register for life as a sex offender. It is unclear whether the sex offender status applies in Canada.
Rieger had been SLO County Jail since Jan. 16. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation took custody of him following the sentencing hearing.