Police in King County, Washington yesterday charged Counter-Strike co-creator Jess Cliffe, 36, with commercial sexual abuse of a minor, accusing him of paying a 16-year-old girl for sex and recording one sexual encounter against her will.
Police said they have been investigating this case since May of last year, when they first began talking to the girl, who is identified in the criminal report by her initials, AC. AC told investigators that she had had sex with Cliffe at least three times between April and June of 2017, when she was 16. She said she was paid $300 per hour for these encounters.
Cliffe’s lawyer, Zachary Wagnild, said in a bail hearing Friday that his client did not know AC was underage. Per Ars Technica, whose reporter was at the hearing, Wagnild confirmed that the two had sex. “Even if the facts are true as claimed, this was a meeting on an adult website,” Wagnild said. “He was not looking for underage women and had no idea this woman was underage.”
AC also said to investigators that she did not know if Cliffe was aware of her age. Washington state law defines “commercial sexual abuse of a minor” as a crime of providing “anything of value” to a minor in exchange for sex, whether or not the minor consents.
AC told police that Cliffe wanted to record one of their sexual sessions, to which AC said she declined. Then, AC said, Cliffe recorded the encounter regardless. Says the police report: “Despite not wanting him to do so, AC refrained from saying anything else out of fear that she could be harmed or killed based on her small size and accounts of other people who had been violently assaulted during a prostitution date.”
In the fall of 2017, police served a warrant to SeekingArrangement.com, the website on which Cliffe and AC had met, and found records of a profile with Cliffe’s photo and description. Police also received records from AT&T and Verizon to confirm that Cliffe and AC had communicated.
Cliffe posted bail of $150,000 and will appear in court again later this month. Valve suspended Cliffe on Thursday after news of his arrest broke.