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Man confesses to meeting teen boy online and having illegal relationship, deputies say

Crime Watch

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Russell J. Briggs | Madison County Jail

TETON — A Teton man is charged with rape after he admitted to having a sexual relationship with a teenage boy he met on social networking app.

Fremont County investigators were contacted earlier this year by the then-17-year-old boy’s counselor who was legally obligated to disclose the boy’s sexual relationship with Russell J. Briggs, according to an affidavit of probable cause, and an interview with a member of the family. When detectives learned the now 40-year-old man lived at a Madison County address in Teton, they passed the case over to Madison County investigators.

Briggs is now in the Madison County Jail, charged with felony rape and felony lewd conduct. Under Idaho law, a 16- or 17-year-old cannot legally consent to sex with an adult who is three or more years older.

Madison County detectives spoke with Briggs on Nov. 4 at the Sheriff’s Office in Rexburg. According to court documents, Briggs said he had met the victim on the app Grindr, which calls itself “the world’s largest social networking app for gay, bi, trans, and queer people.” Briggs said when he first started talking to the victim the teen said he was 18 years old.

After communicating over Grindr and Snapchat, Briggs said he and the victim decided to meet up. He said he asked the victim to show him ID, and the teen ultimately confessed to being only 17 years old. Briggs said he didn’t want the teen to feel abandoned and kept talking to him.

Communication stopped for about a month, and resumed with the teen saying he did not have a phone. Briggs said he bought the teen a phone and paid for its service.

“During the course of our conversation, Briggs said he loved and cared about (the victim),” a deputy wrote.

Briggs told investigators he and the victim cuddled and kissed but could not remember if he had sex with the victim because he is a heavy drinker, according to court documents. Briggs allegedly reiterated that he was not sure if he engaged in sex with the victim but that if he did, it would have been consensual.

“Briggs then admitted to having a sexual relationship with (the victim) on three occasions all at his residence,” the deputy wrote. “The last time being near the end of July.”

The victim also told Fremont County deputies he engaged in sex acts with Briggs. A sexual assault exam was also completed four days after the last time Briggs and the victim allegedly engaged in lewd acts.

“Briggs also stated that he was talking with other people on Grindr who claimed to be under the age of 18, but he did not give names,” a deputy writes in the probable cause. “He allowed us to look through some of his messages but would not consent to us taking his phone for any amount of time.”

After Briggs allegedly confessed acts that constitute statutory rape, and lewd conduct as well as admitting to messaging other underage people, deputies asked prosecutors to charge Briggs.

Charges against Briggs were filed on Dec. 7, and he was arrested. A judge set Briggs’ bail to $100,000. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Dec. 23.

Although Briggs is charged with crimes, it does not necessarily mean he committed them. Everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

If convicted on both counts, a judge could order Briggs to spend up to two life sentences in prison.

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