A Yakima man accused of soliciting nude photos and videos of teenagers is in jail after playing World of Warcraft.
Craig Michael Berry’s bail was increased to $85,000 after a Yakima County Superior Court judge ruled Friday he violated the terms of his release by playing an online video game with at least one minor.
Berry, 36, is charged with multiple counts of sexually exploiting minors, commercial sex abuse of minors, communicating with minors for immoral purposes and giving minors alcohol and marijuana. He is also charged with a single count of sexually molesting a minor after a girl said he groped her breasts under her clothing.
He’s accused of communicating with at least seven teenage girls through online social media, where he offered them gifts ranging from food to drugs to lingerie in return for them sending him nude videos and pictures.
The girls said they met Berry either at a haunted house he was running or through social media, according to probable cause affidavits. In return for giving the girl various items, such as food, cellphones, alcohol and marijuana, he demanded they send him nude photos, as well as videos where they wore lingerie and used sex toys he provided them, the affidavits said.
In one case, Berry told a girl he would cut her cellphone service if she didn’t comply with his demands, the affidavits said, while another girl said he threatened to turn her in for child pornography if she did not comply.
Berry was arrested Oct. 20 and initially released after posting $50,000 bail, with orders not to contact anyone younger than 18 who was not a family member. He was also told not to use the internet until his case was resolved, according to court documents.
Yakima County Pretrial Services said Berry violated those terms when he conversed with a minor while playing video games online through the Twitch streaming service, court documents said. His bail was boosted to $70,000 and he was again told to stay off the internet.
But in November, Judge Sonia Rodriguez True amended the order to allow Berry to use the internet with a device equipped with filters that barred him from communicating with minors. His attorney, Jeff West, said the earlier ban was keeping Berry from applying for unemployment benefits.
Judge Jeffery Swan modified the order in December after Pretrial Services said they did not have the training in how to install or monitor such a filter, and did not know what internet-capable devices Berry had or might have in the future.
Swan’s order limited Berry to a single electronic tablet with filters.
But at Friday’s hearing, Deputy Yakima County Prosecuting Attorney Holai Holbrook said Berry violated the terms by using an unauthorized computer to play World of Warcraft, a multi-player role-playing game, and that there was an instance where a minor was playing in a game with him.
“Even when he received his summons (for this allegation), he was still gaming. He was on there 13 times,” Holbrook said. “This is concerning that he is continuing to do this. He’s on social media, on platforms where he can meet juveniles, groom them and have side chats with them. I don’t know how to get through to him.”
Holbrook asked that Berry be taken into custody, and his bail increased to $100,000.
Yakima police Detective Casey Gillette said he received a tip from someone who provided video of Berry playing the game. In that game, the woman hosting the session was concerned because her nephew or niece was playing, Gillette said.
After his criminal charges were brought up, Berry left the game session and changed his online handle, Gillette said, but continued playing the game daily, including on Feb. 14, the day before he was to first appear on the allegation that he violated the terms of his release.
“I never play World of Warcraft personally, but there is no age limit to play it,” Gillette said. “Anyone who can use a computer up to way too old to use a computer can play it.”
World of Warcraft, Gillette said, can only be played from a personal computer or a gaming console, and not a tablet computer.
But Berry disputed that in court, telling Judge Elisabeth Tutsch that the game can be played on a tablet or a smart television.
West said at Friday’s hearing that the photo of Berry gaming was an older photo, as it appeared to be in a house he moved out of after losing his job when he was charged.
He also said that when he discovered there was a minor in the game, he “skedaddled” out of there.
“He’s playing with adults,” West said.
While there was doubt as to whether Berry was using his tablet or another device, Tutsch said the was no doubt he was playing a game online and that there was a minor in the game with him. And there was no way to screen minors from playing the game.
“The concerns we have are similar to the facts alleged in the underlying charges,” Tutsch said. “I don’t see how there’s any confusion in these orders … you’re not supposed to communicate or game with minors.”
She set bail at $85,000, to run concurrently with the previous bail amounts, and Berry was taken into custody by county corrections officers.