WAILUKU — A judge urged a Napili man to “engage honestly” in therapy when he was sentenced Thursday to probation rather than prison for arranging to meet someone he thought was a 13-year-old girl for sex after making an online solicitation.
Kyle Cribben, 29, was ordered to serve a one-year jail term as part of four years’ probation.
“The only way to proceed with a sentencing plan that will protect the community is to have you continue your efforts in therapeutic counseling so you can gain self-control,” 2nd Circuit Judge Kelsey Kawano told Cribben. “You will have to engage honestly in your therapy if you are to gain any benefit.
“You were plotting to have sex with an underage female, and sadly, you put yourself in that position. There was a lot of thought and effort put into this by yourself with that extended texting exchange and sending of digital images.
“It’s fortunate that there wasn’t actually a young 13-year-old victim in the case but an undercover officer.”
Cribben was arrested last year when police worked with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Secret Service to carry out “Operation Keiki Shield” targeting online sexual predators.
“The defendant is exactly the kind of person the police want to stop and why these operations exist,” said Deputy Prosecutor Karen Droscoski.
During the March 2020 operation, Cribben began communicating with an undercover officer in an online dating app, Droscoski said.
“Right from the beginning, it is abundantly clear that the defendant’s only intention was to have sex,” she said.
She said Cribben sent a photo of his private area and said, “I’m free tonight” before he and the undercover officer began exchanging text messages.
When the undercover officer reported being 13, Cribben responded, “Well I don’t mind the age, but could we have sex,” Droscoski said.
She said Cribben also repeatedly asked the officer to send photos, at one point texting, “Can you prove to me you really want sex. That way I know you’re not a cop.”
He also sent messages about birth control and complained about the undercover officer wanting chicken, Droscoski said. “The defendant is perfectly willing to drive an hour to have sex with this child, but not buy chicken,” she said.
Cribben also “says he’s very, very nervous, doesn’t want to get in trouble,” as he’s driving to the meeting at Kilohana Park in Kihei, where he was arrested Droscoski said.
“The defendant, in this text exchange, shows he’s an experienced online predator,” she said.
In recommending a five-year prison term for Cribben, Droscoski said: “He’s a sexual predator. He’s completely incapable of controlling himself and is a self-admitted sex addict.”
At the time of his arrest, Cribben was on probation for violating an order for protection and violating a temporary restraining order in separate cases involving two victims. “In both cases, the defendant would routinely demand sex from these women,” Droscoski said.
In the current case, Cribben had pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of second-degree electronic enhancement of a child. A charge of indecent electronic display to a child was dismissed.
In asking for leniency, his father, James Cribben, said that after posting bail to be released, his son sought therapy. “Kyle began to have so much remorse for what he had done,” James Cribben said.
Kyle Cribben, who already has served most of the one-year jail term, went back to jail in August after the judge granted a state request to increase bail to $500,000.
James Cribben said his son wouldn’t have a phone or computer if granted probation.
Appearing by videoconference from the Maui Community Correctional Center, Kyle Cribben apologized to his family and “everybody involved.”
“I know if I was given the chance for probation, I would not mess this up,” he said. “I would take it very seriously. I would do anything it takes to make sure I will not fail it.”
Deputy Public Defender Ben Lowenthal said letters to the court “show Kyle is more than vile language that was recited in court today.”
“He is a human being. He is fallible,” Lowenthal said. “He has made a terrible mistake. Frankly, he is thankful that the person he was chatting with was a police officer because that has changed the trajectory of his life.
“He will only benefit from supervision. He will only benefit from being reunited with his family, going to therapy.”
Judge Kawano said he was crediting Cribben for going to therapy and changing his plea in the case. “There’s a ray of light that you will take the opportunity and engage in treatment required,” Kawano said.
Cribben was ordered to participate in sex offender treatment and register as a sex offender. He was ordered to have no contact with minors and not live in the same residence as minor children without permission from his probation officer.
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.