A bus driver allegedly chatted about wanting to rape an 11-year-old. When he showed up a to Bay Area hotel, the FBI closed in

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

SAN FRANCISCO — A Mendocino County bus driver is facing federal charges here after he allegedly spent weeks chatting with an undercover FBI agent posing as a man with a lewd interest in his own daughter, who was willing to allow the defendant to rape the 11-year-old girl, court records show.

The case against 33-year-old Nathan Burke — also known as Nathanial Burke — mostly hinges on sexually explicit, detailed chats between Burke and the undercover FBI agent, according to the criminal complaint. But the most shocking allegation came at the end of their chats, when authorities say Burke showed up at a Rohnert Park hotel with condoms in his pockets after arranging to meet the man and his fictitious daughter there.

Instead, the FBI arrested Burke on suspicion of charges of possessing and distributing material depicting the sexual abuse of children, and prosecutors say he “largely confessed” in a subsequent police interview. During his chats with the undercover agent, Burke allegedly expressed a sexual interest in children, shared child sexual abuse material, and even chatted with an agent posing as the 11-year-old girl, “Maisy,” whom authorities say Burke showed up at the hotel to meet.

“Just days before, Burke had told Maisy precisely what he wanted to do to her. He sent her and her ‘father’ images depicting the oral and vaginal rape of prepubescent girls,” prosecutors wrote in a motion to keep Burke in custody while the case is pending. “And as early as January 2021, Burke had distributed other images and videos too, which similarly showed the rape of girls as young as 7 (years old).”

The latest twist in Burke’s case: On April 30, U.S. Magistrate Judge Sallie Kim authorized his release from jail, but prosecutors quickly asked another judge to reverse Kim’s decision. It worked; earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria signed off on Burke’s detention, writing in a court order that “Even if there were no presumption in favor of detention, the Court would…conclude that no set of pretrial release conditions would reasonably assure the safety of the community.”

Chhabria’s order means that Burke cannot be bailed out while the case is pending, and remains in federal custody. Burke’s attorney wrote in a motion arguing for his freedom that he has no criminal record, wouldn’t skip town if released, and that contrary to what prosecutors suggested, “a bus driver does not have meaningful, active contact with children.”

The defense also argued that prosecutors were relying heavily on the graphic nature of Burke’s alleged chats to make up for the lack of a cohesive argument that he should be jailed. In those chats, Burke talks specifically about what forms of sexual abuse he would commit, and asks for details of child molestation that the undercover agent has committed against the fictitious girl, according to the criminal complaint.

In one chat, Burke allegedly said he received the child sexual abuse material from another person online, adding, “I got (sic) trust someone before I send them out so feel special lol.”

“I do feel special, thank you for trusting me,” the undercover FBI agent responded.

Burke has pleaded not guilty and is next due in court on May 29, records show.

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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.