A Shade area man will spend a year and a day in prison, after being sentenced in federal court last week for the crime of computer "sextortion."
Charles J. Estep, 28, whose home address is in Meigs County, pleaded guilty in May to breaking into the social media sites of a man and woman he knows, threatening the woman because of comments she had posted online, then obtaining sexually explicit photos of her and posting them on the Internet.
Estep entered his plea in U.S. District Court in Columbus. The case was investigated by the U.S Attorney's office, the FBI and the Meigs County sheriff.
In April 2010, Estep allegedly threatened his female victim that he would hack into her social media accounts unless she removed comments she had posted online.
When she failed to do so, "Estep followed through with his threats by trying to ruin her reputation," according to statement made in court by Assistant U.S. Attorney Deborah A. Solove.
Estep illegally accessed the computer of the male victim, obtained sexually explicit photos of the female victim, and posted the images on an adult pornography website, according to authorities.
He pleaded guilty to a bill of information charging him with two counts of computer intrusion and one count of extortion.
If given the maximum sentences for his crimes, Estep could have faced seven years in prison and $500,000 in fines. In a sentence imposed Friday, however, Judge James L. Graham sentenced him to one year and one day in prison, followed by three years of supervised release.
Estep must also keep up with his child-support payments, and undergo mental-health evaluation and counseling, according to his sentencing records.
Estep had asked for just probation, a request that assistant U.S. Attorney Solove opposed. In a memorandum, Solove noted that Estep's request was "based primarily on an argument that his criminal history is over-stated. He also argues that (he) has turned his life around, and is sorry for his hasty decision regarding the underlying offense."
The memo points out that sexually explicit images of the victim in the case "were essentially stolen from (her) husband," and depicted her while she was under 18.
"Even though (Estep) now claims that he did not know the victim's age in the photos, her birth date appears on her Facebook page; he indicates in one of her messages with her that he knows that she has just turned 18, and one of the pictures he posted has a date on it, that would indicate it was taken when she was a minor," Solove wrote. "Further, the victim had a child before she turned 18, making it unlikely that any of the pictures (Estep) posted were taken after that time."
Solove asked the judge to give Estep one year and one day in prison, which she called "a sentence of imprisonment at the upper end of the guideline range" for his offenses.
Despite Estep's claim about his criminal history
being exaggerated, Solove wrote, "His criminal history in particular gives this
court no reason to be lenient with this defendant… (He) has repeatedly been
charged with different offenses for which he has gotten fairly lenient
sentences. However, he has always done something to betray the courts' trust in
him. His violations of probation have resulted in more severe punishment, but
this has rarely made a difference."