The last of seven men charged in an online sex sting operation was placed on three years of intensive supervised probation Thursday rather than being sentenced to almost five years in prison.
In sentencing Brandon Ryan Mason, 22, Shawnee County District Court Judge Jan Leuenberger departed downward, listing eight factors to justify the action. Mason could have received 59 months in prison under state sentencing guidelines.
Mason was charged July 12, 2007, with electronic solicitation of a child younger than 16 and attempted aggravated indecent liberties with a child 14 to 16 years old.
In the seven cases, each man and a person identifying herself as a 13- or 14-year-old girl exchanged messages in an online chat room, and the men agreed to drive to a home in Montara for sex. When each man arrived, law enforcement officers took him into custody.
The person posing as the child either was Nikki Delaney, co-owner and operator of U.S. Cyberwatch Inc. (uscyberwatch.com), a nonprofit organization whose mission is to intercept sexual predators hunting child victims, or someone affiliated with U.S. Cyberwatch.
As part of a deal with the district attorney’s office, Mason pleaded guilty on Aug. 29, 2007, to the electronic solicitation charge, and the indecent liberties count was dismissed.
Leuenberger on Thursday ordered two special conditions of Mason’s probation — that he must continue to receive treatment from a psychologist and a psychiatrist and that his use of a computer is restricted, meaning he can’t use it to look for pornography or to go to online chat rooms seeking sex.
In placing Mason on intensive supervised probation, Leuenberger listed eight factors for departing downward in the sentencing guidelines:
• U.S. Cyberwatch was an aggressor and active participant in attempting to lure potential SEX STING DEFENDANTS
• Jason Samual Sandberg, 30, electronic solicitation of a child younger than 14 and attempted aggravated criminal sodomy of a child younger than 14, sentenced January 2008 to 15 years and four months.
• Sherfy L. Kemper, 52, electronic solicitation of a child under 14 and attempted rape of a child under 14, sentenced March 2008 to 12 years and 11 months.
• Federico Mendoza, 35, electronic solicitation, sentenced May 2007 to 12 years and three months, suspended to three years of probation.
• Efrain Valenzuela, 31, electronic solicitation, sentenced November 2007 to 10 years.
• Thomas Lynn Hall, 33, electronic solicitation and attempted aggravated criminal sodomy with a child younger than 14, sentenced September 2007 to four years and seven months.
• James R. Hill, 37, convicted in military courtmartial, sentenced to four years. CJOnline / The Topeka Capital-Journal – Sex case draws probation Page 1 of 9 http://cjonline.com/stories/080108/loc_312241386.shtml 8/3/2008 predators.
• Mason changed his mind when he drove to the Montara home and, before he learned police were present, he tried to leave.
• Mason had significantly impaired judgment due to post-traumatic stress disorder linked to basic training in the Kansas Army National Guard and depression.
• The degree of harm was less than a typical offense because there wasn’t an actual child involved.
• Mason has a supportive family, there were a large number of letters of support for him, and there were supporters in court Thursday.
• Mason sought treatment soon after he was arrested and has continued it for two years.
• Mason doesn’t pose a threat to society, and his best chance of successful treatment is in the community, not in prison.
• Mason is employed and is a productive member of society.
As a result of the sentencing, the Guard started proceedings to separate Mason from the service, said Sharon Watson, Guard spokeswoman.
Mason, a specialist in the Guard, will be given a “general discharge” or the less desirable “other than honorable discharge,” Watson said.
In a general discharge, significant negative aspects of a soldier’s conduct or performance of duty outweigh the positive aspects of the soldier’s military record, a statement issued by Watson said.
In a discharge due to other than honorable conditions, a soldier’s release from the service is for misconduct, fraudulent entry, homosexual conduct, unsatisfactory participation or security reasons, the statement said.
A bad conduct discharge from the Guard would require a court-martial, which won’t occur in this case, Watson said.
A spokeswoman for District Attorney Robert Hecht said he couldn’t comment on Mason’s sentencing because Hecht had been in conferences Thursday and hadn’t seen details of the sentencing.
Steve Fry can be reached at (785) 295-1206 or [email protected] com.
By Steve Fry