A Bangor man was sentenced to nearly five years in prison Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Buffalo, N.Y., for interstate travel with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct.
Charles Dunlop, 20, was sentenced to four years and nine months in prison. He also will be required to register as a sex offender, and his computer will be monitored when he is on 10 years of supervised release, according to court documents.
Wednesday’s sentencing came three months after Dunlop pleaded guilty to driving hundreds of miles last April to pick up a 13-year-old girl he met on the Internet. Dunlop told officials he had unprotected sex with her about five times, but she denied having any sex with him.
Given that he faced a maximum sentence of nearly six years in federal prison, Dunlop’s sentence is at the low end of federal sentencing guidelines, largely because of a series of mitigating factors, court documents obtained by the Bangor Daily News show.
In a series of letters to the court from family members and clergy, as well as a sentencing statement submitted by his federal public defender, Dunlop is described as a loner who was raised primarily by a single mother and his paternal grandparents.
Dunlop left home at 16 because his mother was in an abusive relationship and, having no where else to go, lived out of his car for a time, documents show. In high school, he developed no close friends and was bullied, which led him to drop out during his senior year, later supporting himself through a series of temporary jobs.
“Like most teenagers these days, Charles was ‘plugged in’ to electronic networking,” wrote his attorney, Kimberly Schechter. “Not surprisingly given his background, when he saw a person in a chat room who said that she was contemplating suicide, he responded, attempting to dissuade her.” The public defender stated that the girl claimed she was being abused and “begged and begged [him to come get her until] he could no longer take it.”
Though the girl claimed that Dunlop knew she was 13, his attorney noted in court documents that a forensic examination of the electronic devices and communications (using AOL’s AIM, Google, Google G-Mail, Yahoo and MySpace) did not bear out the minor’s claim that he knew her age before meeting.
“We do know for a fact that they then communicated using her MySpace page in which she used the screen name ‘playboiibunny779’ and indicated that she was 18 years old,” the defender noted.
“Moreover, Charles would have seen the pictures that she posted of herself wearing hoop earrings with her hair pulled back and on top of her head, trying to make herself look much older than her 13 years. A second picture depicted her smoking a cigarette,” Dunlop’s attorney said.
According to court documents, Dunlop picked the girl up in Niagara County, N.Y., on April 25 and drove her to Ohio. He was arrested on April 29, a day after he dropped the girl off at a shopping mall in Erie, Pa.
BDN writer Judy Harrison contributed to this report.