BANGOR, Maine — A man from England who admitted photographing his sexual assault on a 13-year-old Levant girl he communicated with online in a Harry Potter chat room was sentenced Monday in U.S. District Court to 17 years in federal prison.
Nicholas Cheese, 27, of Oxford, England, waived indictment in October and pleaded guilty to one count of production of pornography.
Cheese, who has no criminal history, did not address the judge.
In addition to prison time, U.S. District Judge John Woodcock sentenced Cheese to five years of supervised release following his prison term. Cheese probably will never serve any supervised release because he will be held for deportation as soon as he completes his prison term.
The victim did not appear in court but her father did. He told Woodcock that the girl’s online relationship with Cheese, which began when she was 12, helped get her through a life-threatening health crisis, from which she has recovered. Last summer Cheese stopped in Bangor on his way to a conference in Texas and the girl met him at his motel room June 26, 27 and 28.
“My daughter is more upset about what happened afterward,” he said, referring to Cheese’s arrest and prosecution. “She feels like she lost her best friend.”
The Bangor Daily News is not naming the victim or her father.
Woodcock said that although the sex would be considered consensual between adults, the girl was neither old nor mature enough to consent to it. The judge said that he had seen videos of the girl and she was not “a 13-year-old who looked like she was 18.”
“I credit the defendant with all he did for this girl before he met her,” the judge said shortly before imposing the sentence. “But when he met her, he gave her a crash course in sex. In a matter of three days, he exposed her to a range of sexual experiences many adults would refuse to explore. The defendant’s actions against this 13-year-old girl were unusually aggressive.”
Cheese recorded his final sex session with the girl on his phone, Woodcock said.
Dressed in a dark suit, dress shirt and tie, Cheese wept as his parents, who sought leniency from the judge, and his victim’s father spoke. Cheese’s father lives in England and his mother lives in Spain.
Cheese initially was charged July 1 in state court with one count each of gross sexual assault, a Class A felony, and sexual exploitation of a minor, a Class B felony, according to a previously published report. Those charges were dismissed by the Penobscot County District Attorney’s Office in September when Cheese was charged in federal court.
Cheese came to the attention of law enforcement June 30 when the girl’s parents reported she had been sexually assaulted by a 26-year-old man from England, according to an affidavit filed in U.S. District Court. In an interview with a detective from the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office, the girl said she met Cheese online in April or May 2012.
When interviewed by investigators, Cheese admitted that he knew the girl was 13, that he had traveled to Bangor to have sex with her and that he had previously asked the girl for nude photos and videos. Those and at least one sexually explicit photo taken in Cheese’s motel room were found on his cellphone and iPod, according to court documents.
Police in England also found child pornography on his home computer in that country. Information about whether he would face charges there was not available Monday.
Cheese faced a mandatory minimum of 15 years in prison and a maximum of 30 years. He could have been fined up to $250,000. Under the prevailing sentencing guidelines, the recommended sentence was between 24 years and four months and 30 years in prison.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Gail Malone urged Woodcock to impose a sentence within the guideline range. Defense attorney David Bate asked that the judge impose the mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years.
Cheese has been held without bail at the Penobscot County Jail since his arrest last summer. That time will be credited to his sentence, Woodcock said.
The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, in Bangor and London, England; the Bangor Police Department; the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office; and the Thames Valley Police in Oxford, England, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
To reach a sexual assault advocate, call the Statewide Sexual Assault Crisis and Support Line at 800-871-7741, TTY 888-458-5599. This free and confidential 24-hour service is accessible from anywhere in Maine. Calls are automatically routed to the closest sexual violence service provider.