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United States v. Hensley

July 23, 2009


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, Hammond Division. No. 06 CR 168-Philip P. Simon, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Manion, Circuit Judge.


Before MANION, ROVNER, and WOOD, Circuit Judges.

Government agents created a fictitious online personality named "Jennifer Sanchez," who represented herself as a 13-year-old girl. Matthew Hensley, using multiple online personas, attempted to cajole Jennifer into having sex with him. A meeting place was arranged. However, while en route, Hensley noticed law enforcement near the meeting place and left the scene. Officers arrested Hensley the next day. A jury convicted him of attempting to solicit a minor for sex in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2422(b). The district court sentenced him to 125 months' imprisonment. Hensley appeals both his conviction and sentence. We affirm.


The sting that caught Matthew Hensley was part of a wider law-enforcement effort targeting Internet sexual predators. The operation used personnel from several state and federal agencies, including the Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE") and the Secret Service. The plan was to first entice sexual predators over the Internet using agents passing themselves off as minors, and then to nab them when they arrived at Will Park in Valparaiso, the spot where the fictitious minors would tell the perpetrators to meet them for the trysts. The take-downs-approximately ten to twelve of them-were all scheduled to occur on the same day, August 18, 2006, and involved well over 100 law enforcement officers.

ICE agents Demetrius Flowers and Melissa Chan participated in the operation. They posed as a thirteen-year-old girl named "Jennifer Sanchez" and created an online Yahoo profile for her with the screen name jen_indy_13 (hereinafter "Jen"). Beginning August 7, 2006, Agent Flowers, under the guise of that screen name, visited the Indiana section of several Yahoo chat rooms.

That same day, Hensley, using the screen name MattyMac99, struck up a one-on-one conversation with Jen in one of the chat rooms. Both parties revealed their age, sex, and location. Upon discovering that Jen was thirteen years old, Hensley responded, "oh what the hell i'd still fuck you." Later, Hensley, informing Jen that he had sex on his mind, attempted to find out where she lived and what hours her mom worked. He also asked her what was the most she had ever done with a guy before, when she might want to have sex, if she would let him kiss her, what her number was, and when they could meet.

While Hensley was talking to Jen as MattyMac99, he also was conducting two other one-on-one conversations with her using the screen names MaverickMatt4 and Mark_Thompson24. With each screen name, Hensley was pretending to be a different person. At the time, the government did not know that all three screen names were the same person. As MaverickMatt4, Hensley pretended to be a 19-year-old male living an hour north of Indianapolis. He again requested that Jen give her age-she reaffirmed that she was thirteen-and then asked her pointed questions about her sex life, including whether a guy had ever "fe[lt] you up" and if she had ever masturbated.

As Mark_Thompson24, Hensley pretended to be a 21-year-old male living in downtown Indianapolis. Hensley told Jen he was "horny" and wanted "to get to know [her] with [her] clothes off." He also asked her if she would come hang out with him and "help [him] out" by performing various sex acts with him. Hensley later asked Jen for her bra size and fantasized about having sex with her.

Hensley continued conversing with Jen the next day. Using the screen name NIPSCO26, he posed as a fifteen-year-old girl and questioned Jen repeatedly about her age to make sure she was thirteen and not just "do[ing] some trapping work." He also used the screen name Mark_Thompson24 to encourage her further to have sex with him, going so far as to offer to pick her up that night. When Jen expressed fear about getting pregnant, Hensley told her that she would not get "preggers" if they had sex after her period or engaged in coitus interruptus.

The next evening, using the screen name MattyMac99, Hensley was at it again. He engaged Jen in another highly sexualized conversation and attempted to arrange a meeting with her. During their next conversation, Hensley continued to push for a meeting with Jen. He talked about the possibility of her becoming his girlfriend and attempted to devise a plan for her to meet him at Valparaiso University.

Although the meeting at Valparaiso University did not happen, Hensley kept pressing Jen to meet him. He also continued to groom Jen for a sexual encounter. On one occasion, Hensley, using the screen name NIPSCO26, contacted Jen and-again pretending to be a fifteen-year-old girl-told Jen how "she" loved having sex with older men because they were more experienced than younger guys. He also told Jen that thirteen was old enough to have sex and appealed to the lack of concern by "her" dad, a doctor, in order to show Jen that her fears of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases were overblown.

After a phone conversation on August 18, Hensley agreed to meet Jen near her house around 3:00 p.m. later that day. As the time for the rendezvous approached, a uniformed police officer stationed near the designated meeting place observed Hensley drive past his parked squad car. Hensley did not stop, and the officer made no attempt to arrest him. During a chat session that night, Jen asked Hensley why he had not stopped by that day. Hensley replied that there were cops everywhere, that he could be arrested ...

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