BOISE — A Twin Falls man pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court to trying to arrange a sexual encounter with someone he was chatting with online and thought was a minor.
Jerry Bob Stewart, 50, is facing up to 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, a term of supervised release ranging from five years to life and a $5,100 special assessment, Acting U.S. Attorney Rafael Gonzalez said in a statement.
He agreed to forfeit a cellphone, tablet and portable wireless internet device used in commission of the crime as part of his plea to attempted coercion and enticement of a minor. Sentencing is set for Nov. 28 before Chief U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill.
The plea agreement says Stewart communicated online with a 10-year-old girl in California. She told Stewart she was 19, “but Stewart proposed they engage in a father-daughter ‘fantasy’ where the child was 14,” the U.S. attorney’s office said.
The child’s grandmother found the communications, and a Nevada County, Calif., sheriff’s detective took over her accounts and continued to communicate with Stewart, posing as the child. The detective repeatedly told Stewart she was 13 years old, but Stewart continued to express his desire to have sex with the child and sent her sexually explicit images.
Stewart agreed in November 2015 to pay for a bus ticket for the child to travel to Twin Falls, sending $300. He rented a room under the child’s name at a local hotel on Dec. 10, prosecutors said, and went to a bus stop to meet her. Homeland Security Investigations agents met him and found a box of condoms, two male sexual performance enhancement pills and a bottle of lubricant in his vehicle.
Homeland Security and the Nevada County sheriff’s office investigated with help from the Idaho Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, and the Twin Falls police department and county sheriff’s office. Prosecutors said it was part of the nationwide Project Safe Child initiative, which the Justice Department launched in 2006.