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A 27-year-old Wynne man was sentenced Wednesday to more than seven years in federal prison for threatening to post a girl's naked pictures on Facebook unless she or her mother agreed to have sex with him.

Despite his courtroom apology, Frank McHenry was sentenced to the maximum punishment recommended by federal sentencing guidelines after his Nov. 7 guilty plea to charges of distribution of child pornography and extortion.

The extortion charge to which he pleaded guilty involved a 17-year-old girl. A second extortion charge involving her mother was dropped in return for his guilty plea, but was nonetheless taken into consideration at his sentencing before U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker.

The sentencing range would have been higher if defense attorney Chris Tarver of the federal public defender's office hadn't argued that McHenry shouldn't be subjected to an enhancement for threatening to kill or harm the girl.

Tarver argued that the charge stemmed from McHenry's threat to publish sexually explicit photographs of the girl that she had sent to him, and not from a police officer's statement that McHenry also texted the girl, "You better not see me out with my gun."

McHenry not only texted a threat to the girl on Oct. 29, 2015, after she wanted to discontinue her online relationship with him, but he posted a sexually explicit photograph of her on Facebook, leading to the charge regarding the distribution of child pornography. Though he never actually met the girl in person, he had asked her to "friend" him on Facebook, and then enticed her to send him nude pictures, prosecutors said.

When the girl's mother intervened and told McHenry in a text message that her daughter was only 17 and to leave her alone, he threatened to distribute the girl's photographs again unless the mother was willing to "take her place" and have sex with him, according to his indictment.

The distribution charge was punishable by five to 20 years in prison under federal statutes, and federal sentencing guidelines recommended a sentence ranging from 70 months to 87 months, or just under six years to just over seven years. The extortion charge was merged into the other charge for sentencing purposes.

Tarver asked for a sentence at the bottom of the guideline range, arguing that while McHenry has a lengthy criminal history, it mostly consisted of "nuisance" crimes such as trespassing and shoplifting. Tarver acknowledged, however, that McHenry had served five years in prison on a second-degree battery conviction, which he said stemmed from an effort to defend himself.

Tarver said his client, who was told that he was bipolar when he was younger, recently completed a course on communicating and is now enrolled in an anger-management course.

"He is trying to better himself," Tarver said.

McHenry told the judge, "I accept responsibility for everything I've done," and said he is "trying my best" to improve. Although the victim wasn't present at Wednesday's sentencing, he said he wanted to apologize to her and promised, "It will never happen again."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Allison Bragg asked the judge for a sentence at the high end of the guideline range, citing "the disgusting nature of this crime" and McHenry's criminal history, which she said showed that he was more a "menace" than a "nuisance."

Bragg noted that McHenry's criminal history dates to 2007 and that in 2014 alone he was convicted of six crimes, and the year before, he was convicted of five crimes. While many of the convictions weren't for serious crimes, Bragg pointed out that they included being a felon in possession of a firearm and escape.

"It's a pattern that has gone on for too long," Bragg said. "He is someone who has a complete, categorical disrespect for the law."

Baker said that while in prison, McHenry must undergo treatment for substance abuse, mental health, domestic violence and anger management. She also sentenced him to five years of supervised release after prison.

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Metro on 04/19/2018

Print Headline: Sex-threats case draws 7-year term

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