A Washington County man was sentenced to 18 months at the Washington County Detention Center on Thursday after pleading guilty to two sex offenses earlier this year for having intercourse with a 15-year-old girl he met at a car show.
The girl’s mother discovered the inappropriate relationship after she checked the teen’s cell phone, including her Facebook Messenger conversations, Deputy State Attorney Sarah Mollett-Gaumer said at a plea hearing in April in Washington County Circuit Court. The mom regularly checks the teen’s cell phone, but the girl said she didn’t expect her mom to monitor that app’s conversations and she didn’t delete the entire conversation thread with the man.
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Judge Andrew F. Wilkinson sentenced Brent Thomas Chaney, 35, of the Sharpsburg area, to 14 years in prison, suspended for all but 18 months.
Chaney addressed the judge before his verdict, saying he was “deeply sorry. I take responsibility for my actions. I know it was wrong and I’m sorry.”
Wilkinson said he read the pre-sentence investigation and a behavioral health analysis and told Chaney he was concerned that even as of this spring, Chaney “continued to grossly downplay your own actions.” Wilkinson said he understood that Chaney was sorry and realized he was doing wrong, but that he seems to continue to downplay that his role was “100% of the problem.”
Wilkinson explained that all four sentencing factors apply “to a greater or lesser degree” in Chaney’s case, saying the most important factors in this case were punishment and deterrence. The other two are rehabilitation and public safety.
Wilkinson said Chaney deserves punishment and advised the defendant to use his sentence time to “think hard about never doing things like this.”
Chaney was not incarcerated while awaiting sentence and has no credit for time served.
Following his incarceration, Chaney is placed on five years of supervised probation.
Wilkinson said Chaney will register as a Tier II sex offender, meaning he will be on the registry for 25 years.
Defense attorney David Pembroke had said at the hearing that Chaney had registered as a Tier III sex offender.
Tier III means an offender is registered for life, according to the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services website.
Chaney is also not allowed to have contact with the victim or her parents and no contact with an unrelated minor without adult supervision, Wilkinson said.
Earlier plea deal and sentencing requests
Chaney pleaded guilty to two counts of third-degree sex offenses in April for having intercourse with the girl in September 2021 when she was 15. Chaney was 33 at the time.
Other charges, including several involving sexual solicitation of a minor and child pornography, were dropped as part of the plea deal.
The sentencing hearing was postponed so that a pre-sentence examination, including a psychosexual evaluation, could be conducted.
On Thursday, Mollett-Gaumer again recommended 14 years in prison with nearly 18 months suspended and served at the local jail. By serving his time in the local jail, Mollett-Gaumer said Chaney would still be able to see his kids, while he could end up anywhere in the state if he went to a state prison.
The prosecutor cited the pre-sentencing investigation and a Maryland Department of Health evaluation, saying Chaney continued to make statements that he did not know the girl’s age. Mollett-Gaumer said that seems impractical given that Chaney was previously acquainted with the girl’s family and her mother.
Pembroke asked Wilkinson to consider a suspended sentence with appropriate supervised probation, including treatment.
He said Chaney was “repentant and extremely sorry for his actions”.
Pembroke noted that Chaney pleaded rather so that the contestants did not have to go through a trial.
Great details of the investigation
Hagerstown police responded at the girl’s home on Sept. 25, 2021, when the mother said she found messages on her daughter’s phone that morning about the teen having sexual relations with an older man they knew through mutual friends .
The daughter told a police officer that she deleted most messages with Chaney on Facebook Messenger, but not all of them.
Police obtained a search warrant for information from the girl’s Facebook account and found Messenger conversations between the girl and Chaney of both casual and sexual nature, according to indictment documents.
In a Sept. 20, 2021 thread, Chaney advises the girl to “make sure her mom takes sleeping pills so she falls asleep” and the girl can sneak out for their meeting the next night, according to indictment documents.
Wilkinson said Thursday he had read the girl’s victim impact statement more than once.
He told the girl at the sentencing hearing that “it wasn’t her fault. She didn’t do anything wrong.”
This article originally appeared on The Herald-Mail: Washington County man convicted of having sex with 15-year-old girl