Air Force Serviceman Found Guilty of Attempting to Entice a Minor to Engage in Illegal Sexual Activity
Jacksonville, FL - U.S. Attorney Robert E. O’Neill announces that a federal jury yesterday found Brandon Meredith Hardy (21, Valdosta) guilty of using the internet in an attempt to entice a minor to engage in illegal sexual activity. Hardy, an Airman and security officer in the United States Air Force, is stationed at Moody Air Force Base in Valdosta, Georgia. He faces up to life in federal prison for the offense. Hardy remains in the custody of United States Marshals Service pending his sentencing hearing, which has not yet been scheduled.
According to court testimony and evidence introduced during trial, from April 23, 2011 through April 28, 2011, Hardy engaged in a series of online conversations over the internet with a person whom he believed to be a 12-year old child. Unbeknownst to Hardy, this "child" was actually an undercover officer with the Florida Attorney General's Child Predator Cybercrime Unit. During the course of the online conversations, Hardy attempted to entice and persuade the "child" to engage in sexual activity and arranged to meet the "child." On April 28, 2011, Hardy drove his vehicle from Moody Air Force Base, in Georgia, to a residence in St. Augustine, Florida, to meet the "child." Immediately after Hardy rang the doorbell at the residence, he was arrested by St. Johns County Sheriff's deputies.
A search of Hardy's vehicle revealed, among other things, a laptop computer containing a photograph depicting child pornography and a bottle of personal lubricant.
This case was investigated by the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office, the former Child Predator Cybercrime Unit of the Florida Attorney General's Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and the United States Air Force Office of Special Investigations. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney D. Rodney Brown.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys' Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc For more information about internet safety education, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc and click on the tab "resources."