Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals Affirms 20-Year Sentence for Elementary School Custodian who was Enticing Minors
United States Attorney Randolph J. Seiler announces that the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed the sentence of Casey James Godfrey who pled guilty on January 14, 2015, to one count of Enticement of a Minor by Use of the Internet. Godfrey was sentenced in June 2015 by Chief Judge Jeffrey L. Viken, U.S. District Court, to 20 years’ imprisonment, followed by 20 years of supervised release.
“As the two federal courts that have now reviewed this case have said, the punishment here is not only deserved for this terrible crime, but it should serve as a lesson for anyone else considering victimizing others, especially our children,” U.S. Attorney Seiler said. “Federal sentences contain no potential for parole, and so a 20-year sentence should be a wake-up call for internet predators.”
Godfrey worked as a custodian at an elementary school in Rapid City, South Dakota, from July 2013 until January 2014. On December 17, 2013, he emailed – unbeknownst to Godfrey – a Nebraska law enforcement officer who was conducting an online investigation by posing as a 14-year-old girl. He communicated with the officer by email and text messages for about one month. During that time, Godfrey asked for nude photos of the child and also sent the undercover agent nude images of himself, standing in front of a bathroom mirror at the school. Godfrey also expressed sexual interest in an 11-year-old female student who attended the school where he worked.
He was arrested on January 23, 2014. Search warrants served on various internet and email providers revealed that Godfrey had also exchanged images of child pornography with other individuals and had communicated with minors, trying to entice them to send him illicit photographs of themselves. Godfrey convinced two minor females, one from Illinois and one from Texas, to provide him nude images of themselves.
At sentencing, the district court determined that, to send a clear message to the public, it was necessary to sentence Godfrey above the recommended range of the federal Sentencing Guidelines. The court expressed particular concern that Godfrey used the school to create and transmit photos during his attempt to induce a minor victim. The court also reasoned that Godfrey’s actions in a public setting required heightened protection from future predatory conduct.
The Eighth Circuit found that the district court did not abuse its discretion in sentencing Godfrey as it did. The appellate court reasoned that “Congress specifically made general deterrence an appropriate consideration, and we have described it as ‘one of the key purposes of sentencing.’”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Boensch Collins prosecuted the case and handled the appeal for the government. The case was investigated by the South Dakota Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation, Pennington County Sheriff’s Office, Nebraska State Patrol, Chadron Police Department, Illinois Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce, Montgomery County Illinois Sheriff’s Office, and the Texas Attorney General’s Office.