Minnesota Professor Sentenced for Enticing a Louisiana Minor to Engage in Sexual Activity
MONROE, La. – United States Attorney Stephanie A. Finley announced that a Minnesota professor was sentenced on Monday, to 135 months in prison for contacting a minor in Union Parish in order to start a sexual relationship.
Woody Dale Branton, 63, of Minneapolis, Minn., was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Robert G. James on one count of enticing a minor to engage in criminal sexual activity. He was also sentenced to five years of supervised release. According to evidence presented at the August 27, 2014 guilty plea, Branton, a professor at the University of Minnesota, and a 15-year-old girl exchanged thousands of messages on Facebook from October 2013 through December 1, 2013. Many of the messages were sexual in nature, and he also asked the young girl to send him explicit pictures of herself. From November 29, 2013 to December 1, 2013, Branton attempted to set up a meeting with the girl in Louisiana and purchased a plane ticket to meet in Shreveport.
“This case is yet another example why it is so important for parents to monitor the computer usage of their children and stay active in their lives,” Finley stated. “We also hope that this case deters the conduct of other sexual predators and spares other potential victims. Protecting children from these malicious predators is a top priority for my office, and we will continue to work closely with the federal, state and local law enforcement partners to bring them to justice.”
The FBI and the Union Parish Sheriff’s Office investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Seth D. Reeg prosecuted the case.
This case is part of Project Safe Childhood, a U.S. Department of Justice nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.
Those concerned may also leave tips with the FBI at tips.fbi.gov. Tips may be submitted anonymously. The Monroe FBI office number is (318) 387-0773.