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Published January 04, 2012, 05:15 PM

Middle River, MN, Man's Sex Crime Sentence Upheld

(AP) — A federal appeals court has rejected an appeal by a Minnesota man who admitted he set up a Facebook account under a false identity to lure young girls and used the site to contact a 13-year-old for sex.

By: Dave Kolpack, Associated Press

(AP) — A federal appeals court has rejected an appeal by a Minnesota man who admitted he set up a Facebook account under a false identity to lure young girls and used the site to contact a 13-year-old for sex.

Darrin Anderson, 36, of Middle River, Minn., was sentenced in May to 12 years in prison after pleading guilty earlier to a charge of travel to engage in illicit sexual conduct. Defense attorneys claimed in their appeal that the sentence was unreasonable.

A three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis upheld the sentence in an opinion released Wednesday.

"Mr. Anderson chose to use Facebook as a tool to target girls as young as 13 who lived in the Red River Valley for sex," said Timothy Purdon, the U.S. attorney from North Dakota who argued the appeal. "This opinion should serve a warning to online predators that they will face stiff punishment in North Dakota for their actions."

Neil Fulton, federal public defender for North Dakota and South Dakota, said Wednesday that his office was reviewing the opinion. He had no further comment.

Court documents show that Anderson engaged in more than 800 private chats between December 2006 and July 2009, mostly with young girls. Authorities said he used the alias Tyler Anderson to create an online account on Facebook and portrayed himself as a young man in his teens or early 20s.

The fictitious character eventually introduced the victim online to Darrin Anderson, who used his real identity and offered to pay cash in exchange for sex. In August 2009, Anderson traveled from Walhalla, N.D., where he was working, to East Grand Forks, Minn., to have sex with the girl in exchange for $300, according to the court documents.

"Parents should talk to their children about who they are communicating with online," Purdon said. "Parents should ask their children what they would do if they were sexually solicited by a stranger online and to develop a plan of action if such a solicitation occurs."

The probation office recommended a sentence of more than seven years in prison. U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson sentenced Anderson to 12 years and imposed special conditions of release prohibiting Anderson from drinking alcohol and possessing sexually explicit materials.

Erickson said the sentence needed to reflect the serious nature of the offense and promote respect for the law.

"I mean, it's incredible in its perversity," Erickson said at sentencing. "The act is incredible in its objectification of a young girl. It's heartless. It's cruel. It's callous. It's depraved. It's perverse. And there's no other way to describe it. And that ain't the all of it."

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