Brentwood man gets 20 years in prison for 'sextortion' case
A Brentwood man who anonymously extorted nude photos from a woman and used her identity to extort nude photos from several high school girls kept victimizing the woman even after she confided in him that she was considering suicide to escape what was happening, a federal judge said on Monday.
“You advised her to comply with the person's demands — your demands,” U.S. District Judge Terrence McVerry said to Russell Freed, 44, during a hearing.
McVerry sentenced Freed to 20 years in prison and probation for life. He ordered him to register as a sex offender and to avoid contact with minor children.
Freed, a former Pennsylvania Turnpike engineer, pleaded guilty in March to seven child pornography charges.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Haller said Freed's scheme started when he found pictures on the cell phone of the woman, who was about 21 at the time and had several friends still in high school. Freed pretended to be the woman and sent her friends those pictures to entice them into sending similar pictures, Haller said.
Once victims sent him a picture, he would threaten to send it to their families and classmates unless they sent more, Haller said. Freed eventually used a Facebook account and a Yahoo account in the woman's name and a second Yahoo account to entice and extort victims, Haller said.
Freed told the judge that he didn't understand at the time why he committed the crimes and thought he might be evil. He said he learned through subsequent counseling that he had psychological problems caused by self-image issues.
He apologized to the victims and their families.
“I understand what I put them through. I'm ashamed, and I'm sorry,” he said.
Some victims and their families attended the sentencing but didn't speak during the hearing or afterward.
Attorney Ronald Hayward argued that Freed deserved leniency because of his mental problems and because he did not collect thousands of images of child pornography. Other than the pictures he extorted, Freed had no pictures of children, he said.
“This is an extortion case, your honor, where Mr. Freed tried to get more pictures from his victims,” he said.
Haller said the extortion element of Freed's crimes warranted a more severe sentence. There were easier ways for him to obtain nude pictures of young girls, but Freed enjoyed controlling other people and extorting the photos.
“That element of sadism can't be overlooked in this case,” he said.
Brian Bowling is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-325-4301 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Allgheny County charter school students give more than $11K to assist homeless children
- North Shore access to be limited Saturday for Chesney concert, officials say
- Newsmaker: Rick Rechenberg
- Witnesses recall scene of crash in Lincoln Place homicide by vehicle trial
- Blawnox man’s torture, death a robbery plot gone wrong, police say
- Duquesne University to raise minimum wage floor
- Plum schools, dealing with sex scandal, to form panel in June
- Pittsburgh Mayor Peduto returning from manufacturing trade mission to Cuba
- Penn Hills votes to sell, lease vacant school space
- Air rifle incidents on the rise, experts say
- Land eyed for trail connectors to expand Harrison Hills Park