A Wisconsin teen who blackmailed dozens of fellow high school students into sex acts by using photos and videos obtained in a Facebook scam faces up to 50 years in prison after pleading no contest to two felonies Tuesday.
Anthony R. Stancl, 19, of New Berlin, had faced 12 charges that carried a maximum penalty of nearly 300 years.
He pleaded no contest to repeated sexual assault of the same child and third-degree sexual assault. In exchange, prosecutors dismissed charges that included second-degree sexual assault, child enticement and possession of child pornography.
Stancl was accused of posing as a girl online and persuading more than 30 classmates into sending him naked pictures of themselves, then using the images to blackmail them for sex. Authorities found more than 30 folders on Stancl's computer containing about 300 nude images of other male students at New Berlin Eisenhower High School in southeastern Wisconsin.
Stancl didn't speak in court beyond answering the judge's questions with, "Yes, sir," and "No, sir," and saying he had been taking medication for depression for "a few years."
Waukesha County district attorney Brad Schimel said he would recommend a "substantial" prison sentence and that he was satisfied with the plea agreement because Stancl still faces up to 50 years.
The deal also spares victims from having to appear in court, a key factor in his negotiations, he said.
"I've never had a case where the victims and their families were more apprehensive about testifying," Schimel said. "From the victims' perspective, they're relieved we're doing this."
Defense attorney Craig Kuhary declined to comment to reporters as he left the courtroom. A status hearing where a sentencing date could be set was scheduled for Jan. 7.
Court documents accuse Stancl of pretending to be a girl when he contacted students through the Facebook social networking site between spring 2007 and November 2008.
The investigation began after a 16-year-old boy told authorities he was being blackmailed into acts of oral and anal sex with Stancl. The boy, then 15, had exchanged explicit pictures of himself online with "Kayla," who later threatened to spread his picture throughout the school unless he agreed to the acts with Stancl.
Stancl photographed those encounters, giving him fodder for further blackmail, detectives said.
The boy agreed to at least four sex acts, but when "Kayla" asked him for a nude photo of his brother he went to his parents and the police.
Police identified 31 victims, each of whom exchanged nude photographs or videos with someone they thought was a female. More than half said the person with whom they communicated threatened to release the images unless they agreed to let the person's male friend perform sex acts on them.
The investigation overlapped with a separate case in which Stancl was accused of writing a bomb threat on a bathroom wall at the school in November 2008 and following it up with an anonymous e-mail to two teachers that said, "Good luck tomorrow. Boom."
Stancl admitted to detectives he sent the e-mail from the public library under a false identity. A charge of causing a bomb scare was among those dismissed as part of Stancl's plea agreement.
Dinesh Ramde can be reached at dramde(at)ap.org.