A Wisconsin teenager who blackmailed dozens of fellow high school students into sex acts by using photos and videos obtained in a Facebook scam is facing up to 50 years in prison after pleading no contest to two felonies.
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 to send 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."
Defence 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 January 7.
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.