Fourth in ‘sextortion’ case gets prisonPublished 1:07pm Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Berrien County Judge Scott Schofield not only rebuked Trey Nichols but the Niles community before handing down a prison sentence for the Niles teenager, who was one of five young men involved in a sex video extortion scandal.
Nichols, who admitted to recording co-defendant Martise Washington and a 17-year-old girl having sex without her knowledge at his home in March, was sentenced to three to 10 years in prison Tuesday at the South Berrien County Courthouse in Niles. He will receive credit for 107 days served in the county jail.
The video that Nichols shot on Washinton’s cell phone was used to extort the girl into sex acts with his friends on March 18.
Before handing down the sentence, Schofield said he was “disappointed” in Nichols’ focus on himself and not the victim in his letters to the court and in his statement at his sentencing.
“It’s been a lot about you … and precious little appreciation to the harm done to the women in this case,” Schofield told Nichols.
Schofield also read several letters from his family and friends — he received more than 50 — on behalf of Nichols. Among the claims in the letters were that Nichols was in the “wrong place at the wrong time,” that he is a “good kid” and he should be given “a slap on the wrist for high school shenanigans.”
The most shocking to Schofield was a letter that read: “The main victim is not worth Trey going to prison for.”
“What a terrible thing to say,” Schofield said, before expressing his “disappointment in the community.”
Schofield advised Nichols that he could have a “bright future,” if he doesn’t buy into the attitudes and excuses expressed in those letters.
“You committed serious adult crimes. It’s important you view them as such in order to move on,” he told Nichols.
Assistant Prosecutor Steve Pierangeli also expressed frustration with letters he received from the community that belittled the crime.
“If filming someone without their knowledge isn’t serious enough to be charged, I don’t know what is,” he said. “Maybe I’m just out of touch, but I hope normal high school kids don’t film girls having sex unknowingly.”
But according to one of the victims, who spoke on Nichols’ behalf, it is more common than people think.
“I’m one of the quote, unquote victims,” the girl said. “If you are going to sentence him to prison, you might as well send half the students at my high school to prison. He doesn’t deserve prison, to have his life ruined for one mistake that a large number of kids have done.”
In his comments, defense attorney Tat Parish spent nearly a half hour defending his client on the basis of his clean prior record, strong academic and athletic achievement and reputation in the community. Parish argued that being on the sex offender registry and the humiliation of being in the public eye is punishment enough.
For his part, Nichols admitted he should be punished but said he has already faced ridicule as a result of the case.
“People wrote me calling me a rapist and saying they will kill me. It really affects me,” he said.
He also said he had dreams of going to college and “doing great things” that have been dashed.
Nichols also apologized to the community.
“They don’t deserve all the negativity,” he said.
Schofield reminded Nichols that this doesn’t have to be the “defining moment in his life.”
“You don’t have to let this ruin your life. When you get out, you’ll still be a young man,” he said.
The sentencing came after Nichols agreed to a deal in which he pleaded guilty to capturing images of an unclothed person and assault with intent to commit sexual penetration. Among the nine charges dropped was first-degree criminal sexual conduct, which carries a maximum life sentence.
Three of his co-defendants have already been sentenced, while Martell Miller will learn his punishment later this month.
Paying the price
Here’s where each of the five Niles teenagers involved in the Facebook sextortion scandal stand.
Martise Washington: Sentenced to 20 to 40 years in prison after a jury found him guilty on all seven charges against him. Three of his co-defendants took plea deals after learning Washington’s fate. In court, he and Murphy were named as the ring leaders in the crime.
Leon Murphy: Sentenced to seven to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to third-degree criminal sexual conduct. He had two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and a count of extortion dropped as part of the plea deal.
Parnell Martin: Sentenced to three to five years in prison after pleading guilty to third-degree criminal sexual conduct. He had first-degree criminal sexual conduct and extortion charges dropped as part of his deal.
Trey Nichols: Sentenced to three to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to capturing images of an unclothed person and assault with intent to commit sexual penetration. Nine other charges were dropped, including first-degree criminal sexual conduct, as part of the plea bargain.
Martell Miller: Pleaded guilty to attempted assault to commit great bodily harm less than murder and assault and battery. He had four counts of criminal sexual conduct and a count of extortion dropped. He will face up to a year in the county jail at his sentencing Jan. 30.