- Associated Press - Monday, May 5, 2014

FARGO, N.D. (AP) - A federal judge in Bismarck sentenced a Washburn man to life in prison on Monday for allegedly coercing minors into sending him sexually explicit photographs to post online and in some cases, participating in producing the images.

Travis L. Guenthner, 38, pleaded guilty in October to seven federal counts, including the sexual exploitation of minors, and coercion and enticement. Authorities documented 23 victims, a few of whom were photographed in person.

U.S. Attorney Timothy Purdon said the case should be a wake-up call for parents.

“We’re so concerned about the safety of our kids when they go out in public. We’re always asking, ‘Who are you with, who are you spending time with, where are you going?’” Purdon said Monday. “But they come into the house and they go into the bedroom and open up the computer and get on the Internet, and we don’t pay any attention to that.”

Prosecutors asked U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland for a sentence of 50 years in prison. Defense attorney Chad McCabe, who argued for a term of 30 years, told The Associated Press that the charges were horrible but that he believes everyone deserves a shot at redemption. There is no parole in the federal system.

“I can understand and appreciate the judge’s decision, but I am disappointed,” McCabe said.

An affidavit in the case shows that Guenthner was arrested when a Bismarck police detective posed as a 14-year-old girl on a social networking site and received messages from a “Travis L.” Police set up a meeting with Guenthner at a Bismarck mall, where he was apprehended.

Asked about the life sentence, Purdon said, “We were united as an office in our recommendation of 50 years. I understand where the judge was coming from on the sentence, given the facts in this case.”

A co-defendant in the case, Michelle Laducer, was sentenced to 30 years in prison last year for allegedly helping Guenthner produce photographs of one victim. Laducer told investigators Guenthner asked her to take sexually explicit photographs of a young girl with her smart in a tent south of Bismarck.

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