- Associated Press - Thursday, October 9, 2014

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - A New Jersey man was sentenced Thursday to more than seven years in prison for traveling to Rhode Island to meet a 13-year-old girl, then taking her back to his home and sexually molesting her.

U.S. District Judge Mary Lisi sentenced 28-year-old Daniel Berger, of Haskell, to seven years, three months in prison, followed by 15 years of supervised release. He must also register as a sex offender and submit to treatment and other conditions. Berger pleaded guilty in July to a charge of travel with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct.

Berger, then 27, met the girl online in 2013 and drove to her home in Portsmouth that July. Her mother told the judge he camped outside their home and waited for her to leave, then got her daughter. The girl’s disappearance prompted a Rhode Island Amber Alert. She was found by authorities at Berger’s apartment at 1 a.m. the following day.

“My daughter was a child. Not anymore. He robbed her of her innocence,” the girl’s mother told the judge before sentencing. “She has anxiety filled days and sleepless nights.”

She called his actions cold, calculated and premeditated.

The Associated Press generally does not identify victims of sexual assault and is not naming the mother to avoid identifying the daughter.

Berger’s lawyer, Olin Thompson, said his client has suffered from severe bipolar disorder since he was a teenager and had been hospitalized and attempted suicide many times. He said it wasn’t Berger’s idea to travel to Rhode Island to get the girl, but he did and was 100 percent responsible for that.

“Mr. Berger was in the throes of a manic episode,” Thompson said. “He acted without thinking.”

Berger apologized for what he did, said he regretted it and called it “misguided.”

Lisi called it a heinous crime and a tragedy that damaged the lives of two young people. She said Berger’s mental health problems clearly contributed to what happened, and said she would recommend that that Bureau of Prisons assign him to a facility where his mental illness can be treated.

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