Daniel David Young has made exceptional progress in his treatment, a judge agrees, since his arrest almost a year ago for allegedly trying to persuade adolescent girls he met on the Internet to have sex with him.
But the crime was too serious for Young to avoid prison time, U.S. District Judge David Sam decided.
This week, Sam meted out a sentence of a little less than three years behind bars, below the possible five-year maximum but more stringent than the probation requested by the man's lawyers.
"I think it [probation] would send a terrible message," Sam said.
Prosecutors say Young chatted online in January with two individuals he believed were 13-year-old girls, asking them in graphic language to perform a sex act on him and sending them pictures of his penis.
After he made arrangements to get together with one and showed up at the meeting spot, Young, 23, learned that his Internet friend was really an undercover agent.
Young, then a college student and now an Orem grocery store employee, originally was charged with enticement of a minor, which carries a minimum mandatory prison term of five years.
But the U.S. Attorney's Office reduced the charge to the lesser offense of transmission of the name of a minor for enticement, which has no required minimum time behind bars.
Federal sentencing guidelines recommend a minimum term of 33 months for the reduced charge. Young's attorneys asked for even less.
The lawyers said enhancing the sentence because Young used a computer - a standard factor that increases the length of a prison term under the guidelines - was inappropriate double counting.
They argued that communicating online is an element of the crime itself.
But Sam rejected the argument, imposing the 33-month term instead of putting Young on probation or in a halfway house.
In a written decision, Sam noted that Congress passed the computer enhancement to stop the Internet from becoming a hunting ground for sexual predators or a post office for purveyors of child pornography.
And at Tuesday's sentencing, he expressed skepticism over a defense expert's opinion that Young's actions were "not out of the ordinary" for a youth exploring his sexuality.
"I can't believe this is a common activity of males out there," said Sam, who noted he is the father of five girls. "If it is, our country is in trouble and our daughters are in trouble."