Florida man gets 20 years in prison for traveling to WA to sexually abuse teen

A Florida man has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for traveling to Vancouver with the intention of engaging in a sexual act with a minor. 

Samuel A. Leonard, 42, was arrested on July 2, 2020 in Vancouver, Wash. 

According to court records, Leonard contacted the child around April 1, 2020 on an unspecified social media platform. Once they made contact there, he began communicating with her on several sites and apps. He also sent her a cell phone so they could be in contact without her parents knowing.

Unbeknownst to the child, who was 14, Leonard put a tracking device in the phone so he could monitor her location and see her texts and emails. Leonard told her he was 20.

He then was able to groom the child and convinced her to send sexually explicit photos. 

Her parents became aware of what was happening in June of that year. Law enforcement seized both of her phones and an undercover officer took over communication with Leonard. 

Analyzing the communications and the cell phone information, the investigation revealed that Leonard had traveled from Florida to the Vancouver area via bus and was within a short bike ride of the girl’s home. When the officer, posing as the girl, revealed that the girl’s guardian had taken the phone Leonard had sent to her, Leonard said he would get her a new one. 

Police, already trailing Leonard, saw him purchase a new phone, hid it in a package and toss it over the fence into the girl's backyard. 

He was arrested shortly after that. 

When his hotel room was searched, it was revealed that Leonard had a number of items used to restrain a person, like flex cuffs, metal handcuffs, duct tape and electrical tape. 

He also had various sex toys and lubricants, court records indicated. According to The Columbian, he also had several weapons and candy in a suitcase. 

Leonard admitted that he has done something similar before-- he said he traveled to Oklahoma in 2018 to sexually assault a 16-year-old girl. His phone had videos of that assault. 

He was sentenced to 20 years for production of child pornography and interstate travel with the intent to engage in a sexual act with a minor. 

In asking for a 20-year sentence, prosecutors wrote to the court, "Leonard has demonstrated a pattern of using minors to satiate his sexual desires. He used manipulation and hidden technology to monitor and control (the victim), violating her trust and disrupting her life. A significant sentence is required to reflect the seriousness of the offense, promote respect for the law, and provide just punishment for the offense. Only a prolonged period of incarceration will protect the public from Mr. Leonard."

Leonard will be required to register as a sex offender.

"When someone violates children like you have, there will be grave consequences, long prison terms, so we can begin to curb the terrible scourge of sexual exploitation of children from our culture," the judge said. 

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