MISSOULA — Even his own attorney described Robert Shane Wilkins’ acts as “factually indefensible, unexplainable and despicable.”

Wilkins, who pretended online to be an 11-year-old girl in order to entice a 10-year-old Helena boy to send him sexually explicit videos of himself, was sentenced Wednesday to nearly 22 years years in federal prison.

Wilkins poses “a substantial risk, given his behavior … that he would engage in this kind of conduct in the future,” U.S. District Court Judge Donald Molloy said by way of explaining the lengthy sentence. Molloy also sentenced Wilkins to lifetime supervision upon his release.

Wilkins, 33, was accused in December of going online to YouTube as “funandfreaky 7,” a name he shared with registered sex offender Anthony Steven Rodriguez of Georgia.

Wilkins, who worked in an Alabama day care center, and Rodriguez sent several child pornography videos to the Montana boy in December. His mother became concerned and called police, who assumed the boy’s identity online, according to charging documents. Wilkins pleaded guilty in April to sexual exploitation, conspiracy to sexually exploit children, distribution of child pornography and conspiracy to distribute child pornography.

On Wednesday, his attorney, Thomas J. Spina of Birmingham, Ala., told Molloy he was “essentially begging for a 15-year sentence,” painting his client as a “very, very, very shy” young man who wandered astray in the anonymity of the Internet.

Spina cited the trend toward increasingly severe sentences in cases involving the exploitation of children. “We don’t have restorative justice concepts in this country,” he told Molloy. “We’re about retribution.”

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Cyndee Peterson reminded the judge that the case involving the Helena boy was not an isolated incident, and that investigators found more than 2,000 videos, probably involving more than 500 individual children.

Only three of those children have been identified, she said.

“This was not some innocent bystander who’s coming to court with nothing more than a speeding ticket,” she said. “ … It absolutely makes a person sick to their stomach just to think about it.”

The boy’s mother said Wilkins had robbed her son — now “a shell of a once-happy child” — of his childhood, and that the entire family is struggling with the effects. She suffered a miscarriage, and she and her husband separated during the months after the crime was discovered, she said, and their children are wary of once-trusted adults, such as teachers.

Wilkins’ sentencing came during a month in which Molloy said “I’ve had to deal with the most egregious offenses against children. … When you sit here long enough (you) hear the depths of human depravity, much of it totally inexplicable.”

Anecdotal evidence shows that the vast majority of people who sexually assault children were themselves molested when they were young, the judge said. So Molloy worried that, by his actions, Wilkins may have created several hundred new sex offenders.

Molloy said he held little hope that Wilkins’ sentence would deter other sex offenders, but said at least it would keep the community safe.

“It isn’t all about punishment,” he said.

He sentenced Wilkins to 262 months each on the charges of sexual exploitation of children and conspiracy to sexually exploit children, and 240 months much each on charges of conspiracy to distribute child pornography and distribution of child pornography. All the prison time will run concurrently.

He also ordered that Wilkins serve his time in federal penitentiary as close as possible to Alabama, where his parents live. Wilkins’ parents were in the courtroom Wednesday. But their son never looked their way as he was handcuffed and led away.

Reporter Gwen Florio can be reached at 523-5268, gwen.florio@missoulian.com, or CopsAndCourts.com.

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