Judge sentences Florida man to decades in prison over sexual relationship with 13-year-old he met on Snapchat
The front of the federal building that houses the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida in Gainesville, Fla., Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024. (Valentina Sarmiento/Fresh Take Florida)

U.S. District Court
The FBI launched its investigation in July 2022 after the social media service Snapchat reported one of its users sending a sexually explicit image of herself.

Calling it a case of “truly horrible conduct,” a federal Judge sentenced a self-described sugar daddy in north-central Florida who groomed and sexually exploited a 13-year-old girl to nearly three decades in prison in an extraordinarily disturbing case.

The FBI said the girl, who was 12 at the time, was among a group of young girls selling sexually explicit images of themselves over Snapchat and the suspect once picked her up in his car at her charter middle school in Gainesville for a sexual encounter.

U.S. District Court Judge Allen Winsor on Tuesday sentenced Justin Ray Crosby, 25, of Hawthorne, Florida, to 320 months in prison — nearly 27 years — after Crosby pleaded guilty to felony charges of production and distribution of child pornography. Crosby also was ordered to pay $20,000 to the young girl he victimized. It wasn’t clear whether he had that much money.

“You have truly horrible conduct here,” the Judge said. “You have a young person, an adult but still a young person, taking advantage of a young child in a horrible way. This is a difficult case.”

Crosby, who previously worked at a Tractor Supply Co. store, didn’t say much in the courtroom. He responded politely when the Judge asked questions. He wore a black-and-white striped jumpsuit and orange sandals, restrained by chains and shackles. His hair was disheveled.

The young girl was not in the courtroom.

Crosby’s legal troubles may not have ended in that federal courtroom. He is a suspect in a separate sextortion case under investigation by the Sheriff’s Office in Clay County, northeast of Gainesville, according to federal court records. In those cases, defendants are suspected of tricking victims into paying them, sending sexually explicit images or performing sexual favors over threats to embarrass victims publicly. No state criminal charges have been filed against Crosby yet in that investigation.

Crosby’s lawyer, federal public defender Darren Johnson, said Crosby was heavily using marijuana and addicted to oxycodone when the crimes occurred involving the 12-year-old. He said Crosby was experiencing mental health problems because he had recently separated from the mother of his child and had been living alone. Johnson asked the Judge to sentence Crosby to no more than 18 years in prison, citing Crosby’s own age and his lack of prior criminal record.

The prosecutor said Crosby, who was arrested in May, deserved to spend decades behind bars. The lead prosecutor, Frank Williams, urged the Judge to sentence Crosby to 30 years to life.

“This broken and vulnerable 12-year-old girl was willing to offer herself for the sexual pleasure of others,” Williams said. “Mr. Crosby groomed her and exploited her.”

The FBI launched its investigation in July 2022 after the social media service Snapchat reported one of its users, a minor later identified as the victim in Crosby’s case living in Alachua County, sending a sexually explicit image of herself. Investigators searched her Snapchat account and found evidence that she was selling pornographic content of herself to men using the Cash App payment service.

The girl, who wasn’t charged with a crime, initially denied to investigators that she had met anyone for sex then — after agents found another Snapchat account she was using to communicate with Crosby — admitted she had lied. Using the name “Casey,” Crosby was chatting with her as far back as January 2022 under an alias that referred to himself as a “sugar daddy,” the term for a boyfriend who comes with financial benefits.

The FBI said Crosby solicited and received explicit images from the girl and later recorded a video in April 2022 of himself having sex with the girl in his car. Agents said he sent the video to at least one other person on Snapchat. They said Crosby drove to Gainesville to pick up the girl for their encounters, including at least once when he picked her up near the office at her charter middle school in Gainesville, the Caring and Sharing Learning School.

The principal of the school, Curtis Peterson, in an interview, said he was unfamiliar with the case and declined otherwise to comment.

The teen victimized by Crosby is in counseling and coming to terms with what happened, said her therapist, Jamie Saunders.

“She is angry and also confused because she is coming to terms that she was being taken advantage of,” Saunders said, according to court records. “She is also grieving the loss of what she believed was a relationship.”

Crosby’s mother, 44-year-old Bobbie Jo Crosby, said she was unaware of her son’s actions.

“I was really shocked. I actually thought this was a mistake,” she said.

She said Crosby was never in trouble previously and only fought once in school.

“He’s always been a good kid,” she said. “I think that during the time that this occurred, he was going through a lonely state in his life.”

Under the Judge’s ruling, Crosby would be in his early 50s before he is released from federal prison. The Judge also ordered him to be subject to supervised parole for the rest of his life.

This story was produced by Fresh Take Florida, a news service of the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. The reporter can be reached at [email protected]. You can donate to support our students here.

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