PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A Missouri man was sentenced Tuesday to 14 years in prison for taking a developmentally delayed teenage girl from Massachusetts to a motel in Rhode Island, where he sold her to a man for $40 and two packs of cigarettes to use for sex.
Thirty-year-old Stephen Ardrey, of Springfield, Missouri, previously pleaded guilty to trafficking a minor and transporting a minor to engage in sex. He was sentenced in federal court in Rhode Island and apologized to the girl and her family.
Prosecutors say Ardrey met the 17-year-old girl online and corresponded with her for months before taking her in September from a library in Medfield, Massachusetts, to a motel in West Greenwich, Rhode Island. He engaged in sexual activity with her and sold her to another man, they say. She was found in neighboring Coventry after someone saw her walking with Ardrey.
The girl's mother told the court her daughter suffers from nightmares and panic attacks and could not attend the sentencing because of her anxiety. She said her daughter is in therapy and recently graduated from high school.
"We have great hope that she will overcome what has happened to her," she said.
The girl's father addressed Ardrey, telling him he hopes he will use his time in prison wisely to reflect on the "long-lasting harm" he caused and learn how to become a productive, law-abiding citizen.
The Associated Press generally does not identify victims of alleged sex crimes.
The man who allegedly bought the girl for sex was not prosecuted. Prosecutor Adi Goldstein said that person did not know the victim was a minor and agreed to testify against Ardrey.
In offering an apology, Ardrey said no words could undo his actions.
As part of his sentencing, Ardrey also was ordered to serve 10 years of supervised release after he leaves custody, participate in treatment programs and register as a sex offender.
U.S. District Court Judge John J. McConnell Jr. said the sentence sends a message that sex trafficking is taken seriously and punished severely.
Goldstein requested the 14-year sentence because, she said, Ardrey preyed on an impressionable young woman and is a repeat offender. Ardrey was convicted of pimping in Georgia in 2007, according to the judge.
Ardrey's lawyer, Kevin Fitzgerald, asked for the mandatory minimum, 10 years, partly because he said Ardrey witnessed his girlfriend's suicide when he was 16 and suffers from a mental illness.
U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha said afterward on the steps of the court building that the sentence was deserved and he vowed to use all of his resources to prosecute sex traffickers and those who buy sex.
The teen's family later held a ceremony to thank the law enforcement agencies, who they said ensured the safe return of their daughter and ensured justice was served. They also recognized Jim Pugliese, the man who alerted police when he saw the two walking together.