DANVERS, MA — A Saudi national who admitted to a three-month campaign to extort a Danvers girl into performing various sexual acts online was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in jail Wednesday.
Salem Superior Court Judge James Lang said he took into account the fact that Abdulrahim Altalhi, 21, will face deportation to Saudi Arabia after his release from custody when he decided on the sentence.
Prosecutors had sought three to five years in state prison. Altahi’s lawyer wanted time served — the six months he spent in custody before his guilty pleas on Wednesday.
The incidents took place between January and March of 2015, after the girl met someone she thought was another teenage girl on Kik, a social media app on her phone, police said.
Instead, it was Altalhi, who was a student at the University of Evansville in Indiana. Over the next several weeks, the girl sent explicit photos of herself to him.
Altalhi still posing as a girl, began to escalate his demands, which ranged from making the girl do his homework to demanding she engage in online sexual activity with another “friend,” who turned out to be Altalhi himself. He also asked her to post an ad on Craigslist offering sexual services for money.
All the while, he was threatening to send copies of the explicit photos she’d sent him to her family and classmates. The girl told investigators she was distraught and thinking about suicide — thoughts she also shared with Altalhi. He was unsympathetic.
When she refused to meet his demands, Altalhi sent the photo to the girl’s family and then to another person.
It took months of investigation by Danvers police Detective Robert Sullivan to identify Altalhi, through Internet usage records he subpoenaed.
Sullivan got a warrant, but Altalhi had returned to Saudi Arabia for the summer. He was arrested as he got off a plane in Chicago last September and has been in custody since.
Prosecutor A.J. Camelio told the judge the girl and her family did not want to attend Altalhi’s court hearings because she did not want him to see her and did not want to risk being identified by anyone else.
The crimes, said Camelio, caused the girl and her family deep anguish.
Defense lawyer John Salsberg, who had previously argued the incidents amounted to Internet “role playing,” had also tried to convince Lang they were the result of a “cultural divide” between the United States and Saudi Arabia — an assertion Lang rejected as “not credible.”
“I found these to be very serious offenses that warranted more punishment than the defense wanted,” Lang told the lawyers and Altalhi. But in addition to knowing Altahi will be deported, Lang said he took into account the lack of a prior record, and Altalhi’s willingness to plead guilty early in the case.
In addition to attempted extortion, Altalhi pleaded guilty to charges of disseminating child pornography, posing a child in the nude, child enticement and electronic child enticement into prostitution.
After he completes his jail term, he will be on probation for three years, with conditions that include registering as a sex offender and taking part in sex offender treatment.
Lang acknowledged, however, it’s unlikely Altalhi will actually fulfill those or any of his probation conditions given the expectation that he will be deported.