Brandon Meredith Hardy, the 21-year-old man who came to St Augustine from Valdosta thinking he was going to have sex with a 12-year-old child, was found guilty yesterday of using the Internet in an attempt to entice a minor to engage in illegal sexual activity.
US Attorney Robert O’Neill made the announcement to Historic City News of the decision by a federal jury at the United States Courthouse in Jacksonville.
Now convicted, Hardy faces a mandatory minimum sentence of at least 10 years and up to life imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. Hardy remains in the custody of United States Marshals Service pending his sentencing hearing, which has not yet been scheduled.
According to court testimony and evidence introduced during trial, the “child” Hardy engaged in a series of online conversations from April 23, 2011 through April 28, 2011, was actually an undercover officer with the Florida Attorney General’s Child Predator Cybercrime Unit.
Hardy attempted to entice and persuade the “child” to engage in sexual activity and arranged to meet the “child.”
On April 28, 2011, Hardy drove his vehicle to meet the “child” from Moody Air Force Base, in Valdosta, Georgia, where he was stationed as an Airman and security officer in the United States Air Force, to a residence in St Augustine, Florida.
Immediately after Hardy rang the doorbell at the residence, he was arrested by St. Johns County Sheriff’s deputies. A search of Hardy’s vehicle revealed, among other things, a laptop computer containing a photograph depicting child pornography and a bottle of personal lubricant.