By Elaine Rackley
A man arrested during a child pornography investigation by Henry County police, was sentenced in federal court Thursday, to 20 years in federal prison.
Neal Ray Schmidt, of St. Louis, Mo., traveled to Georgia in June 2010 for what he thought would be a sexual encounter with two 14 year-old girls he met online. Schmidt, 59, has since, been charged with molesting his granddaughter, in Missouri, and with arranging a similar sexual encounter with an under-aged girl in Florida, according to the U.S. Attorney's office in a press statement.
Schmidt is a retired delivery man, and former Grand Dragon for the Missouri chapter of the Ku Klux Klan.
Schmidt was arrested last year as a result of a four-month, online investigation by the Henry County Police Department's Crimes Against Children Unit, said Maj. Jason Bolton, when he was apprehended last year.
In early 2010, Schmidt, while trolling in an online forum for kids, met whom he believed to be two 14 year-old girls, but who were in fact undercover Henry police officers. The two girls claimed to be friends and explained that they lived near each other, in McDonough. Schmidt and the girls had a series of mundane exchanges, until Schmidt turned the conversation toward sexual topics. Over the ensuing months, in an effort to groom the girls for an eventual sexual encounter, Schmidt sent sexually explicit videos of himself, as well as images and videos of child pornography, according to the U. S. Attorney's office.
Schmidt made arrangements to drive from his home near St. Louis, to a motel in McDonough, where the two girls were to meet him for their sexual encounter. He was arrested in the parking lot of a motel in McDonough. He was carrying several guns, Klan paraphernalia, and an assortment of sex toys and supplies, according to authorities. Henry County police charged Schmidt with use of a computer service to seduce, solicit, lure or entice, a child to commit an illegal act; criminal attempt to commit child molestation; sexual exploitation of a child, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime.
"I think that it is great that this individual will be off the streets and out of our communities for quite some time," said Henry County Police Chief Keith Nichols. "I am very proud of our Internet Crimes Against Children unit... The teamwork utilized by all the agencies involved proved to be very instrumental in the successful prosecution of this case and is a shining example of what we can accomplish when we work in that capacity."
United States District Court Judge William S. Duffey, Jr., sentenced Schmidt to 20 years in prison, to be followed by a lifetime of supervised release. Schmidt will be required to register as a sex offender upon his release from custody. He was arrested last June and pleaded guilty in April 2011.
"This case starkly illustrates how the Internet can expose our children not only to the predator down the street, but also to the would-be molester who lives hundreds of miles away," said U. S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. "Thanks to the hard work of one of our local law enforcement partners, this particular offender will now be kept away from any other potential victims for many years to come."