A federal judge denounced as a "pervert" a Missoula man accused of sexually assaulting a 12-year-old Wyoming girl he met in an online chat room, and sentenced the man Tuesday to 40 years in prison.

"I am sure there are punishments, if this was in the 19th century, (in which) Mr. Nielsen would be looking at much more severe consequences than I am authorized to provide here," U.S. District Court Judge Donald Molloy said during Tuesday's 2 1/2-hour sentencing hearing.

William Richard Nielsen, 25, was accused of talking the girl into stealing money from her mother's purse and buying a Greyhound bus ticket to Missoula in January, even though she knew he was a sex offender. Immediately upon arrival, according to charging documents, he took her to his apartment and raped, beat and bit her over four days.

He pleaded guilty to charges of coercion and enticement of a minor in a case investigated jointly by the FBI and Missoula Police Department.

Nielsen told authorities he initially believed the girl was 18, but found out she was only 12 before he invited her to Missoula. He made her call him Daddy, referred to her as his little "f- pet" and told authorities that the only reason he didn't tie her up was because he didn't have a long enough rope, according to documents and testimony at Tuesday's hearing.

The girl was in Missoula when her parents - who gave tearful testimony at Tuesday's hearing - went online posing as one of her young friends, and offered to bring Nielsen drugs, according to the documents.

"This is a despicable crime committed by a depraved individual," U.S. Attorney Cyndee Peterson said.

Nielsen apologized to the victim - who wasn't in the courtroom - and said that "it's something I'm going to have to live with for the rest of my life, as well as her. I can learn from my mistakes."

He will have a long time for those lessons to sink in.

His attorney, federal Public Defender Michael Donahoe, sought a 240-month sentence, arguing that "after sitting for 20 years in prison and pretty pretty close to 50 years old, I think we'll see a different person."

The victim came from a troubled background, admitting to drug use and sex, despite her young age, Donahoe said.

"I don't mean to be insensitive," he said as he attempted to eliminate the girl's vulnerability as a condition for a more severe sentence, "but being sexually active, having used drugs, she was more mature than the average 12-year-old. I hasten to add that she was one month from her 13th birthday."

Peterson fired back that the girl's troubled home life was precisely what made her unusually vulnerable.

"The victim's naivete comes through," Peterson said later in the hearing, "when you think about the fact that she was willing to travel to the state of Montana, to a registered sex offender, for love."

The girl's parents contended that no prison sentence is long enough to make up for their daughter's suffering.

"You destroyed my daughter," her father told Nielsen, calling him "sick, diseased." "She had issues before and has major issues now."

Her mother portrayed the girl as "very suicidal," before looking toward Nielsen and saying, "I forgive you and I pray for you."

Saying that "Mr. Nielsen is a pervert," Molloy imposed a considerably more severe sentence than those usually handed down in such cases. In addition to his jail time, Nielsen must pay $7,305 in restitution and a $100 special assessment. He can earn a 15 percent reduction in his sentence with good behavior, but will be on supervised release for life after he's served his time in prison.

Molloy noted that it will cost taxpayers between $554,000 and $690,000 to incarcerate Nielsen, depending on whether he earns an early release.

Nielsen, who had a medical marijuana card that he was mentioning as a way to entice the victim, also was ordered not to drink or smoke pot for the rest of his life. Nor can he live in households with children, go to parks or other places where children congregate, or date women with young children.

Reporter Gwen Florio can be reached at 523-5268, gwen.florio

@missoulian.com or CopsAndCourts.com.


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