SEEKONK, Mass. (WPRI) – A Seekonk man is accused in a federal sextortion case of threatening to send explicit photos of a teenage girl to her family and friends if she didn’t do what he wanted.
David Ackell, 48, was indicted in July 2015 with two counts of stalking under the federal cyberstalking statute. The trial is set to begin this week in New Hampshire, where the victim lives.
According to court files obtained by Target 12, Ackell met the girl – who was 16 at the time – on a “social media site” and at first told her he was a 21 year-old pilot. Prosecutors said Ackell – who is a commercial airline pilot – later revealed he was older and coerced the girl to send him explicit compromising photos and engage in chats that were “sexual in nature.”
A court filing states “the conversations became more sexually graphic” and the girl told him she was “uncomfortable and did not want to continue to send photos of herself or speak in a sexual manner.”
Prosecutors say “Ackell replied that she was his ‘slave.’”
“Ackell told [the victim] that she had to continue to send him more pictures and do exactly what he said to do or he would send the pictures she had already provided to her entire ‘friends’ list on her Instagram account,” according to court filings. Ackell said he had saved every photograph she had sent.
The girl “begged Ackell not to send the pictures to anyone, and to delete them to which he replied, ‘You’re my slave.’”
At one point the girl told investigators she became depressed and suicidal.
According to prosecutors, the communication went on for two years before her father discovered what was happening and brought the case to police.
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Beside text messaging, investigators say Ackell used applications such as SnapChat, Kik and Whisper to communicate with the girl.
Ackell’s attorney did not return a phone call or email for comment and no one came to the door at his Lake Street home when a reporter paid a visit. In a motion to dismiss filed in the case, Ackell argues the communication with the girl was “consensual role-playing.”
Court filings reveal federal agents tracked down other women who claim they too were ensnared by Ackell and are prepared to testify at the trial in New Hampshire.
An 18-year-old from New York said Ackell offered her money for pictures, but she was never paid. She said Ackell demanded they speak every morning and night and he would rate what she was wearing to school each day.
When the woman from New York wanted to withdraw from communicating with Ackell, she claimed he “became angry and threatened [her] that he would distribute her photographs to her family and friends if she did not continue to talk to him.”
Prosecutors say Ackell then required her to take sexually explicit videos and photos involving props.
“[The victim] will testify that this exchange went on for months and she felt frightened and trapped,” according to court filings.
Rhode Island State Representative Robert Craven, D-North Kingstown, filed a bill on behalf of Attorney General Peter Kilmartin to criminalize sextortion on the state level. The bill passed both chambers but was vetoed by Governor Gina Raimondo after several groups raised concern that the way it was worded may infringe on First Amendment rights.
Craven said he plans on reworking the language and filing the bill again in 2017.
“It’s another form of violence,” said Craven.
“It was [Kilmartin’s] determination that there wasn’t a glove that these types of cases fit into comfortably,” Craven said. “In order to take on something of this nature they wouldn’t want to swing and miss with a statute that one could say wasn’t designed for specific purpose of what now is a crime associated with the internet.”
In April, the Department of Justice released a report that said “sextortion is by far the most significantly growing threat to children, with more than 60 percent of survey respondents indicating this type of online enticement of minors was increasing.”
The FBI defines sextortion as “a type of online sexual exploitation in which individuals coerce victims into providing sexually explicit images or videos of themselves, often in compliance with offenders’ threats to post the images publicly or send the images to victims’ friends and family.”