A Florida-based Navy officer was sentenced to 10 years in prison Monday for trying to arrange a sexual encounter with a 12-year-old deaf girl.
Lt. j.g. Michael Douglas McNeil, 31, will also serve five years’ probation upon his release and will have to register as a sex offender, according to a statement issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida.
McNeil, who was assigned to the guided-missile destroyer Lassen at Naval Station Mayport, agreed to plead guilty in December to one count of attempted online enticement of a minor, according to federal court records.
As part of that deal, McNeil waived his right to a Navy board of inquiry hearing that would have decided his future in the service.
The agreement also notes that any discharge from the service will be under “other than honorable” conditions.
Officials with Naval Surface Force Atlantic did not immediately respond to queries regarding McNeil’s current status.
The attorney listed for McNeil in court records, Michael Yokan, did not return a request for comment.
McNeil believed he was texting and messaging with the uncle of the 12-year-old deaf girl in August, but in reality he was communicating with an undercover Clay County Sheriff’s Office detective.
It started when a detective posted a meme to an online forum with a message that read “my adopted niece and I are looking for family fun,” the complaint against McNeil states.
McNeil responded on Aug. 27 by writing “share her with me.”
The next day, McNeil repeatedly pestered the undercover agent for pics of the 12-year-old and said such an encounter had “been a fantasy of mine,” court records show.
“She’s deaf,” the detective told McNeil. “And I haven’t learned sign language.”
“Lol, its just you and her?” McNeil replied.
“yeah, (sic) just us,” the detective said.
“Lucky guy ;)” McNeil said.
The two exchanged about 239 texts from Aug. 29 to Aug. 30, and McNeil sent an explicit photo of himself, asked for pics of the child and queried about her sexual experience, according to court records.
McNeil went to meet the man he thought was the girl’s uncle on Aug. 30 at a local Starbucks and was arrested.
Once in custody, he told authorities he was “a well-intentioned ‘vigilante’” and was going to meet the uncle to identify “a potential criminal,” authorities indicated.
McNeil admitted he had sent an explicit photo of himself to the undercover officer, and detectives explained to McNeil why his vigilante alibi “didn’t make sense,” court records state.
The Navy officer then told authorities he “wouldn’t have went through with it," prosecutors wrote.
“I’m just…(expletive) up,” McNeil said. “I’m a (expletive) idiot. I have a perfect life, perfect wife, perfect kid…curiosity got to me and…I (expletive) up. (Expletive) stupid. And now, you know, I could lose everything.”
A Project Safe Childhood task force composed of the Clay County Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office jointly worked the case, which was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney D. Rodney Brown.
McNeil enlisted in 2006 and went to officer candidate school in 2016, according to service records.
He reported to the Lassen after receiving his commission.
As an enlisted student, McNeil had been assigned to Naval Technical Training Center Lackland in San Antonio for much of June 2011.
Military records indicate that on Aug. 1, 2011, he joined the staff of the Naval Consolidated Brig Charleston and departed the command nearly three years later.
McNeil’s federal plea deal indicates he will serve time near Arkansas, his home of record.
Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at email@example.com.