Man sent to prison for molesting girls he met online

NEWHALL - A 20-year-old Newhall man who trolled for teen girls on Internet social media sites and hung out with younger boys so he could meet underage girls was sentenced to 15 years and four months in prison after pleading no contest to molesting 15 girls in 2010 and 2011, the district attorney's office announced.Michael Downs pleaded no contest to 14 felony counts and one misdemeanor charge involving the victims, who were between the ages of 12-16 when the molestations occurred. Deputy district attorney Julie Kramer said the felony charges included eight counts of lewd conduct with a child, five counts of unlawful sex with a minor and one count of sexual penetration by a foreign object of a minor. The misdemeanor count was sexual battery. Downs was charged in December 2011 and has been in custody since then. As part of his sentence, he must register for life as a sex offender. A restitution hearing will be scheduled on Feb. 27. Authorities said Downs was between the ages of 18 and 19 when the crimes occurred. They said he lied about his age, pretending to be 15 or 16, and would meet the victims through social media, at malls and house parties. He also befriended younger teen boys to meet girls in their age group, prosecutors said.

********** Published: January 17, 2013 - Volume 11 - Issue 40