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Man who groomed underage girl walks free

A Melbourne man who lured an underage American girl into an online relationship has walked free because he's already served his minimum term behind bars.
Troy Shannon Belleth, 24, met his victim in an Internet chatroom about Japanese cartoons in October 2005 when the girl was 13.
When the girl was 15, Belleth introduced her to fictional female profiles he created on social networking websites, and used these to encourage his victim to send nude photographs of herself to him.
The prosecution argued that Belleth also used the profiles to encourage his victim to commit suicide, but Victorian County Court Judge Mark Taft on Friday said there was little evidence to support the claim.
He said Belleth "fostered the sexualisation" of the relationship with the girl using the fake profiles.
"That conduct reflects a considerable degree of manipulation by an older person of a teenage girl," Judge Taft said.
Belleth was arrested in March 2008 after the girl's mother overheard a conversation between the pair and complained to American authorities.
Police discovered sexually explicit photographs of Belleth's victim, and images and movies of child pornography on his home computer last year.
Belleth pleaded guilty to grooming a child for sex on the Internet and possession of child pornography.
Judge Taft sentenced Belleth to three years, with a minimum of 12 months for the grooming offence, and four months for possessing child porn.
Having already served one year in custody, Judge Taft ordered Belleth be released on a $500 good Behaviour bond.
Judge Taft suspended the four-month jail term for two years.

news.com.au (27-3-2009)

Man used 'fake identities to groom girl'

A man who groomed a 15-year-old American girl for sex adopted fictitious Internet identities to influence and threaten her, a court has heard.
Troy Shannon Belleth, 24, first met the victim in a chatroom forum about Japanese cartoons in October 2005 when the girl was aged 13.
Belleth today told the County Court in Melbourne that he "realised she had problems" and that the relationship did not become sexual in nature until late 2006.
Prosecutor Krista Breckweg said Belleth's conduct was predatory, introducing the victim to fictitious female profiles on social networking sites Facebook and Myspace, describing them as his friends.
Ms Breckweg told the pre-sentence hearing a profile known as Katherine was used by Mr Belleth to invite the victim to send him sexually explicit photos of herself.
She said he also used the profile to encourage the victim to commit suicide with him in 2008, which she refused to do.
"Katherine" was also used to threaten to kill the victim if she used evidence against him, following his arrest by Victorian police in January 2008 for grooming and child pornography offences, Ms Breckweg said.
"These offences are difficult to detect as offenders can hide behind the anonymity of the Internet," she said.
Belleth - who pleaded guilty to both grooming a child for sex on the Internet and possession of child pornography - has been in custody since March 2008.
Barrister Neil Clelland said while his client had formed an inappropriate relationship with the victim, the nature of the relationship was not one-dimensional.
"This is not necessarily a calculated creation by him (Belleth) of characters to perform evil manipulative tasks," he told the court.
The construction of fictitious people on the Internet was related to Belleth's low self-esteem and social isolation, Mr Clelland said.
Belleth had supplied the victim who lived in Georgia, US, with his full name, phone number and address as he had "nothing to hide".
He said the age difference of seven years had initially troubled him but that the victim had become more tenacious and sexually explicit as the online relationship developed.
The fictitious Internet profiles had formed part of his own private world, Belleth told the court.
"A lot of it was escapism," he said.
"A lot of it was to do with nurturing my insecurity.
"When there's no foreseeable consequences you tend to want to see how far it will go."
The hearing before Judge Mark Taft continues.

www.theaustralian.news.com.au (16-2-2009)
Edwina Scott

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