A Mt. Lebanon software engineer who tried to have sex with a 13-year-old girl more than a decade ago in West Virginia wants to be released from the lifetime probation term to which he agreed, but federal prosecutors say a judge should reject the attempt.
Amiya K. Mandal, a 53-year-old native of India who is seeking to become a U.S. citizen, had driven to West Virginia in 2009 for a tryst with a teen who called herself “Jillybean” online, but she wasn’t real.
He’d been duped in a sex sting set up by the private Perverted Justice pedophile-hunting group working in conjunction with local law enforcement.
Perverted Justice had made a name for itself at the time in partnering with the TV program “Dateline NBC,” in which men who thought they were arriving at various locations for sex with children instead found themselves confronting TV cameras.
Mandal’s case was not televised, but he was eventually prosecuted federally in the Northern District of West Virginia for coercion of a minor.
He pleaded guilty and did his time, but part of his plea deal included a binding agreement that he would be under court supervision for the rest of his life.
Mandal doesn’t think those terms should apply anymore and has tried repeatedly to get the term lifted.
He said he’s been compliant with his probation for years and he’s undergone mental health and sex offender treatment. He’s involved with his children and caring for his ailing wife, he said. In addition, he’s a literacy tutor, does charity work and is active at the Hindu Jain Temple in Monroeville.
He presented letters from supporters in the Indian community and argued that his lifetime probation order might hamper his ongoing attempts to become a U.S. citizen.
Finally, he said the probation complicates his ability to be around minors and to travel freely overseas to see family.
Prosecutors in Pittsburgh, where Mandal’s case has been transferred, acknowledged all of those arguments but said the judge should still deny his request because Mandal signed a binding deal with the U.S. attorney’s office in the Northern District of West Virginia and must honor it.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Mike Ivory said Mandal agreed that the lifetime supervision was appropriate in 2010 when he pleaded guilty and he “offers no good reason why this court should release him from his agreement.”
Ivory said Mandal groomed someone he thought was a child over time to satisfy his desire to have sex with her. The risk of recidivism among sex offenders is high, he said, and federal supervision protects children for whom Mandel remains a threat.
Ivory also rejected Mandal’s argument that the probation is hindering his movements or his ability to be in places where children congregate.
He said that condition is directly related to Mandal’s attempt to have sex with a child. As for his own family, he said, Mandal can always request modifications of his probation to allow contact with relatives.
Mandal had also argued that during his plea negotiations he thought he would be deported to India and wouldn’t be on probation.
But Ivory said an immigration judge later determined that Mandal’s crime was not one for which deportation was required.
Finally, he said, Mandal had already received a substantial break in his sentence, nine months lower than the low end of sentencing guidelines. Ivory said courts have ruled that early termination is not appropriate in cases where someone has received such a break.
Mandal was an example of what federal agents call a “traveler” — a pedophile who grooms a child over time for sex and then travels, sometimes out of state, for an encounter. In this case, he had hooked up online in January 2009 with someone he knew as Jill, a 13-year-old in Moundsville, W.Va.
Jill, who went by Jilllybean online, was a fake profile set up by a Perverted Justice volunteer operating out of Ohio.
Mandal called himself “Hungindian” online and initiated flirtatious talk with the girl with the goal of a meeting.
He said he had a wife but wanted to have a “friend with benefits.” Jill pretended she didn’t know what that meant and Mandal sent her a link to a dating service explaining it. Mandal was guarded in his chats for fear of being monitored, according to court records, but at one point told Jill he hoped they could have sex. The two eventually made plans to meet. He told Jill to fake being sick as an excuse to stay home from school.
He drove from Mt. Lebanon to Moundsville on Feb. 4, 2009. When he got to Jill’s purported house, sheriff’s deputies pounced and partially blocked in his car. He tried to drive off and hit one of the cruisers.
After he was arrested, he told law officers that he was “on his way to the Indian temple” but got lost as a way to explain what he was doing on that street in Moundsville.
Sentencing guidelines called for a term of 46 to 57 months. But the deal he struck only gave him 37. While he was awaiting sentencing, he was ordered to abide by various conditions, including only accessing the internet for work or matters related to his wife’s medical treatment.
Prosecutors said he violated those conditions by visiting match.com and tinychat.com and a judge revoked his bond.
He was sentenced to the 37 months on July 8, 2010, and ordered to be on probation for life.
The case is now before U.S. District Judge Marilyn Horan.