Mt. Lebanon software engineer Amiya Mandal, who once called himself “Hungindian” in trying to have sex with a 13-year-old, will not be released from his lifetime of probation, a federal judge has ruled.
Mandal, 53, wanted to be released from the terms of his plea negotiated 13 years ago in West Virginia, which include spending the rest of his life under court supervision.
He said the terms are causing him hardship, including preventing him from becoming a U.S. citizen.
But U.S. District Judge Marilyn Horan said, essentially, too bad.
The judge ruled this week that Mandal struck a deal with federal prosecutors in 2010 and he must honor it.
In an opinion filed Monday, she said she can’t conclude that keeping Mandal on probation under his current conditions is “either too harsh or inappropriately tailored” to serve the sentencing goals of protecting the public and rehabilitating the defendant considering the crime he committed.
She said the guilty plea, his 37-month prison term and his probation term don’t directly determine his ability to become a citizen. Those consequences are determined by immigration laws.
Mandal, a native of India, is living in the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident. Back in 2009, he struck up online sex conversations with a young girl calling herself “Jillybean.” He wanted to have sex with her and arranged a trip to West Virginia, where she supposedly lived, for a tryst.
But it was a setup.
Jillybean was the creation of the private group Perverted Justice, based in Ohio, that orchestrates stings to catch pedophiles. The group became famous after partnering with TV news program “Dateline NBC,” which sent camera crews to record the suspects when they arrived to have sex with children.
In Mandal’s case, Perverted Justice worked with local law officers in Moundsville, W.Va., and he ended up charged federally in the Northern District of West Virginia.
He admitted his guilt and got a big break in his sentence. Guidelines called for up to 57 months. His plea deal gave him 37.
But it also gave him a lifetime of court supervision when he got out, and he doesn’t like that.
He has tried repeatedly to get the terms lifted. Most recently he told Judge Horan that he’s been compliant with probation for years, has undergone mental health and sex offender treatment, and is involved in his community, the lives of his children and activities at the Hindu Jain Temple in Monroeville.
Many of his friends in the Indian community in Pittsburgh wrote letters on his behalf.
Mandal said the probation complicates his ability to be around minors and to travel to India to see his family. He also argued that he accepted his plea deal because he thought that he would be deported.
Prosecutors in Pittsburgh, where Mandal’s probation officer is located, countered that none of that matters.
An immigration judge determined that Mandal’s crime did not require deportation, they said, but that doesn’t change the fact that he agreed to a deal that requires a lifetime of supervision.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Mike Ivory also said the probation protects children because the risk of recidivism for sex offenders like Mandal is high.
Mandal can’t be in places where there are a lot of children, and that can be difficult to navigate, but that’s because his crime involved him trying to have sex with a child, Ivory said.
The facts of the case illustrate that Mandal was fully intending to engage in illicit sex.
In online chats, he called himself Hungindian and initiated flirting with the girl, slowly grooming her over time. He said he had a wife but wanted a “friend with benefits.” When Jillybean said she didn’t know that term, he sent her a dating service link explaining it. Mandal also expressed fear of being monitored, demonstrating that he knew full well that what he was doing was illegal.
He eventually set up a sex date with Jillybean, telling her to pretend to be sick to stay home from school, and drove down to Moundsville on Feb. 4, 2009. When he got there, sheriff’s deputies were waiting. He tried to drive away and smacked into one of their cruisers.
After his arrest, deputies asked him why he was in Moundsville. He said he had been on his way to the Indian temple but got lost.
In denying the request for release, Judge Horan noted that Mandal has a job, is able to care for his sick wife, participates in the lives of his kids, practices his religion and does charity work. All of that points to the success of his probation and there’s no reason to stop it, she said.
“This is a case,” she ruled, “in which supervision appears to be working properly.”
Torsten covers the courts for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Reach him at email@example.com.