RICHMOND, Va. -- A New Zealand man who was shot by the mother of a teenage girl when he tried to break into their home in Virginia was sentenced Friday to 21 years in prison for using the girl to produce child pornography during their online relationship.
Troy George Skinner was arrested in 2018 after he traveled from his home in Auckland, New Zealand, to the Goochland, Virginia, home of a girl he met online. He smashed a glass door panel with a brick to try to get inside as the girl's terrified mother repeatedly warned she would shoot him if he didn't leave. Skinner recovered from a bullet wound to his neck.
He was originally charged with two counts of attempted kidnapping and nine counts related to the production of child pornography, but agreed to plead guilty to a single count of making child porn in an agreement with prosecutors last July.
Skinner met the girl online in December 2017, when he was 24 and she was 13, although she told him she was 16, an FBI agent wrote in an affidavit. They communicated via chat sessions and livestream video sessions, and had an online sexual relationship, the affidavit said.
Prosecutors, who have not identified the girl because of her age, said that when she tried to end their relationship, Skinner “started harassing her and attempting to manipulate her with threats of suicide.” The girl eventually cut off contact, but then Skinner showed up at her home, carrying pepper spray, duct tape and a pocket knife.
Skinner's lawyers asked U.S. District Judge M. Hannah Lauck to sentence him to the mandatory minimum of 15 years, citing a horrific childhood. He was beaten by his mother, abandoned at age 12 and was “at a low point in life” and struggling with mental health issues when he met the Virginia girl online, Assistant Federal Public Defender Laura Koenig said.
Koenig said Skinner believed the girl was 16 — the age of consent in New Zealand — and when the girl broke off the relationship, he thought it was “the end of his life as he knew it,” Koenig said.
His visit to the girl's house was “an act of desperation,” and he said 'Just shoot me” to the deputies who captured him, Supervisory Assistant Federal Public Defender Robert Wagner said.
Koenig said Skinner spent the last 3 1/2 years in jail working to turn his life around, receiving his high school equivalency degree and trying to help others. She said the superintendent of his jail wrote the judge saying Skinner has an "exemplary attitude” and has been a "model inmate."
Prosecutors argued for a sentence at the upper end of the guidelines, saying they'd already accounted for his difficult life by dropping attempted kidnapping charges and the other child pornography counts. Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Hood said 15 years was too lenient, given Skinner's behavior and the fact that he secretly made 49 videos of the girl, some of which involved sex acts.
Skinner, now 28, apologized to the girl and her family, saying he has come to understand the pain and grief he caused them.
“Upon reading the victim's impact statement, I was at a loss for words,” he said. “I sincerely apologize ... for this ordeal, and I will continue to work to be a better person."
The judge noted that the girl's parents wrote that Skinner's crimes caused their family “a marathon of grief" that will forever affect them and their daughter. “The conduct — the nature and circumstances of this offense — are just atrocious,” the judge said.