MISSOULA, Mont. -- A 23-year-old Billings man whose predatory acts a federal judge called "unspeakable" was sentenced to 18 years in prison for mass sexual exploitation of young girls through social media.
Tyler Daniel Emineth met teenage girls on Facebook, solicited nude photographs from them and then, in some cases, threatened to expose those images if they refused to record themselves in sexual acts with other people, according to prosecutors.
By federal law, the images and videos he procured from girls younger than 18 constitute child pornography; Emineth was indicted on three counts in June 2018.
However, Assistant U.S. District Attorney Zeno Baucus said Thursday that subsequent investigation produced 22,000 pages of messages through Emineth's Facebook page, in which he contacted 348 women and girls with solicitations for nude photos or videos. Sixty-three sent images to him, the prosecutor showed, and 22 of those were juveniles. At least one girl he contacted was 14 years old.
Emineth would tell some girls and women he would send them money in exchange for the images, but they never received any payment.
FBI Special Agent Kiffa Shirley testified in Missoula's U.S. District Court on Thursday that a father of one of the girls in Billings was the first to report Emineth. The father had become concerned when his daughter, 15, asked him to take her to the mall to meet someone. Emineth had arranged for the girl to meet a man there for a sexual encounter, Shirley said. Ultimately, the man backed out of the situation upon learning the girl was 15 years old.
At night, and using his daughter's fingerprint while she was sleeping to unlock the phone, the father discovered the messages with Emineth in his daughter's Facebook Messenger app. There, he discovered Emineth was also in contact with a number of other girls, Shirley said. Other girls, investigators found, had indeed carried out encounters arranged by Emineth, some for money, others under threat.
"This was a mass sexual exploitation of many minors," Baucus told U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen on Thursday. "We still don't, frankly, know who else is out there."
After Emineth was taken into custody in June 2018, he took a plea agreement two months later, agreeing to plead guilty to one of the three charges. After entering the plea, according to court filings, Emineth began sending letters to a number of people, including one letter in which he threatened to kill a witness in the investigation who he believed was responsible for his reckoning.
"Know the day I get out, is the day I go back to prison for life," he wrote, according to prosecutors. "Put me down for homicide in the first degree."
Emineth's attorney, Vernon Woodward, asked the judge for leniency based on his client's young age and immaturity as diagnosed by a psychiatrist ahead of sentencing.
"This kid is chronologically an adult, but mentally a juvenile," he said. Woodward agreed the letter to the witness was a threat, although an "idle" one.
Emineth was brief with his own statement to Christensen.
"I am deeply sorry and regretful for the crimes I have committed," he said simply.
Prosecutors asked for 30 years, the statutory maximum for the lone child pornography charge to which he pleaded guilty; the defense asked for 15 years, the mandatory minimum.
Christensen, heavily considering Emineth's age but calling the acts "unspeakable," sentenced him to 18 years in federal prison, with a lifetime of federal probation supervision after his release.
"We've got here a pattern of behavior that is indescribable and obviously horrific," the judge said. "Notwithstanding the horrific nature of this offense, this sentence is a long time for a man who is 23 years old."
Emineth is ordered to complete sex offender treatment in the federal prison system.