In February 2017, prosecutors say, Nathan Nosley responded to another man's sexually charged ad on Craigslist: I have a young girl you can play with, Nosley wrote; how old are you looking for?
In fact, Nosley was facing criminal charges in Linn County at the time after a 7-year-old girl had reported that he'd molested her. On April 7, 2017, Nosley was acquitted of those charges. And when, shortly afterward, the other man responded to his Craigslist message to ask what the girl looked like, the Cedar Rapids man responded on April 23 with a picture of the same child he had been acquitted of molesting 16 days earlier.
The incident, court filings show, was not an isolated one. Nosley, 30, was indicted in November 2020, this time in federal court, for seven offenses, including sexual exploitation of children and various charges for receipt, possession and distribution of child pornography.
The offenses, according to prosecutors, involved 13- and 16-year-old girls whom Nosley encouraged in 2018 and 2019 to send him sexually explicit images and videos. Nosley was accused of meeting and having sexual contact with one victim, and sharing explicit images of the second with other people online. The investigation also turned up Nosley's online messages around the time of his state trial in 2017.
In June 2021, Nosley was tried on the new charges and convicted on all seven. And on Jan. 18, U.S. District Court Judge C.J. Williams sentenced him to serve 1,680 months — or 140 years — in prison, to be followed, if he should ever be released from custody, by five years of supervised release.
Federal sentencing guidelines had suggested the 140-year sentence for Nosley, who argued in court filings that the guidance was excessive. His pre-sentencing brief notes that Nosley's conduct did not involve force, coercion, familial relationships or other aggravating factors.
"The nature and circumstances of the offenses are not the worst-case imaginable when it comes to the serious offenses of child sexual exploitation and distribution of child pornography," Nosley's attorney argued.
Nosley's attorney urged a sentence of 25 to 33 years due to his client's upbringing, including an early adoption and alleged drug abuse by his biological mother. In 2018 and 2019, when his offenses took place, Nosley was in a "dark time" of his life that included heavy drug use, he later told investigators.
"Unfortunately … his childhood neglect and mental health conditions contributed to an apparent lack of empathy, impulse control, substance abuse and detachment from reality," Nosley's attorney wrote.
Prosecutors urged the judge not to diverge from the sentencing guidelines, noting that, throughout his case, Nosley had blamed his misconduct on drug use and even claimed repeatedly after his acquittal that the 7-year-old girl had initiated sexual contact with him rather than the other way around.
"[Nosley's] conduct has been persistent and calculated, and it is not attributable to impulse control or his being under the influence of drugs," prosecutors wrote.
They also argued that Nosley was a risk to the community above and beyond his sexual misconduct: When officers arrested him in November 2020, Nosley reportedly pulled out a loaded handgun and, when one federal agent attempted to disarm him, bit the agent on the wrist. In July 2021, after his conviction, he said in a text message that he didn't want to get out of prison and "if i have to kill ppl to stay longer i will."
Sean Berry, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Iowa, said in a news release the case underscores the need for parents to monitor children online and to talk to them about online dangers.
"This case is a tragic example of the dangers children face on the internet," Berry said. "Child predators are constantly trying to manipulate kids into having sex or providing sexually explicit photos."
Court records show Nosley faces additional federal charges for firearm possession and stemming from his arrest. Judge Williams' order notes that any sentence in that case will be added consecutively to the 140 years Nosley is already sentenced to serve.
William Morris covers courts for the Des Moines Register. He can be contacted at email@example.com, 715-573-8166 or on Twitter at @DMRMorris.
This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Iowa man gets 140-year sentence on child exploitation and porn charges