A serial online predator – who befriended young women then blackmailed them for naked pictures – has been sentenced to three years and five months’ jail.
Brandyn Alan Stewart, 31, of Upper Hutt, has already offended in similar ways in New Zealand and Australia.
In the Wellington District Court on Friday Stewart was sentenced on the latest charges to serve at least half of the jail term of three years and five months on charges of blackmail and dealing with females under the age of 18 for sexual exploitation.
After 13 months already spent in custody on remand, Stewart will first be considered for parole in about seven months time.
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Judge Ian Mill said Stewart contacted the six victims online and promised money, cellphones or to have their rent paid if they sent pictures or video of themselves naked or performing a sex act. They were aged 15, 16, or 17 at the time.
One victim received $50 but the others saw nothing of the money or phones Stewart promised, the judge said.
Stewart would threaten to put the images online or send them to a victim’s relative if the victims did not send more. The threats continued even after police were told.
The judge said he was concerned at the lengths Stewart went to and the threats he used.
He did not believe Stewart had remorse for the victims.
Stewart was addicted to drugs and alcohol, as a child he was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and reported being traumatised as a child.
As part of previous sentences Stewart had been offered counselling, but the judge said he didn’t see any commitment to change.
Stewart had felt rejected at home and at school, and put on a lot of weight although he had now lost that.
He wrote the judge a short letter of apology in which he said he had seen a documentary about “revenge porn” and now knew the victims suffered.
Comments from the victims included that they felt confused and ashamed, they were haunted by what happened, and made to feel like an object of no value, the judge said.
In 2013, aged 20, Stewart received 11 months’ home detention at the High Court in Wellington for threatening to put pictures of semi-naked girls online.
Stewart had posed as a 16-year-old on Facebook and befriended girls aged 16, 14, and 11, although he thought the 11-year-old was older.
His lawyer told the court then it was part of Stewart’s online fantasy world.
At the time Stewart partly blamed his youngest victim – questioning why an 11-year-old was even on Facebook.
Judge Mill said in 2018 in Australia Stewart was jailed for extortion with intent to gain a benefit.
By 2020 he was back in New Zealand and again contacting young females on social media.
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