Man admits to relationship with girl
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A Michigan man who had a sexual relationship with a 12-year-old Putnam County girl he met through an online video game faces up to 30 years in prison.
Ashlee C. Liebert, 33, of Whitmore Lake, pleaded guilty Monday before U.S. District Judge Robert Chambers to traveling with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a minor, according to a statement by U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin.
Liebert told authorities he established a relationship with the girl in November 2011. They met while playing World of Warcraft, a mass-multiplayer online game set in a fantasy world with trolls, orcs, humans and dwarves.
The relationship lasted for about five months, despite the girl telling him she was 12 years old, and Liebert admitted he had sexually explicit cellphone and email conversations with her. He said they exchanged sexually explicit photographs as well.
"Crimes that involve the exploitation of children are sickening," Goodwin said. "These types of cases are without question a top priority for my office, and we will continue to work hard to ensure that the perpetrators of these despicable crimes get dealt with harshly."
Liebert was arrested on March 10 when he traveled from Michigan to Putnam County to meet up with the girl.
The two had gotten into an argument the day before about the girl spending time with another girl. Liebert suspected the girls were in a relationship, according to previous reports.
Liebert picked up the girl at a Putnam County home and then drove to a location where they engaged in sexual conduct.
Putnam deputies who were out searching for the girl found them in a parked car near Cross Creek Road in Buffalo. Deputies also found directions to Buffalo, a bottle of vodka and a bag of candy in the vehicle, according to the statement.
Liebert was arrested and the girl was returned to her family.
Liebert told deputies that he continued the relationship with the girl because "their love was so strong," according to a criminal complaint, and that he wanted to take her back to Michigan. He said he "loves her that much and would still like to take her there when he is released from jail," the complaint said.
Authorities searched his Michigan home on March 11 and found several computers with more than 600 images and videos of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct on the hard drives. Liebert admitted to downloading the images from the Internet.
Liebert also faces a $250,000 fine when he is sentenced Feb. 11.
The Putnam Sheriff's Office, FBI and Northfield (Mich.) Township Police Department conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Lisa Johnston handled prosecution.
Contact writer Ashley B. Craig at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4850.