A former Dowagiac, Mich., reserve police officer will spend up to seven years in prison after he pleaded guilty to charges relating to letters and sexual images investigators say he exchanged with a 15-year-old girl in late 2014.
Leroy Irving Cheney, 65, was sentenced to 23 months to seven years in prison after he pleaded guilty to one count of possession of child sexually abusive material and two counts of using a computer to commit a crime, according to The Herald Palladium. He was given credit for 65 days served.
Cheney must also register as a sex offender and pay $1,684 in fines and costs.
Prosecutors said that Cheney and the girl exchanged letters and sexual and nude photos with each other using a cell phone that Cheney gave the victim, The Dowagiac Daily News reported. Cheney and the victim also met in person, though the victim told investigators that they did not have sex.
“The victim, at the time I interviewed her, clearly has strong feelings for the defendant because of his predatory conduct,” Assistant Prosecutor Tiffiny Vohwinkle said. “There were multiple days where they were spending time alone together.”
Defense attorney Greg Feldman said that Cheney cared for the victim in a non-sexual way and that other men were imprisoned for having similar relationships with the victim, The Herald Palladium reported. Feldman also said that Cheney had prostate cancer.
Cass County Circuit Judge Michael Dodge disagreed with Feldman.
“You exploited a 15-year-old girl for your own sexual gratification,” Dodge said to Cheney during the sentencing hearing. “She was sending photos to you on a cell phone you provided, and you sent pictures to her. You knew your conduct was wrong, but you continued to engage in it. You also wrote some pretty suggestive letters. It looks like and sounds like predatory behavior.
“You wrote love letters with sexual overtones. You wrote that you missed cuddling, having your arms around her when she was sleeping, seeing her sexy smile and kissing her strawberry lips. Sexual exploitation is a crime and needs a serious punishment as a deterrence.”