SEBRING — In 2015, when an Avon Park man found a nude selfie of a young girl on an electronic device, he used it to get more such photos of other girls, Assistant State Attorney Courtney Lenhart told a jury Friday morning in the Highlands County Courthouse.
The defendant, Stephen Alan Wingo, told the girl in the photo that unless she photographed other girls while they were nude, he would send her photo to her classmates and put up posters at her school, Lenhart said.
The girl was concerned about her reputation, Lenhart said. And knowing that she wanted to become a law enforcement officer, Wingo further threatened to plant marijuana in her bedroom and create a situation that would lead to her arrest, which would prevent her from ever realizing her career goal, he reportedly told her, authorities said.
But, defense attorney William David McNeil told the jury that investigators from the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office didn’t find the nude selfie.
McNeil also said during his opening argument that the girl never mentioned being threatened if she didn’t take other photos until the second interview with a detective from the Sheriff’s Office.
The opening arguments and testimony occurred Friday morning for what is expected to be a one-day trial for Wingo, who is charged with extortion or threats, two counts of solicitation to commit video voyeurism, and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
He’s also charged with inappropriate behavior with another alleged victim, but he will be tried separately in that case.
The prosecution planned to introduce as evidence a recording of a jail telephone between Wingo and another person in which Wingo talks about having been in jail for four months and that he expected to be declared a sex offender. He reportedly said that if that happened, it would prevent him from getting a job and would ruin his life, adding that he had made a mistake.
Highlands County Judge Anthony Ritenour, however, ruled that the part of the conversation where he mentions that he had spent four months in jail would be prejudicial and that it could not be introduced as evidence.
McNeil said Wingo will admit to encouraging the girl to take photos of other girls, but will deny threatening her. McNeil said the girl only took one photo of another girl.