New Zealand man reaches plea deal over alleged attempt to kidnap US teen

A New Zealand man who was shot while allegedly trying to kidnap a 14-year-old Virginia girl he met online has reached a plea agreement with federal prosecutors in the US.

Troy George Skinner, 28, of Auckland, New Zealand, was scheduled to face trial next month after pleading not guilty to two counts of attempted kidnapping and nine counts related to the production of child pornography. But electronic court records show that the jury selection process was terminated last week and a plea agreement hearing in the case has been scheduled for 29 July.

Skinner was arrested in June 2018 after he showed up at the Goochland home of the girl and allegedly tried to break in. Authorities said the girl’s mother warned him several times that she had a gun, then shot him after he broke the glass on the second door he tried to open. Skinner recovered from a bullet wound to his neck.

It was not immediately clear what charges are included in the plea agreement. A spokesperson for acting US attorney Raj Parekh declined to comment on the terms of the agreement. Skinner’s lawyers did not return telephone messages and emails seeking comment.

, New Zealand man reaches plea deal over alleged attempt to kidnap US teen, The Nzuchi Times Guardian
Troy George Skinner, the New Zealand man who was shot while allegedly trying to kidnap a 14-year-old Virginia girl he met online. Photograph: Agnew, Jim/AP

Federal authorities said Skinner met the girl online in December 2017, when he was 24 and she was 13, although she told him she was 16, an FBI agent wrote in an affidavit when he applied for a warrant to search Skinner’s mobile phones. They communicated via chat sessions and livestream video sessions, and had an online sexual relationship, according to the affidavit.

Authorities have not named the girl because of her age. In court documents, prosecutors said that when the girl tried to end their relationship, Skinner “started harassing her and attempting to manipulate her with threats of suicide”. The girl eventually cut off contact with Skinner.

, New Zealand man reaches plea deal over alleged attempt to kidnap US teen, The Nzuchi Times Guardian

Skinner left Auckland on 20 June 2018, travelled to the US and arrived at the girl’s house uninvited on 22 June after stopping at a Walmart store and buying pepper spray, a folding knife and duct tape, according to the affidavit.

Former Goochland County Sheriff James Agnew said the girl, her teenage sister and her mother allege that they saw Skinner attempting to break in to their home. He disclosed that information in the days after Skinner’s arrest.

Agnew alleged Skinner first tried to break down a basement door with a brick and appeared to ignore warnings from the girl’s mother that she was armed. Agnew alleged Skinner then climbed some steps to the deck and smashed a glass door with the brick. He said the girl’s mother warned Skinner again that she had a gun, but he reached in to try to unlock the door. She fired twice, hitting him once in the neck, Agnew said. Skinner collapsed in a neighbour’s yard.

A federal indictment filed against Skinner in September 2019 alleges that Skinner, while in New Zealand, induced the girl to engage in sexually explicit conduct to produce child pornography.

Skinner pleaded not guilty to the charges. His lawyers argued that because all of Skinner’s contact with the girl was virtual and the two never physically touched each other, the images did not constitute child pornography.

The details of his plea agreement with prosecutors are expected to be revealed during the 29 July hearing in US district court in Richmond. He faces the possibility of decades in prison, but it is unclear what kind of sentencing recommendation could be included in the plea agreement.

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