A Madison man who pleaded guilty Wednesday to bringing a 14-year-old girl from Tennessee to his home for sex had discussed sex with her in earlier online conversations and had sex with her as soon as they arrived at his home, a federal prosecutor said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Julie Pfluger said at a plea hearing Wednesday for Bryan Rogers, 31, that Rogers and the girl had conversations via Facebook about sex while professing their love for one another, but said during those conversations that sex would be illegal because of their ages.
Rogers pleaded guilty Wednesday to taking a minor across state lines for sexual purposes. He admitted that he picked up the girl from her home in Madisonville, Tennessee, on Jan. 14, when the girl was reported missing by her parents. He kept her at his mother’s North Side home, where he lived, until police executing a search warrant on Jan. 31 found the girl there, hiding in a closet in Rogers’ basement bedroom.
The girl’s two-week disappearance made national news as her parents appealed for her return.
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Pfluger said Wednesday that the girl initially told investigators she and Rogers had only kissed, but in a subsequent interview said they had sex once they had arrived at Rogers’ home. Pfluger said DNA evidence proved there was intercourse between Rogers and the girl.
Hours before police found the girl, Rogers was visited by the FBI and denied ever meeting the girl in person or even having been to Tennessee recently.
In court Wednesday, Rogers told U.S. District Judge William Conley he met the girl online, and as they talked she told him she was being sexually abused. He admitted driving to Tennessee to get her, adding, “Yes, on that first night we had sexual intercourse.”
In court filings, Rogers’ lawyers wrote that he and the girl sent evidence of the alleged sexual abuse to the FBI, and the alleged perpetrator of that abuse was soon arrested. Rogers was initially charged with coercing the girl to produce child pornography, for telling her to secretly capture the abuse on video as evidence. That charge is to be dismissed as part of a plea agreement.
Rogers will be sentenced by Conley on Sept. 13. He faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison. The maximum penalty for the charge is life, though advisory federal sentencing guidelines make that sentence unlikely. Under the plea agreement, Rogers waived his right to appeal his sentence if it is 15 years in prison or less.
Rogers graduated from UW-Madison in December with a degree in atmospheric and oceanic sciences, and worked as a weather intern at a Milwaukee television station in 2017. Most recently, he worked for FedEx, court documents state.