Sean Sickmund, a former Mercyhurst University sophomore, was charged earlier this month in Buffalo, N.Y., on federal charges of attempting to convince a 14-year-old girl to send him pornographic pictures of herself over the Internet.
Sickmund was not talking to a 14-year-old girl, but to U.S. Homeland Security Agent Edward J. Williams posing on the Internet as the girl, according to federal court records.
According to those court records, Sickmund has been accused of asking for pornographic images and of discussing traveling from Erie to Jamestown, N.Y., to have sex with her.
Additionally, he has been accused of asking the actual 14-year-old girl in 2012 for pornographic images of herself. The Homeland Security agent later posed as this girl.
Charges were officially brought against Sickmund on Friday, March 8. If convicted, Sickmund faces a minimum of 10 years in federal prison.
During the investigation, Mercyhurst University Police & Safety provided the federal agency with Sickmund’s on-campus address in order for them to serve the warrant, Police & Safety Chief Robert Kuhn said. The federal agents arrested Sickmund off-campus, when he went shopping, Kuhn said.
In a case like this, it is Chief Kuhn’s job to establish if there is any threat to the university community as well as keep ResLife and the administration well informed of what is happening in the investigation, university officials explained to The Merciad.
Sickmund attended Mercyhurst until March 11, university officials said. He was a sophomore business major and men’s lacrosse player, they said. He withdrew from the university after he was charged with trying to obtain child pornography, university officials said.
The federal investigation began Friday, March 1, after the 14-year-old girl approached the federal agent, according to court records.
According to the records, the girl explained that Sickmund had been asking her for self-produced pornographic images over a 12-month period. She was 13 years old at that time.
According to Associate Vice President of Student Life Laura Zirkle, Ph.D., this type of incident has not occurred at Mercyhurst before.
“This is the first time I am aware of that someone was arrested or charged for any misuse of the Internet on Mercyhurst’s campus,” Zirkle said.
This case is not expected to affect the university’s reputation, however.
“I don’t believe this will have much effect on the university because this case was brought up externally,” Zirkle said.
Director of Marketing and Public Relations Mark Gregorio added, “I wouldn’t want this particular incident to mar any of the other wonderful events that have currently happened at Mercyhurst.”