~Man solicited minor via text and Facebook after meeting victim at church~
Matthew James Gray, age 30, of Hopewell pled guilty today to five counts of solicitation of a minor and was sentenced to ten years in prison with four years suspended by Hopewell Circuit Court Judge, Hon. Nathan Curtis Lee. Attorney General Mark R. Herring made the announcement after a successful prosecution by Assistant Attorney General Brittany Jones with cooperation from the Hopewell Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office.
“Justice has been served and a dangerous criminal is behind bars where he cannot harm children,” said Attorney General Mark R. Herring. “This sentence serves as a powerful reminder that those who seek to manipulate and take advantage of children cannot hide from the law behind a computer or phone screen. I’m proud of the hard work of the officers, investigators, and prosecutors involved in this case, and of all those who work tirelessly to protect children in Virginia.”
Evidence presented in court showed that the defendant was identified after a 15 year-old female reported to staff at her school that she had received a sexually explicit photo via text message from an adult male. The Hopewell Police Department subsequently initiated an investigation into the matter and identified Gray as the perpetrator. Evidence revealed that over the course of several months, Gray, who had met the juvenile victim at church, used texts and Facebook messages to solicit the victim for sex and pornographic photos. Based on this evidence, Hopewell officers executed a search warrant at the defendant’s residence. During the search, Gray admitted to soliciting the victim for sex and pornographic photos while knowing that she was underage. Evidence further revealed that he had traveled to the victim’s home with the intent to engage in sexual activity with the victim but was unsuccessful in his attempt. Following his term of imprisonment, Gray will be required to register as a sex offender in any U.S. jurisdiction in which he lives, works, or attends school.
This case was investigated by officers with the Hopewell Police Department and the Richmond Police Department as a part of the Southern Virginia Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. Assistant Attorney General Brittany Jones of the Virginia Attorney General’s Office prosecuted the case on behalf of the Commonwealth, with cooperation from the Hopewell Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office.