Even in the anything-goes-US, 19-year-old Anthony Stacl's sordid manipulation of the Facebook has sent shockwaves. He had posed as a female classmate online, solicited nude photos from his pick of the cutest guys in school and then blackmailed them into having oral and anal sex with him. The boy from New Berlin, Wisconsin is now facing a minimum of 50 years in prison.
In February last, Stancl was charged with five counts of child enticement, two counts of second degree sexual assault, two counts of third degree sexual assault, possession of child pornography, the repeated sexual assault of the same child, and making a bomb threat.
"Mr. Stancl used the internet to first communicate with people on Facebook, pretending to be a female," said Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel. "After some conversations with these individuals, he would eventually coax them into providing him with nude photographs of themselves in exchange for what they thought was nude photographs of the girl they were talking with.
"It wasn't a girl, it was Anthony Stancl."
He allegedly exchanged pictures with at least 31 teenaged boys, and Stancl then tried to blackmail or extort half of them into meeting him for sex acts.
All 31 boys attend New Berlin Eisenhower Middle/High School, said Attorney Brad Schimel.
The sexual assaults occurred in a bathroom at the high school, the school parking lot, a New Berlin Public Library restroom, Valley View Park, Malone Park, Minooka Park and at some of the victims' homes, according to the complaint.
At least seven boys, 15 to 17, were forced into performing sex acts, Schimel said. The incidents occurred from spring 2008 until the time of Stancl's arrest in November. Stancl had 300 photos and movie clips on his computer of boys from the school, ages 13 to 19, Schimel said.
The investigation into Stancl began after bomb threats on Nov. 12 and Nov. 13 led to the closure of Eisenhower on Nov 14. The first threat, "Bomb 11/14/08" was found scrawled on the wall of a boys bathroom on Nov. 12.
On Nov. 13, school administrators received an e-mail that stated, "Good luck tomorrow. Boom. It won't be your average one either. It will be one that is manned. Not by me, but by those who follow me.
It was sent at a time that Stancl was logged onto the computer, according to the criminal complaint. He was arrested on suspicion of making the bomb threats and released because authorities didn't believe he was a threat to the public.
Stancl was taken into custody on Nov. 14 by New Berlin police after he admitted he played a role in e-mailing a bomb threat to the school, police said. According to the criminal complaint, he didn't do anything to place a bomb in the school but decided to send the e-mail to "make it a better story," the complaint says.
Schimel said that while the closing of school because of the bomb scare was costly and inconvenient, the charge "pales in comparison" to what investigators learned later. As police were investigating the bomb threat, one victim came forward, he said.
The boy, who was 15 at the time of the assaults, said he was repeatedly forced into sexual acts with Stancl, according to the complaint. Stancl took pictures of every encounter and was able to coerce the boy into repeated sexual acts by telling him the girl he met on Facebook would release the pictures to the rest of the school if they didn't continue to meet, the complaint says.
The boy went to his parents and then the police after Stancl asked the boy to get nude pictures of his brother, the complaint says. The boy refused to get his brother involved.
Stancl, who has been expelled from school, is accused of following a similar pattern with at least six other boys.
More than 300 naked photos and movie clips of New Berlin boys and another 600 professionally made pornographic movies of children were found on the computer, which had been confiscated during the bomb threat investigation, Schimel said. The photos and movie clips were separated into 39 folders that were labeled using the boys' names or screen names.
When he was enlarged on bail, Stancl was told he could not have access to any computers, cell phones or Internet capable devices. He also was ordered not to be on any school grounds, including school parking lots, and was prohibited from entering the New Berlin Public Library, where he is accused of using computers.
The boy has since has agreed to a plea bargain. He pleaded "no contest" to repeated sexual assault of a child. Brad Schimel said he was satisfied with the plea deal, which spared victims from having to appear in court - a key factor in his negotiations, the Associated Press news agency reported.
"I've never had a case where the victims and their families were more apprehensive about testifying," Mr Schimel was quoted by AP as saying.
"From the victims' perspective, they're relieved we're doing this."
Typically in plea agreements, some charges are dismissed in exchange for the defendant entering no contest or guilty pleas to other charges. Another option could be a plea that involves a conviction based on a defendant having a mental disease or defect.
Generally, such plea deals can result in lesser prison time. If he were convicted of all 12 charges filed against him, Stancl could face a maximum of 176.5 years in prison.
In this case, a plea bargain would mean that Stancl would avoid trial in a case that has drawn national media attention. It also would mean that Stancl's victims would avoid having to testify in the trial, which is scheduled to begin Jan. 19.
The "evil genius" of Stacl has made many wonder where the social mores of the IT age were headed.
In the recent past about 90,000 sex offenders have been identified and removed from the social networking Web site MySpace.
The number was nearly double what MySpace officials originally estimated last year, said North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, who along with Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has led efforts to make social networking Web sites safer for young users.
Cooper said he wasn't surprised by the updated numbers of February this year, and demanded that MySpace and rival online networking site Facebook — which claim to have more than 280 million users combined — do more to protect children and teenagers.
"These sites were created for young people to communicate with each other. Predators are going to troll in these areas where they know children are going to be," Cooper said. "That's why these social networking sites have the responsibility to make their sites safe for children."
The attorneys general received agreements last year from MySpace and Facebook to push toward making their sites safer. Both sites implemented dozens of safeguards, including finding better ways to verify user's ages, banning convicted sex offenders from using the sites and limiting the ability of older users to search members under 18.
Apparently all that is not enough, and a lot more has to be done to protect the kids venturing into the web world.