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Date: 12-04-2023

Case Style:

United States of America v. Lerin E. Hughes

Case Number: 3:22-cr-30068

Judge: Colleen R. Lawless

Court: United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois (Sangamon County)

Plaintiff's Attorney: United States Attorney’s Office in Springfield

Defendant's Attorney:

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Description: Springfield, Illinois criminal defense lawyer represented the Defendant charged with cyberstalking.

Lerin E. Hughes, age 25, repeatedly made threatening Facebook posts directed towards an employee of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) who was assigned to investigate allegations of child abuse and neglect. Hughes also sent threatening text messages and e-mail messages and sought out the personal Facebook page of a case worker employed by an agency contracted to work on behalf of DCFS. The threats occurred over a period of four months during the summer of 2022. These threats included threats to kill the two child protection workers. The government also presented evidence that Hughes made statements to other people indicating her desire to shoot the victims and other juvenile court personnel, as well as the governor of Illinois.

At sentencing, Judge Lawless said the victims were doing their job and should not have had to endure Hughes’s threats and harassment. Judge Lawless noted that the sentence was needed to deter others so that DCFS workers could continue to do their important jobs without fear of similar behavior.

Hughes was indicted on October 18, 2022, and was arrested on October 20, 2022. Hughes has remained in the custody of the United States Marshals Service since her arrest.

The penalties for cyberstalking are not more than five years’ imprisonment, not more than three years’ supervised release, not more than a $250,000 fine, and restitution pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3663A.

“DCFS employees work tirelessly to protect children in the State of Illinois,” said Assistant United States Attorney Sarah E. Seberger. “The defendant’s words caused real and severe emotional distress that these victims never should have had to endure for merely doing their jobs. This sentence sends a strong message that there are consequences for online threats of violence towards government employees. I am grateful to the FBI for their work on this case, as well as the important assistance of the Sangamon County Sheriff’s Office.”

“The FBI takes threats of violence very seriously and works diligently to protect the communities we serve,” said FBI Springfield Field Office Special Agent in Charge David Nanz. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to disrupt and investigate those who engage in violent rhetoric—holding accountable anyone who threatens to harass, intimidate, or harm another.”

The case investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Springfield Field Office. Valuable assistance was provided by the Sangamon County Sheriff’s Department and the Sangamon County State’s Attorney’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Seberger and Sierra Senor Moore represented the government at trial.

18:2261.F--INTERSTATE DOMESTIC VIOLENCE--On or about May 19, 2022, and continuing until on or about October 17, 2022, in Sangamon County, in the Central District of Illinois and elsewhere, the defendant, with the intent to harass and intimidate another person, Victim #1, used an interactive computer service, an electronic communication system, and a facility of interstate commerce to engage in a course of conduct, including sending an electronic message to Victim #1 that threatened acts of violence, that placed Victim #1 in reasonable fear of death and serious bodily injury, and cause, attempted to cause, and would reasonably be expected to cause substantial emotional distress to Victim #1, all in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 2261(A)(2)(A) and (B).

(a) Offenses.—
(1) Travel or conduct of offender.—
A person who travels in interstate or foreign commerce or enters or leaves Indian country or is present within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States with the intent to kill, injure, harass, or intimidate a spouse, intimate partner, or dating partner, and who, in the course of or as a result of such travel or presence, commits or attempts to commit a crime of violence against that spouse, intimate partner, or dating partner, shall be punished as provided in subsection (b).
(2) Causing travel of victim.—
A person who causes a spouse, intimate partner, or dating partner to travel in interstate or foreign commerce or to enter or leave Indian country by force, coercion, duress, or fraud, and who, in the course of, as a result of, or to facilitate such conduct or travel, commits or attempts to commit a crime of violence against that spouse, intimate partner, or dating partner, shall be punished as provided in subsection (b).
(b) Penalties.—A person who violates this section or section 2261A shall be fined under this title, imprisoned—
(1) for life or any term of years, if death of the victim results;
(2) for not more than 20 years if permanent disfigurement or life threatening bodily injury to the victim results;
(3) for not more than 10 years, if serious bodily injury to the victim results or if the offender uses a dangerous weapon during the offense;
(4) as provided for the applicable conduct under chapter 109A if the offense would constitute an offense under chapter 109A (without regard to whether the offense was committed in the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States or in a Federal prison); and
(5) for not more than 5 years, in any other case,
or both fined and imprisoned.
(6) Whoever commits the crime of stalking in violation of a temporary or permanent civil or criminal injunction, restraining order, no-contact order, or other order described in section 2266 of title 18, United States Code, shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than 1 year.

Outcome: Defendant was committed to the custody of the BOP for a term of 42 months on Count 1 and Count 2 to run concurrently, 3 years of supervised release on Count 1 and Count 2 to run concurrently, and a $200 Special Assessment.

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