A Frankfort man accused of going online to arrange sex and meet a father willing to prostitute 6- and 11-year-old girls at a New Lenox motel pleaded not guilty Friday.
Brandon J. Bergthold, 25, of the 7700 block of North Avenue, was indicted on two counts of indecent solicitation of a child and two counts of traveling to meet a minor—charges, according to police, stemming from a two-month investigation started by the Cook County Sheriff's Child Exploitation Unit.
The indictment states that Bergthold made contact through the Internet with "Paul Pedorski"—the name used by an undercover detective—and solicited sex with the fictitious father’s 6-year-old daughter and 11-year-old cousin.
On Jan. 26, Bergthold aggressively pushed for a face-to-face meeting and later drove to the Walona Motel in New Lenox, where he was arrested, according to Will County Sheriff's Department reports. Police said they subsequently searched Bergthold’s house and confiscated a computer and other electronic media.
The charges against Bergthold are Class 1 and Class 3 felonies. If convicted of all four counts, he faces 12 to 40 years in jail, and possibly more if a jury decides he qualifies for extended terms.
Clad in a red jumpsuit, Bergthold appeared in court Friday via video from the Joliet prison, where he has remained on a $75,000 bond. He didn’t speak during the hearing but stared directly into the camera.
His attorney, Marie Taraska, who replaced public defenders initially assigned to the case, declined to comment.
Pretrial hearings begin March 20.
Bergthold has a history of using websites such as Craigslist to arrange other sexual encounters not involving minors, according to a 27-year-old woman who knows him but did not wish to be identified. A few years ago, Bergthold responded to the woman's online post for dominance and submission sexual play, and the two stayed in contact until about six months ago.
The woman said she never had sex with Bergthold because she claimed he had a "very aggressive" nature, and she worried he would "take it too far and would be dangerous." The two did stay in contact until about six months ago. The woman also claimed Bergthold described rape fantasies to her and wanted to role play them. But during this time, the woman said, Bergthold never talked about wanting to have sex with minors.
Other people who knew Bergthold as far back as high school and spoke with Patch claimed he was a quiet, withdrawn person. A woman who knew Bergthold and his family said he also suffered from Tourette syndrome.
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