DOCUMENT: Internet, Crime

"Internet Star" Receives Stiff Prison Sentence

Musician swapped illicit images with young fans

Mike Lombardo

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Lombardo Sentenced

FEBRUARY 28--A New York musician whom prosecutors described as an “Internet star” was sentenced this morning to five years in federal prison for exchanging explicit images with underage female fans.

During a hearing in U.S. District Court in Syracuse, Michael Lombardo, 25, was sentenced by Judge David Hurd for his guilty plea last year to a felony charge of receiving child pornography. Lombardo, seen at right, will also have to register as a convicted sex offender and serve five years of probation upon his release from custody.

In a February 14 sentencing memorandum, prosecutors argued that Lombardo should receive 20 years in prison, the statutory maximum. Lombardo’s lawyers countered that the mandatory minimum, five years, was appropriate punishment.

Lombardo, a Berklee College of Music graduate, developed a large following of female teenage fans via a series of YouTube performance videos. Investigators contended that Lombardo, who also worked as a sound engineer at an upstate high school, then “took advantage of his position as an Internet star” to sexually exploit 11 minors (who sent the singer/songwriter sexually explicit photos and videos).

Pointing to a September 2010 online conversation with a 16-year-old girl, prosecutors noted that Lombardo was keenly aware that he was violating the law. During that exchange, Lombardo suggested to the girl that she delete chat logs and photos they exchanged since, “that’s like 5 years in federal prison and sex offender registration.” He added, “until you’re 18. Lol.”

In a sentencing submission, Lombardo’s lawyer described the convicted felon as a “sought-after musical performer, live and on the Internet, who developed a following of fans, some of whom became ‘groupies.’” The attorney added, “Approximately 80% of the females he engaged in cybersex with were older than 17.”

In an interview with a clinical psychologist, Lombardo stated that he was “approached sexually by female fans through the Internet and that he had responded to perhaps 30% of those overtures,” according to the defense’s sentencing memorandum. Lombardo estimated that he engaged in cybersex with “about fifty females and that probably 80% of them were adult.”

Lombardo told Dr. Norman Lesswing that his behavior was “stupid and dumb,” though he “denied that he manipulated, coerced or met with any of these females for the purpose of having sexual relations.” In fact, Lombardo added that he had “literally hundreds of opportunities, while touring, to ‘hook up,'” but only did so “with a college student on one occasion.”

Lombardo will have to surrender to the Bureau of Prisons by 2 PM on April 15, according to court records. (6 pages)