His lawyer painted him as a modern-day Sir Galahad, who came with noble intentions to rescue a damsel in distress, but the former lance corporal in the U.S. Marines will be spending the next three to six years in prison for his actions.
Johnathan Plaisance, 21, apparently packed an engagement ring when he traveled to Pittsburgh from his military base in North Carolina to meet a 13-year-old girl he had met on the Internet.
He pleaded guilty yesterday to having sex with the North Side girl and then fleeing with her on a bus back to his base.
"The naivete is incredible," said defense lawyer Stanley W. Greenfield, explaining Mr. Plaisance is "a very bright guy" who knew the girl was a teenager but didn't know her real age.
Mr. Greenfield emphasized that his client "never used an alias or a pseudonym or a nom de plume." He also credited Mr. Plaisance with convincing the girl not to run away from home on a previous occasion.
Harrisburg police stopped the military intelligence enlistee and the girl at a Greyhound station on Christmas Day 2007, after they'd spent Christmas Eve at a Holiday Inn in O'Hara. They had tickets to return to Camp Lejeune, N.C.
The girl's parents notified Pittsburgh police she was missing when they awoke early Dec. 25 to find her gone. Police tracked them to a vacated hotel room, where investigators found a used condom with DNA from both the defendant and the victim. Receipts indicated he'd purchased two porn films.
From the computer at the family's home, city and federal officials learned the pair had been communicating for about six months after meeting in a MySpace chat room.
Yesterday, Mr. Plaisance pleaded guilty to unlawful contact with a minor, criminal use of a computer, statutory sex assault, removing the child from the custody of her parents and concealing the whereabouts of a child.
After Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Donna Jo McDaniel heard accounts of the liaison from the defense and the prosecution, she said: "To be frank, Mr. Greenfield, I'm not, in the least, getting the impression of Sir Galahad in this case."
She sentenced Mr. Plaisance to three to six years in state prison with credit for time served.
He does not face further military sanctions for his behavior, his lawyer said.
Gabrielle Banks can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1370.