U.S. Attorney Christopher Thyer
said Wednesday that he'd asked a federal court to dismiss federal indictments against Kenneth Wayne Thompson, 23, of Bradford; Benjamin Cade Vardell, 20, of Jonesboro, and Lucas Aaron Oden, 20, of Paragould for using phones to entice a minor to engage in sexual activity
He said he believed their conduct had been unlawful, but didn't believe a conviction and mandatory 10-year sentence would "serve the ends of justice."
The three have pleaded guilty to 2nd degree sexual assault in Craighhead County Circuit Court. Thyer said the sentences there were "appropriate" based on the facts as he knew them.
The federal case stemmed from thousands of text and multimedia messages found on the cell phone of a 12-year-old runaway girl. She told police she'd had sex with men up to 27 years old. Seven adults were arrested, along with four juveniles, on charges ranging from rape to child pornography.
Earlier this month, Vardell, Oden and Thompson were sentenced in state court to five years' probation and 120 days in the county jail, with credit for time served. One other man got the same sentence. All four must register as sex offenders.