Johnson City man gets 121-month sentence in sex case

Brad Hicks • May 7, 2014 at 9:06 PM

GREENEVILLE — As he spoke at his at his Wednesday sentencing hearing in U.S. District Court, Rickie Lee Hoyle Jr. admitted to Judge J. Ronnie Greer that he did send inappropriate text messages to a boy last year, but he never touched or attempted to touch the boy and did not offer the boy money to engage in illegal sexual activity.

However, Greer said Hoyle’s text messages sent to the boy in the days prior to his May 2013 arrest “removed all doubt” of his intent to engage in sexual activity with the child.

Hoyle, 41, Johnson City, was sentenced to serve 121 months in jail to be followed by 20 years of supervised release at Wednesday’s hearing. In January, Hoyle agreed to plead guilty to one count of using a facility or means of interstate commerce to knowingly persuade, induce, entice or coerce a minor to engage in sexual activity.

Hoyle was arrested on May 24 following a joint investigation by the Erwin Police Department and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. According to officials, Hoyle began contacting the victim in 2012 via social media, which led to a personal meeting in January in which Hoyle “inappropriately touched” the boy.

According to authorities, Hoyle offered the victim $200 last May to help with car repairs and, in exchange for the money, Hoyle wanted to perform oral sex on the boy. Court documents state Hoyle did not provide the victim with the $200.

The EPD was contacted after this incident, and the victim received a text from Hoyle on May 23 in which he expressed interest in sexual activity with the boy, according to official. Erwin police contacted the TBI for its assistance and on May 24, Hoyle was arrested after driving to the Unicoi Walmart to meet the boy, according to officials.

A federal grand jury indicted Hoyle in June.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Hoyle said 2012 was a difficult year for him, as he battled through illnesses.

“I realize there are no excuses, but my life was just in emotional turmoil,” he said.

It was at this point that Hoyle was he came across someone presenting himself as an 18-year-old college student on an adult dating website. Hoyle said it was sometime later that he learned this person was actually a high school student younger than 18 but, by that point, he was too emotionally attached to “break off” the relationship with the boy 23 years his junior.

“I care about him,” Hoyle said. “I’m not the monster the government is making me out to be.”

Hoyle also told Greer he helped the boy financially, but never did so with the thought of receiving sex in exchange. He said the two were friends but his text messages to the minor “got out of hand” prior to his arrest. Hoyle said it was the transmission of “dirty” texts that led to his guilty plea.

Hoyle said the day he went to meet the boy at the Walmart — the day of his arrest — he had received a call from the him in which the boy stated he and his mother had just had a fight. The boy asked Hoyle to meet him at the store, Hoyle said Wednesday.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Helen Smith said Hoyle clearly articulated his interest in sexual activity with the minor, targeting a teenager he found attractive. She said Hoyle went so far as to become a volunteer with a faith-based organization at the victim’s high school to be closer to him.

Smith also said she was “troubled” by letters filed addressed to Greer and filed in District Court prior to Wednesday’s hearing, particularly one written by former Unicoi County sheriff Kent Harris. The letters were written by members of Hoyle’s family and Harris, who said earlier this week he wrote the letter at their request to ask Greer to grant Hoyle leniency on his sentence.

“I am not familiar with the details of the charges against him with the exception of what limited information I have heard or seen in the news,” Harris’ letter states. “I have to say that is is hard to believe that he did commit this or any type of crime. I realize you have a very hard job but I would ask for you to consider leaneasy (sic) on him. I have three children and knowing him as I do I would feel comfortable with him being around my children.”

“Fortunately, the U.S. Congress does not share the values former sheriff Harris demonstrated in his letter,” Smith said.

Hoyle’s attorney, Donny Young, said that while his client has maintained he had no sexual contact with the victim, Hoyle does accept full responsibility for inappropriately communicating with the boy. Young also told Greer that while it does not excuse Hoyle’s conduct, he said the victim had engaged in prior homosexual activity.

“This young man was not the innocent teenager the government has portrayed him to be,” Young said.

Like Smith, Greer said he was disturbed by the letters, as they exhibited a lack of understanding of the seriousness of Hoyle’s offense. He also told the defendant he had exhibited a lack of candor, denial and had attempted to minimalize his offense during Wednesday’s hearing.

“This is a very serious offense, made more serious by your minimalization of your conduct,” Greer said.

Greer also described efforts to paint the victim as culpable as “nonsense.”

“You cannot escape your own responsibility here today by somehow attempting to shift blame to this child,” Greer said to Hoyle.

Greer also recommended Hoyle participate in a sex offender treatment program and ordered him to register a sex offender. Greer also ordered Hoyle to have no further contact with the victim.

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