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Two years after sextortion conviction, Seekonk man still free

Target 12

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – A Seekonk man has yet to start serving his prison sentence more than two years after he was convicted in a sextortion case involving a teenager, and investigators say he was recently caught looking at the victim’s profile on social media.

In December 2016, a federal jury convicted David Ackell, 51, of Seekonk, of one count of stalking after a four-day trial at federal court in Concord, N.H.

Investigators said Ackell threatened to send explicit photos of a teenage girl to her family and friends if she didn’t do what he wanted. The victim – who was 16 when she first made contact with Ackell – was from New Hampshire.

Ackell was sentenced to 33 months in federal prison, but his punishment was put on hold until his appeal was heard by the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

In November, the appellate court upheld the conviction, dismissing Ackell’s argument that the case should be tossed because the federal stalking statute violates the First Amendment, and that the government didn’t present enough evidence to support the jury’s verdict. 

Ackell’s attorney, William Christie, convinced U.S. District Judge Joseph N. Laplante to keep his client from federal prison while they appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In January, Ackell filed his appeal with the high court, but it has yet to be heard.

Ackell’s freedom is being challenged, however. As part of the conditions of his release, Ackell was ordered to have no contact with the victim and barred from using a computer “or any internet capable device except for work related purposes.”

According to court filings, the FBI was notified that Ackell had viewed the victim’s LinkedIn profile earlier this month.

When questioned by FBI agents, Ackell admitted to looking up the victim on the networking website but “claimed he did not know it was illegal to view her account, and stated that he has not tried to reach out to her in any other format.” 

Federal probation officials are asking the judge to revoke Ackell’s bail and have him remanded to federal custody pending the Supreme Court’s decision. A hearing is scheduled for Wednesday at federal court in New Hampshire.

An email to Christie was not immediately returned.

As Target 12 has previously reported, federal prosecutors said Ackell met the victim online in 2012. He promised the teenager he would not save any explicit images she sent to him. When the victim turned 18, she informed Ackell — who was a commercial airline pilot — that she wanted to end the relationship.

“Ackell prevented this from happening by, among other things, threatening to send the victim’s photographs to her family and friends,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office previously said in a statement. “He also told the victim that if she ended their relationship, a 14-year-old girl would be raped.”

According to court files obtained by Target 12, “the conversations became more sexually graphic” and the girl told him she was “uncomfortable and did not want to continue to send photos of herself or speak in a sexual manner.”

Prosecutors say “Ackell replied that she was his ‘slave.'”

At one point the girl told investigators she became depressed and suicidal.

Tim White (twhite@wpri.com) is the Target 12 investigative reporter and host of Newsmakers for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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