Virginia man sentenced to 15 years in child sex case

A Virginia man who was 26 years old when he drove to Claiborne County with the expectation of having sex with a 13-year-old girl has been sentenced to 15 years in federal prison. Gregory Lynn McKnight, who has been in custody since January 2019, will have to serve nearly 13 years before he will be eligible for restricted release.

“This prosecution represents part of our efforts to work with law enforcement agencies to protect children from persons who try to groom children online for child pornography and other illicit purposes,” said J. Douglas Overbey, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee, said in a release.

McKnight pleaded guilty earlier to attempting to entice or coerce an underage girl to produce an obscene video and traveling across state lines for the purpose of engaging in illicit sexual activity. He lived in Clintwood, Virginia, about 100 miles from Claiborne County.

U.S. District Judge Leon Jordan recommended that McKnight serve his time at a federal lockup in either Lexington, Kentucky or Butner, North Carolina. He will be under court supervision for 15 years after he’s released, and will have to register as a convicted sex offender for the rest of his life.

McKnight began communicating with the Claiborne County teen through social media after meeting her in a bowling alley. At some point, the teen’s mother learned that McKnight was sending sexually explicit messages to her daughter, and the mother assumed her daughter’s online identity, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew T. Morris.

From that point on, McKnight was talking with the teen’s mother and she was taking notes.

“(McKnight’s) online communications became increasingly sexual in nature and the defendant began requesting that the minor send him sexually explicit photographs of herself, as well as sending her digital files depicting his penis,” Morris wrote in the prosecution sentencing memo.

McKnight agreed to meet who he believed to be the 13-year-old girl at a rendezvous point in Harrogate.

He was carrying a box of condoms when law enforcement officials converged on his vehicle, according to court documents.