A Sand Springs man was convicted by a federal jury on Friday of sexually abusing a 13-year-old in 2019.
Jeremy Nicholas Botonis, 44, was convicted of one count of coercion and enticement of a child and one count of abusive sexual contact in Indian Country.
Jurors found that Botonis sent hundreds of sexually explicit messages to the boy and touched him in a sexual manner, U.S. Attorney Clint Johnson said in a press release.
“Jeremy Botonis was a predator lying in wait. He gained the trust of a vulnerable child, then exploited the child for his own sexual gratification,” Johnson said Friday. “The victim in this case displayed incredible strength as he testified in federal court this week.”
Christopher Miller, the acting special agent in charge of the Dallas office of Homeland Security Investigations, said criminals such as Botonis “use social media to gain access to minors and build trust only to exploit them.”
“Thanks to the bravery and testimony of the young victim, the perpetrator was brought to justice, providing a stark reminder to predators who sexually exploit children that HSI will never relent in our collective law enforcement efforts to protect our most vulnerable citizens.”
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During an outing in the woods on Aug. 24, 2019, Botonis placed his hand on the child’s clothed thigh as well as what the victim described as his “private area,” authorities said. Then he tried to kiss the child. When the child rejected the advances and pulled away, Botonis became upset and concerned that the child might tell his parents what had occurred.
Later, Botonis bullied the victim into deleting messages between the two that were associated with Botonis’ name and Facebook account, knowing that those conversations would incriminate him, authorities said.
Botonis continued to communicate with the victim using a Facebook page titled “Wolf Page.” Several weeks later, the victim’s father discovered sexually explicit messages sent to his son from “Wolf Page.” The child then told his father what had happened, and the parent notified authorities.
Federal agents were able to extract messages from the boy’s cellphone, finding 5,000 messages related to the case.
They said Botonis began grooming the victim in May 2019 by sending increasingly flirtatious and suggestive messages in which he talked about the child’s looks, professed his love for the victim, made sexual innuendos, described sex acts and suggested that the two engage in the “furry lifestyle,” a sexual fetish that involves dressing in animal costumes and performing sex acts.
At one point, the child indicated that he was uncomfortable and did not want to receive any further sexual messages.
Prosecutors Christopher Nassar and Stephanie Ihler said at the trial that Botonis bombarded the child with near-daily messages, portraying himself as nonthreatening and trustworthy.
In reality, they said, he was a predator waiting for a vulnerable victim and the right moment to engage.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a Facebook post Friday evening that Botonis had “failed to appear in court” Friday morning as his trial continued, adding that “U.S. Marshals reported that Botonis had cut off his ankle monitor. Botonis was later located and taken into custody.”
Jurors deliberated for about two hours before returning their guilty verdicts Friday evening. Sentencing is tentatively set for September.
Botonis initially was charged in Mayes County District Court, but the case was dismissed in April 2021 because of jurisdictional issues based on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the McGirt case.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office charged Botonis in federal court a month later.