SALT LAKE CITY — A Salt Lake man groomed two 6-year-old girls in Indiana by playing video games with them, eventually convincing them to send inappropriate photos, according to charging documents.
Danny Steven Hardman, 43, was charged Friday in 3rd District Court by the Utah Attorney General’s Office with four counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, a second-degree felony.
On April 13, Facebook detected four images of child pornography that were sent to Hardman via Facebook messenger, charging documents state.
“The Facebook account that sent the images was identified as belonging to a 6-year-old girl residing in Indiana,” according to the charges.
The child’s Facebook account was set up as a “permitted child account associated with a parent Facebook account,” and the girl’s mother “would have needed to approve the contact prior to any communication.”
Authorities in Indiana interviewed the girl’s mother on Thursday and she admitted that she approved Facebook contact between her daughter and Hardman, the charges state. She said they played online video games together.
“The mother also stated she had no idea Hardman had been chatting with (her daughter),” according to the charges.
The mother identified the girls in the photos sent to Hardman as her daughter and her daughter’s cousin, according to investigators.
When investigators served a search warrant on Hardman’s home and interviewed him, he “admitted to chatting with (the girl) almost every day for over a year, both by Facebook messenger and video chat. He stated that many times these chats would last over an hour, but insisted they were never sexual,” the charges state.
Hardman said he had seen two of the four photos that were sent, but claimed he did not see two others, even though “Facebook reported that all four images had been sent within 15 seconds of one another,” according to the charges.
Prosecutors have requested Hardman be jailed on a high $500,000 bail.
“Hardman has been chatting, both by video and text, with a 6-year-old girl while receiving sexually explicit images of her and her 6-year-old cousin,” the charges state. “Hardman has built a close personal relationship with the victims in this case through more than a yearlong pattern of online grooming behavior.”