Appeals court orders tougher sentence for man accused of transporting Mississippi juvenile for sexual activity
Published 7:10 am Saturday, November 11, 2023
A man convicted of transporting a minor from Mississippi to Louisiana to engage in illegal sexual activity should have received a harsher penalty when sentenced, according to a federal appeals court.
Ronald Latiolais, 26, was convicted in March by a federal jury and sentenced to five years in federal prison for the crime.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said U.S. District Court Judge Mike Mills erred in his sentence, which did not meet federal sentencing guidelines.
Ten years is the federal minimum sentence for transporting a minor in interstate commerce with the intent to engage in unlawful sexual activity. Federal judges do not always have to follow the minimum sentence guidelines, but only in limited instances.
The appeals court upheld the man’s 2022 conviction but vacated his sentence and sent the case back to court, where he will be sentenced again.
According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, Latiolais met a Mississippi teen online and drove from Louisiana to Mississippi to meet the 13-year-old in April of 2019.
Despite knowing she was underage, Latiolais went to the teen’s house during the night, cut the screen on the minor’s bedroom window, and escaped with the teen. Latiolais admitted to committing sexual acts on the minor during a stop on the drive from Mississippi to Louisiana. The jury considered the testimony of the minor and her parents, as well as a Special Agent from the FBI and a Special Agent with the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation. Latiolais was found guilty of transporting a minor in interstate commerce with the intent to engage in unlawful sexual activity.