Nathan Portnoy (Montgomery County Police Department)
ROCKVILLE, Md. -
A soldier in the Virginia National Guard charged with the sexual solicitation and kidnapping of a 12-year-old Bethesda girl made his first court appearance Tuesday.
Police say Nathan Portnoy had an online and cell phone relationship with the girl for about three months. The girl portrayed herself as an adult during their online conversations.
According to police, after several phone calls during which Portnoy discussed having sexual intercourse with the victim, he suggested they meet.
Authorities say Portnoy and the 12-year-old met and played soccer at a park near her home in Bethesda on August 24 at around 5:30 p.m. Portnoy suggested the two go to the dinner and the victim entered Portnoy's vehicle. After a short distance, the girl requested Portnoy to stop the vehicle and she exited the vehicle.
The victim's sister and the sister's boyfriend, who were driving in the area at the time, saw the 12-year-old leave Portnoy's vehicle and began to follow Portnoy, according to police. They say Portnoy pointed a gun at them through the back window of his vehicle. The family members stopped following Portnoy and called police.
Investigators using vehicle registration records identified the suspect as Portnoy and he was arrested and charged the next day with first-degree assault, kidnapping of a child under 16, and sexual solicitation of a minor.
Police say on August 30, a search warrant was executed on Portnoy's vehicle. Evidence collected included a loaded handgun, ammunition, gun holsters, handcuffs, zip ties, rope, a black ski mask and several boxes of condoms.
In court Tuesday, Portnoy's defense attorney says it did not happen that way. Portnoy was described in court as a model citizen who served his country in Iraq and Kuwait. He works as a lab assistant at Walter Reed. He is the sole caretaker for his mother who is suffering from cancer. More than a dozen people of family and friends came to court to vouch for Portnoy.
His defense attorney told the judge there was no kidnapping. The girl got in and out of the car on her own and there was no sexual contact. The reason Portnoy brandished a gun was out of self-defense for being chased at high speeds through the streets of Montgomery County.
"It shows the dangers of the use of social networking, not just by a minor child who could get molested or assaulted, but by an adult who could get placed in this situation and that's what happened to him. He suspected it [and] left," said Paul Kemp, Portnoy's attorney.
Prosecutors say Portnoy was alone with the victim for at least 10 minutes and there was some sort of sexual activity. They also played soccer together suggesting Portnoy must have gotten a good sense of the girl's age.
After hearing arguments from both sides in the case, the judge reduced Portnoy's bond from $1 million down to $300,000. Portnoy's next court date is on September 28 for a preliminary hearing.
Before his arrest, Portnoy was hailed a hero for his actions during this summer's derecho on June 29 where he pulled a 19-year-old away from a downed power line and attempted CPR on the man before he died of electrocution.