SALEM, Mass. — A Lawrence man already convicted of attacking and beating a transgender woman has been indicted on child pornography charges.
Benjamin Espino, 44, of 105 Boxford St., was indicted by the Essex County grand jury last week on charges of posing a child in sexual conduct and attempted extortion, according to court papers.
Espino faces arraignment in Salem Superior Court on the charges in the near future. The penalties he faces if convicted will be more severe than at the district court level.
Authorities arrested Espino in August after an incident they say involves a 17-year-old girl he met online while posing as another teenager.
Espino said he was age 17 and used the screen name "Willy Wasp" when he emailed the girl, according to a police report.
The 17-year-old girl reported incidents to her counselor at Lawrence High School who in turn notified authorities.
The girl said "Willy Wasp" started messaging her in March or April 2017 after first approaching her in "Google hangouts" online.
"Willy Wasp" threatened to post nude photos of the girl online if she did not submit to his instructions and requests, according to a Lawrence police detective's report.
He was arrested in August by officers and troopers assigned to the Lawrence police gang unit and the Massachusetts State Police Violent Fugitive Apprehension Team, said Lawrence police Chief Roy Vasque.
Espino was held on $75,000 bail after his arraignment in Lawrence District Court, according to court records.
The police report indicates detectives applied for and executed various search warrants, including for cell phone and computer records, during the investigation.
The Eagle-Tribune does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault without their consent.
In February, Espino pleaded guilty to beating a transgender woman outside the Ward 6 Social Club on Nov. 19, 2016.
Superior Court Judge Thomas Dreschler sentenced Espino to five years on probation, ordered him to attend an anger management course and wear an alcohol monitoring bracelet.
The plea agreement reached also contained a stipulation that a civil rights charge against Espino be continued without a finding for five years and then dismissed as long as Espino complies with the terms of his probation on three other counts, all of them assault and battery charges, to which Espino pleaded guilty.
The beating victim, 20 at the time, was a friend of Espino's common-law wife. They, and several other people, were at the social club that evening when Espino's wife began dancing with the victim.
Espino was angered by the situation, a prosecutor said, and yelled "Why are you dancing with that," followed by a slur.
Later, as the group left the club, Espino attacked the victim, punching her, kicking her while wearing work boots, and then ripping off braids she was wearing, again uttering the same slur.
One of the assault and battery counts in this case was a felony. Espino could face up to 10 years in jail if he's found in violation of his probation.
Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter @EagleTribJill.