Pittsfield woman pleads guilty to molesting child in blackmail case
PITTSFIELD — A city woman who was duped and blackmailed into molesting an 18-month-old child in her care pleaded guilty Tuesday to multiple charges in Berkshire Superior Court.
Erica Emerling, 31, appeared before Judge John Agostini and pleaded guilty to charges of indecent assault and battery on a child under 14 and reckless endangerment of a child. Her sentencing will take place in late February after she undergoes a court-ordered mental health evaluation.
Assistant Berkshire District Attorney Joseph Yorlano said the state is considering a sentence of 2 1/2 years in jail, followed by a period of probation, but the final recommendation will depend on the results of the evaluation.
The scheme was orchestrated by Gary Montana, 33, of Hudson, N.Y., who began an online relationship with Emerling, posing as both a man named Brian Austin and his "brother," Mike Moore. Over time, Emerling considered herself in a relationship with Austin, despite never having met him. At some point, she sent him compromising photos.
Yorlano said the two made arrangements to meet several times, but those plans always ended up being canceled. Around Dec. 31, 2017, the two made arrangements to spend New Year's Eve together.
Austin told Emerling that his brother, Mike, would pick her up — and the child — and take them to a motel in Pittsfield. He later communicated to Emerling, who was at the motel with the child, that he wouldn't be able to make the trip, but he persuaded her to have sex with Mike.
The next day, Austin contacted Emerling and said she needed to perform a sex act on the child or he would release the explicit photos she had sent him. She obliged, and Montana, posing as Mike, filmed the incident.
Yorlano said the investigation into the case began in early 2018 after police received information about the video of the child's assault and performed a well-being check.
Emerling allowed police access to her phone, which contained incriminating text message threads between herself and Montana.
Montana pleaded guilty in December to one count each of posing a child in the nude, aggravated indecent assault and battery on a person under 14. He was sentenced to 13 to 18 years in prison.
Emerling is represented by attorney Joshua Hochberg.
Bob Dunn can be reached at email@example.com, at @BobDunn413 on Twitter and 413-496-6249.
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