Ex-professor sentenced in online sex sting

Posted: April 14, 2012

In March 2011, a former Rider University professor went to Philadelphia International Airport to meet a woman and her 13-year-old daughter he had met in an online chat room.

In reality, Austin Ayers Winther had been communicating with an undercover police officer from Boise, Idaho, who was posing as both the woman and her daughter, "Jen."

Winther arrived at the airport expecting to have sex with the pair at a nearby hotel. Instead, he was met by federal agents.

Winther, 65, of West Mount Airy, was sentenced Friday to more than seven years in federal prison and 10 years of supervised release. U.S. District Judge Jan DuBois also ordered Winther to register as a sex offender when he is released from prison.

Winther has been in federal custody since his arrest. He pleaded guilty in November to enticing a minor to travel interstate for illegal sex and to attempted transfer of obscenity to a minor.

DuBois, a federal judge since 1988, said Winther's online communications were as "graphic and lurid" as any he had seen in such a case in his years on the bench.

Before sentencing, Winther apologized and told DuBois his illicit conduct "appalled and sickened" him.

Defense attorney Paul Hetznecker said Winther had led an otherwise "exemplary" life and had been committed to social justice as a young man and to education as a professor. Winther is tutoring inmates at the Federal Detention Center, Hetznecker said.

Hetznecker said he could not explain why Winther committed the illegal acts. "He did something very stupid, aberrant, and criminal," he said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Sherri Stephan said Winther used skills he acquired as a professor and applied them to exploiting someone he thought was a child. Winther taught in the Graduate School of Education at Rider, near Trenton, from 2005 until he went on disability leave in October 2009.

Stephan said Winther tried to get "Jen" accustomed to "blunt sexual language" and introduced her to a wide range of sex acts.

"He became a teacher in a very deviant, sexual way," Stephan said, pursuing people he thought were a woman and her 13-year-old daughter for more than five months.

Contact Michael Hinkelman at 215-854-2656, hinkelm@phillynews.com, or follow @MHinkelman on Twitter.