Prosecutors Thursday charged a La Crosse man accused of planning to meet someone he thought was a 14-year-old after he solicited “a little girl” online.

Robert Mattingley, 42, of La Crosse showed up at a house in Holmen with a condom in his pants pocket after engaging in sexually explicit conversations with a police officer posing as the teen, according to the complaint filed in La Crosse County Circuit Court.

Police arrested Mattingley and 55-year-old Michael Connelly of Onalaska, who also is accused of planning to meet who he thought was a teen for sex, during an investigation by the Coulee Region Children’s Internet Protection Task Force as part of Operation New Hope, a weeklong statewide operation focused on child exploitation and online crimes.

Mattingley is charged with use of a computer to facilitate a child sex crime and attempted sexual assault of a child younger than 16. Connelly faces similar charges when he returns to court next week. Both men are free on $5,000 signature bonds and cannot use the internet.

Holmen police on Tuesday found Mattingley’s Craigslist advertisement seeking “a little girl to play with for the night,” according to the complaint. He asked the officer for sexually graphic photographs to prove he was communicating with a teenager.

Mattingley initiated a meeting on Wednesday and sent an e-mail stating, “Just for the record, we are just going for ice cream,” the complaint stated. Police arrested him when he arrived at what he believed was the girl’s house.

Mattingley told police he planned to meet the teen for ice cream and to lecture her about her behavior. He later admitted the meeting was a mistake.

At the jail, Mattingley told his wife on the phone that he planned to meet a teen he met on Craigslist for ice cream.

“His wife said that he doesn’t eat ice cream,” the complaint stated.

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Police and courts reporter

Anne Jungen covers law enforcement and the criminal justice system in La Crosse County. She joined the Tribune reporting staff in December 2005. You can contact her directly at ajungen@lacrossetribune.com or 608-791-8224.