TAMPA — Six years after a technician found sexually explicit images of children on Michael D. Meister's laptop computer, the Pinellas Park man is about to spend his first night in jail.
U.S. District Judge Richard A. Lazzara pulled the plug Wednesday on Meister's bail, denying a Miami defense attorney's request to let the Moffitt Cancer Center patient remain free as he awaits a Dec. 19 sentencing and the results of an expected appeal.
Meister, encumbered only by an ankle monitor since his Aug. 20, 2010, arrest, is under orders to surrender to the U.S. Marshals Service by noon Friday.
He was convicted Sept. 23 of distributing and possessing child porn, including images the government called "sadistic."
He has never been charged with producing porn or touching children, but the distribution charge carries a required sentence of at least five years. And federal law typically regards child pornography felons as violent criminals ineligible for post-conviction bail.
Lazzara concluded that he lacks jurisdiction to make an exception for Meister, reported by a Moffitt oncologist to have a blood cancer, multiple myeloma, and a poor prognosis.
The judge acknowledged that he previously has "expressed an extreme reluctance" to order Meister into custody in part because of "irrefutable evidence that his cancer-related illness may shortly result in his demise." In custody, Meister may not have access to the same medical treatment, Lazzara noted.
But after diving into conflicting parameters of jurisdiction offered by Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Kaiser and defense attorney Michael Rosen, the federal judge decided that only a circuit court of appeals is authorized to give Meister special treatment. Lazzara didn't tackle the topic of whether Meister's situation merits an exception.
Although the judge declined to continue Meister's bail, he did seek to continue his medical care by directing the U.S. Marshals Service and, eventually, the Bureau of Prisons to consult with Meister's oncologist.
Meister was the topic of a Tampa Bay Times report in July that told of his extensive travels for business and pleasure amid a trial often delayed.
He registered as a sex offender Sept. 26, a Florida Department of Law Enforcement spokeswoman said. The registration does not publicly appear on FDLE's website until a felon gets out of prison.