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Child porn gets man, 82, two years in prison

TAMPA — Frank Vollono was 80 years old when he realized he had an interest in child pornography.

The South Pasadena resident sat in federal court Wednesday and attributed his habit of exchanging child porn online to "boredom," calling it a "bad disease" that began evolving two years ago.

"I'm a homebody, and the computer was my nemesis," Vollono told Senior U.S. District Judge Susan Bucklew.

He faced more than seven years in prison after pleading guilty in May to possessing child pornography, but his age presented the judge with an unusual situation.

Prosecutors put forth Internet chats to argue the maximum penalty. Vollono had numerous instant message conversations with a Texas teacher and repeatedly encouraged the man to molest his 14-year-old son, the transcripts showed. Vollono also bragged about his own alleged sexual exploits with minors. His youngest victim, Vollono claimed in the chats: a 9-year-old girl.

"If Mr. Vollono was not 82 years old, there would not be any second thought to what I would do here today," Bucklew said, adding that even after considering Vollono's age, she planned to send him to prison.

Bucklew sentenced him to two years at a federal facility where he can receive mental health treatment. He must register as a sex offender and serve supervised release once he's out that will last almost until his 100th birthday.

"I never, ever touched a child." Vollono said in court. "It was all made up. My right hand to God."

Robert Whitford, a therapist treating Vollono, said Vollono behaved badly and should be held accountable. Though he wasn't certain, Whitford said he took Vollono at his word that Vollono has never molested a child.

"It's imaginary to some degree," Whitford testified. "It produces auto-erotic behavior. I think it's part of a fantasy."

Vollono said he borrowed the language he used from other men he chatted with online when he talked to the man in Texas. He instructed the man where to find young boys or truants and graphically described using wine and pornographic movies to excite an underage boy he claimed to engage in sexual activity.

"I can't live with myself anymore," Vollono told Bucklew, saying that since his arrest, "Most of the time when I shave, I don't even look myself in the eye."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Kaiser, who regularly prosecutes child pornography cases, said, "The idea that this is all fantasy is preposterous."

"This defendant's chats are some of the most egregious I've ever seen," Kaiser said. "This man didn't just possess child pornography. He went the unbelievably further step to encourage other people to molest children."

Vollono's own children flew from New York and California to support him. His daughters said they had painful conversations with their sons to ask if Vollono had ever been inappropriate with them. They said he hadn't.

"There is something wrong with my father," Deborah Maiorano told the judge. "What he did is absolutely despicable. … He's a good guy with some really bad problems."

Son Charles Vollono said his father never exhibited any signs that he had an illegal habit.

"Trust me, I wouldn't be here defending him if I thought he was a pedophile," Charles Vollono said.

Frank Vollono said most of his friends have died or no longer live in the area. He looked to the Internet as a social network. Bucklew urged his children to consider where he should live once he's out of prison.

"If I can put him in a little cage inside my living room and promise you that's where I'd keep him, that's where he'd stay," Maiorano said.

Kevin Graham can be reached at kgraham@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3433.

Child porn gets man, 82, two years in prison 09/10/08 [Last modified: Thursday, September 18, 2008 9:06am]
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