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Judge takes the night to decide fate of child porn defendant with cancer

TAMPA — A federal judge heard testimony at a sentencing hearing Thursday for Pinellas County child porn trader Michael D. Meister but decided to think about the case overnight before imposing a prison term on the man with incurable cancer.

Meister, 58, returns to court Friday in a better position than a day earlier. That's because U.S. District Judge Richard A. Lazzara agreed to adjust the sentencing formula downward to take into account a physical impairment, permitted under the law.

The Auburn University-trained business consultant, whose work history includes stints at Eckerd Corp. and Arthur Andersen, was diagnosed with a high-risk form of multiple myeloma in early 2011, about six months after a federal grand jury indicted him.

The adjusted sentencing guidelines call for 151 to 188 months in prison. Prosecutor Amanda Kaiser said the government would not object to a sentence on the low end of the range.

Lazzara is bound only by a five-year minimum required for child porn distribution.

Meister's oncologist has described his cancer as inactive but not in remission. She expects him to out-live the three-year mean survival time for such high-risk patients — which, for him, expires in February — but eventually relapse and require a change in treatment.

Psychiatrist Curtis W. Cassidy, who began treating Meister in 2009, as the U.S. Attorney's Office was preparing to file criminal charges, testified that he suffers from bipolar disorder and was not correctly medicated at the time of the offenses.

Cassidy said that a combination of antidepressants and diet pills pushed the "turbo button" on Meister's mania.

"He was much more amped up, much more impulsive, much more hypersexual, because he was not on the medicine he was supposed to be on," Cassidy said.

He used the pornography to "self-stimulate," Cassidy said.

The government introduced into evidence four images of three prepubescent boys, one tied to a bed and the other two under sexual assault by men.

In addition to imposing a sentence on Meister, the judge will also have to decide whether to let him remain free while he appeals the admissibility of the police search that led to the charges.

Staff writer Patty Ryan can be reached at pryan@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3382.

Judge takes the night to decide fate of child porn defendant with cancer 12/19/13 [Last modified: Thursday, December 19, 2013 5:38pm]
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