Friday, December 15, 2017
News Roundup

Pinellas child porn convict loses bail after more images found

TAMPA — Child pornographer Michael D. Meister's latest adventures on the Internet have cost the cancer patient his freedom, opening the door for a seven-year prison sentence to begin before his appeal is decided.

A federal judge revoked the Pinellas County man's post-trial release Friday, a week after Meister was found with more porn and arrested for accessing the Internet in violation of his bail agreement.

It's unclear whether Meister will face more criminal charges for the new materials. Prosecutor Amanda Kaiser said the images appear to depict teen boys but analysis could take two weeks.

Meister, 58, was convicted in September of possessing and distributing child porn. U.S. District Judge Richard A. Lazzara granted him bail to ensure care at Moffitt Cancer Center for a type of multiple myeloma, an incurable blood cancer.

But bail was off the table Friday.

"I have no other alternative but to revoke his post-trial release," Lazzara said at the start of a hearing on the matter.

The judge rebuffed a proposal by defense attorney Michael Rosen to allow Meister out of jail long enough to get his financial affairs in order and then surrender voluntarily in late May with the aim of seeking placement at a Bureau of Prisons medical center in Butner, N.C.

The judge suggested he might have entertained the idea of self-surrender had it been proposed by Meister under other circumstances.

"He didn't do that," the judge said. "He willy nilly violated the terms of his post-trial release."

Rosen described Meister as having hit bottom.

"I think the week in jail made him realize there's no point in further fighting," Rosen said, though he doesn't plan to drop an appeal.

Meister came to court with broken eyeglasses taped together.

The judge quizzed him again about his medical care at the Pinellas County Jail, which has a contract to hold federal inmates while they await trial or placement in prison. The Bureau of Prisons has not yet assigned Meister to a facility, but the Butner center treats myeloma patients and was the setting for a recent study of child pornographers.

Meister said he asks every day at the Pinellas jail for his medicines. Before his arrest, he was on a regimen that included oxycodone and several psychiatric drugs, his attorney said. But as of Friday morning, Meister said he had been given only methadone and a promise of medicine for his bipolar disorder.

Rosen said he would draft an order for the judge to sign conveying Meister's medical needs at the jail.

"I'm not happy about what he's done," Lazzara said, "but at the same time, I realize he has some serious medical issues."

Cristen Rensel, spokeswoman for the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, told the Tampa Bay Times that incoming inmates are screened by nurses. But she could not immediately say what protocols are in place to deal with pre-existing prescription drug needs.

Meister's booking record indicates he is held in the jail's health care division.

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