Friday, April 20, 2018
News Roundup

Pinellas Park child porn defendant faced trial yet no one checked his iPad

TAMPA — On Myspace, he claimed to be 17 and said he loved to "trade pics." His online friends were as young as 12, court records allege, and he told one, "dude, ur drop dead SEXY."

Michael D. Meister was actually in his 50s. He did like trading photos. A prosecutor says Meister kept webcam videos of boys exposing themselves and images of sexually abused children "wincing in pain."

But the government's intimate knowledge of the Pinellas Park business consultant's Web surfing habits stops abruptly with his August 2010 arrest on child pornography charges.

No one has checked Meister's Internet use during the three years he has been free on a federal signature bond, prosecutor Amanda Kaiser said in a court document filed late Monday.

"Despite making defendants sign Fourth Amendment waivers, rarely does Pretrial Services actually use the waiver to examine computers," the assistant U.S. attorney wrote.

Meanwhile, Meister's GPS monitor shows he has been spending "unusually long periods of time in areas where there was free Wi-Fi," Kaiser wrote.

Kaiser said it's impossible to supervise a child porn defendant who is allowed to travel, send emails and use an iPad.

"The government simply cannot look over Meister's shoulder constantly to see if he is only accessing emails," she wrote.

Meister, now 57, was convicted Sept. 23 of child pornography possession and distribution. He has not yet spent a night in jail. His sentencing is Dec. 19. He faces at least five years and up to 40.

His attorney, Michael Rosen, has asked U.S. District Judge Richard A. Lazzara to allow Meister to remain free pending sentencing and appeal, in part because he suffers from a rare blood cancer, multiple myeloma.

Lazzara indicated at the trial he was considering it and asked Kaiser to respond. Amid 26 pages of legal arguments, she brought up the Myspace exchanges, noting that Meister has acted in a "deceptive and predatory nature and should be detained as a danger to the community."

In an interview last week, defense attorney Rosen said Meister understands his responsibilities while on bail and "knows what he's allowed to do and not allowed to do."

When U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Wilson granted bail to Meister in 2010, the court order appeared to contradict itself.

"The defendant shall not have any access to Internet providers," it stated. "He may have access to email electronic transmissions, provided that he give up his Fourth Amendment claim and allow examination of the computers by Pretrial Services."

The Pretrial Services office for the Middle District of Florida declined to comment about Meister or the monitoring of computers in sex crime cases.

But on Sept. 18, its leader was among court officials telling Congress of the dire consequences of funding cuts. Shelia Jacoby said her 17 officers cover 35 counties.

They see more sex crime defendants than any other such office in the country, she said.

Patty Ryan can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3382.

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