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October 25, 2008

Intriguing report on woman facing federal child porn sentencing

This local story from Iowa describes some challenging sentencing issues raised in an unusual case in which a female defendant is facing sentencing following her plea to federal child porn charges.  Here are some of the details from the sentencing hearing:

Heather Fiorella participated in taking nude photos of a 14-year-old girl who was in her care but regarded them as child erotica, not child pornography. Fiorella admitted to doing something despicable and being ashamed for her behavior but said she had no interest in child pornography. It was her boyfriend, John Shuler, who liked it.

Fiorella faces up to 30 years in federal prison for three counts of possessing child pornography. She pleaded guilty in December 2007. Shuler, her co-defendant in the crime, was sentenced in September to more than 39 years in prison for conspiracy to produce child pornography and production of child pornography.

U.S. District Chief Judge Linda Reade said she wanted more time to look at the sentencing guidelines and consider the arguments presented in the hearing Friday before sentencing Fiorella.

Fiorella and Shuler took nude photos of two girls, ages 14 and 16, and Shuler produced a child pornography video, according to court testimony. Michael Lahammer, Fiorella's defense attorney, tried to explain Fiorella's actions by saying she was victim of domestic abuse.... Mary Ann Pedde, an advocate with the Domestic Violence Intervention Program in Iowa City, testified about how domestic abuse victims behave and how they can be controlled by the batterer with drugs, sex, alcohol and threats to the victim's children. She said many victims will also commit criminal offenses for batterers.... Lahammer argued that Fiorella was under the control of Shuler and the child pornography was his idea. Fiorella thought the photos of the girl were going to be nudist or child erotica type photos.

[Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean] Berry said a video the court has in evidence shows differently. There was a hidden camera in operation when Fiorella and Shuler brought in the 14-year-old and encouraged her to do sexually explicit acts. On the tape, Fiorella is also talking about having sex with Shuler in front of the girl....

Lahammer argued that Fiorella didn't know there was a hidden camera. Berry said it was obvious the way Fiorella positioned the girl in front of the hidden camera that she knew. He encouraged Reade to take another look at the video. Berry said it was unreasonable to think Fiorella didn't know Shuler had child pornography in the house they shared. Investigators found child pornography on the same disc as the nude photos of the teen and on Shuler's computer, along with several discs.

October 25, 2008 at 09:57 AM | Permalink

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Comments

Color me confused. If the defense is right, and there were no sexually explicit acts than the defendant should not have plead guilty in the first place. How is this an issue at sentencing?

Posted by: Monty | Oct 25, 2008 5:06:22 PM

Domestic violence is a real issue but it shouldn't be used as a cop out. Can you imagine the reaction if a man argued that his wife made him possess child porn because he was a victim of domestic violence? Men can be victims of domestics violence too. But it says a good deal about the rampant sexual bias in these type of cases that very few people would believe such a claim.

It's interesting to me because he is, in effect, being charged and convicted of domestic violence without a trial. The article says that he was convicted of child porn charges, not domestic violence charges. So how is the claim that he engaged in domestic violence anything but hearsay?

It's a good example of the gap in the SC 6th amendment thinking. A fact which enhances a sentence has to be found by a jury, but a fact which lowers a sentence does not.

Posted by: Daniel | Oct 25, 2008 10:20:43 PM

Heather is my ex-wife, and i can tell you that she is no victim. Her attorney should be ashamed. What hasn't been reported is that she allow this guy to carry around naked pictures of our daughter in his wallet. I pray that the judge gives Heather the same sentence as her sick-o boyfriend, and sees through all this garbage.

Posted by: Brian Nowak | Dec 6, 2008 10:12:33 PM

"It's interesting to me because he is, in effect, being charged and convicted of domestic violence without a trial. The article says that he was convicted of child porn charges, not domestic violence charges. So how is the claim that he engaged in domestic violence anything but hearsay?"

Everything that I have read suggests that 'sentencing enhancements' based on hearsay evidence is perfectly constitutional according to the supreme court.

One case I was reading up on was about a man being sentenced for drug dealing getting basically a life sentence for a drug dealing charge that would normally carry a 10 year sentence but the prosecution used the fact they were certain (but not with enough evidence to prosecute) he was also guilty of murder. Not sure what happened with that case but it is very screwed up they can do this.

Posted by: Mark | Dec 14, 2008 6:38:05 PM

Gruesome.. I couldnt imagine some people could do this to a child..

Posted by: baby carriers backpacks | Mar 27, 2009 3:42:20 PM

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