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A finding of diminished capacity has led a Southern District judge to depart downward from the federal sentencing guidelines for a man whose trading in child pornography was found to be peripheral to his consuming obsession with sexual images on the Internet. Judge Robert W. Sweet, over the objection of the government, said he will sentence Stephen Tanasi to nine months in prison after psychological evaluations showed Mr. Tanasi was not a sexual predator and apparently had no interest in adult-child sex. Mr. Tanasi pleaded guilty on May 14, 2002, to receiving and distributing computer files that contained child pornography under 18 U.S.C. 2252(a)(2)(B). Judge Sweet said that, pursuant to a plea agreement with the government, Mr. Tanasi’s sentence under the guidelines was to be somewhere between 33 months and 41 months. But in February 2003, Judge Sweet told the parties he would downwardly depart and sentence Mr. Tanasi to nine months in prison followed by a three-year term of supervisory release, a departure under �5K2.13 of the guidelines where significantly reduced mental capacity “contributed substantially to the commission of the offense.” In an opinion released Monday, Judge Sweet said he was denying the government’s opposition to the departure, which was based on both the court-ordered evaluation of Mr. Tanasi by an independent expert and the evaluation of a defense psychologist. Both experts, Judge Sweet said, concluded that Mr. Tanasi was not a sexual predator. Both portrayed him as a man so obsessed with pornography that he spent an inordinate amount of time collecting thousands of images from the Internet. The defense expert said Mr. Tanasi was “a very na�ve, socially awkward, immature individual with a non-paraphilic sexual disorder: a compulsive addiction to pornography and involvement in non-paraphilic but addictive behavior with his partner.” Paraphilic disorders, Judge Sweet explained, are a “complex of sexual disorders, one of the most common of which is pedophilia.” Even a government expert, Judge Sweet said, concluded that, assuming Mr. Tanasi “had some obsession or compulsion involving adult pornography, his ‘need’ for pornography does not seem to have extended to images of children.” Judge Sweet noted that Mr. Tanasi “suffered from diminished capacity, or an impaired ability to recognize the wrongfulness of his behavior and to control it.” The government expert disagreed, and while he acknowledged that Mr. Tanasi had “some obsession or compulsion involving adult pornography,” he noted that Mr. Tanasi had “nearly complete control” over his behavior. Mr. Tanasi, in his evaluations, said he found child pornography “disgusting.” He also asserted that he initially deleted images of child pornography that were sent to him, and only later saved some images of children to trade with people who asked for it in trade for adult images. The government, the judge noted, agreed that Mr. Tanasi’s collection of child pornography was “only a currency that he knowingly used to obtain the type of pornography in which he was interested.” “However,” Judge Sweet said, Mr. Tanasi’s “involvement with child pornography was not a product of controlled, rational calculation, but rather stemmed from a pornographic obsession in constant need of fueling.” “This obsession escalated to the point where he spent hours collecting and transmitting thousands of pornographic images indiscriminately, becoming hyper-aroused by almost anything and desensitized to child pornography,” he said. Since Mr. Tanasi’s diminished capacity was not related to drugs, the offense did not involve violence or the threat of violence, and he has no criminal history, Judge Sweet said that “there is no bar to downward departure” when he sentences Mr. Tanasi on March 19. Assistant U.S. Attorney Christina Paqlia Bischoff represented the government. M. Hatcher Norris of Butler Norris & Gold in Hartford, Conn., represented Mr. Tanasi.

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