EVANSTON — A former Evanston City Council candidate who was arrested last fall on charges of manufacturing and possessing child pornography has been sentenced to a minimum of 15 years behind bars. Maurizio Mariotti appeared in Third District Court on the morning of Tuesday, June 4, for sentencing after changing his plea to guilty on eight of the 15 counts against him.
Mariotti was arrested on Oct. 30, 2018 — just days before the general election in which he was listed as a candidate for city council — and charged with five counts of sexual exploitation of children related to manufacturing child pornography and 10 counts of sexual exploitation of children for possessing child pornography.
The Evanston Police Department began investigating Mariotti following a complaint received in spring 2018 from a now-adult female victim, who had been involved in a lengthy relationship with Mariotti when she was 16 and 17 years of age and he was in his early 30s. After the execution of a search warrant, EPD detectives discovered multiple videos of the victim and Mariotti engaging in explicit sexual conduct, created in spring and summer of 2016 when she was 17 years old.
Those videos resulted in the charges of manufacturing child pornography.
However, detectives also discovered multiple pornographic images of children on multiple electronic devices seized during the investigation, including images of both boys and girls in explicitly sexual poses. The children in the photos ranged in age from toddler to pre-pubescent, resulting in the 10 additional charges of possessing child pornography.
During Tuesday’s hearing, EPD Detective Jake Williams testified about the discovery of the images found on USB and Kindle devices in Mariotti’s home and described both the videos and still images that were admitted as evidence in the case.
Although Mariotti, through his attorney Dean Stout, had reached a plea agreement with her office, Uinta County Attorney Loretta Howieson-Kallas said she anticipated the defense to argue in favor of probation at the sentencing hearing. However, she recommended Judge Joseph Bluemel impose a minimum sentence in the case, specifically noting the videos created by Mariotti were done in a way so as to dramatize the youth of the victim and were of a graphic nature to be used for sexual gratification.
Additionally, Howieson-Kallas said the photos depicting children in various states of undress in sexual positions victimized multiple different children who had been identified through a Crimes Against Children Task Force. She said her recommendation was for a sentence of 5-10 years for the guilty pleas on three counts of manufacturing child pornography, to run concurrently, and a sentence of 2-4 years for each of the five counts of possessing child pornography on which Mariotti pleaded guilty, to run consecutively to the manufacturing sentence and to each other.
Stout did indeed argue in favor of probation on behalf of his client, saying he believed the time already served of 217 days since his arrest along with supervised probation would be appropriate. Stout said the videos were created by two people in a consenting relationship and were not distributed in any fashion, while also pointing out the victim was just a few weeks shy of her 18th birthday when they were made.
As for the still images, Stout said the date stamp on them indicated they were downloaded in 2012 to 2013, and there was no evidence to suggest they had been accessed since that time. Stout further said that, although the children in the photos were nude or partially nude and in sexual poses, none of them were of children actually engaged in sexual acts.
Stout said his client had taken responsibility for his actions with the guilty pleas and had recognized his actions were wrong. Further, he said Mariotti had no prior criminal record, was fully employed prior to his arrest, owned a home in the community and was a military veteran. Stout argued Mariotti’s past military service made him a particularly good candidate for probation because it demonstrated he could live under the structure of intensive probation.
When asked if he had a statement to make on his own behalf, Mariotti articulately addressed the court and said he had changed his pleas because he wanted to take responsibility for his actions and recognized they were illegal “by the letter of the law.” He claimed he still loved and cared for the victim in the videos and that it was hurtful to read her victim impact statement, in which she said she had suffered negative impacts from their relationship.
Mariotti said the still images had been acquired through a web crawler program and said, “I can’t say I specifically looked at or selected them,” but did acknowledge they were in his possession. “If I had known they were there, I would have deleted them,” he said.
Mariotti also asked Bluemel to consider probation, noting he wanted to be a productive member of the community and pointing out that he had not skipped town even when he knew he was under investigation after the search of his home.
In delivering his sentence, Bluemel said he had taken all factors into consideration, including Mariotti’s employment and military history. However, Bluemel said he also needed to consider that even if the images had been downloaded by a web crawler, having such a web crawler did not weigh in Mariotti’s favor.
Bluemel also addressed the fact Mariotti and the victim in the videos were involved in a consenting relationship for an extensive period of time, noting the consenting nature of the relationship was not a defense because, “Certain things are illegal no matter what, and statutory rape is one of them. It doesn’t matter if it’s consensual or not intended for distribution, it’s wrong.”
When issuing the sentence, Bluemel said granting probation would unduly depreciate the seriousness of the crime and instead he was going to impose the sentence Howieson-Kallas had recommended, which amounts to a minimum of 15 years and up to 30 years in prison. Bluemel said he would recommend Mariotti be considered for any sex offender treatment programs available during his incarceration.
The other seven counts were dismissed and Mariotti was remanded to the Uinta County Sheriff’s Office pending his transfer to the Wyoming State Penitentiary.