SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

March 27, 2013

Veteran gets 4 months for child porn

Lawyer: Asperger's syndrome a factor

BY JULIE MANGANIS
STAFF WRITER

---- — MARBLEHEAD — An Iraq War veteran whose lawyer blamed Asperger’s syndrome for the collection of child pornography found on his computer last year will serve four months in jail, a judge has ruled.

Matthew Macaro, 34, of 26 Nonantum Road, Marblehead, pleaded guilty yesterday in Salem Superior Court to six counts of possessing child pornography and one count of disseminating it via a peer-to-peer file-sharing service.

While prosecutors were seeking a three- to five-year state prison term and his lawyer urged probation, Judge Howard Whitehead said a four-month jail term, followed by three years of supervised probation, is in line with what others facing similar charges have been receiving for sentences lately in Essex County.

But Whitehead warned that if Macaro violates any of the conditions of that probation — including random inspections of his computer to check for child porn — he could face up to 45 years behind bars.

Macaro was identified during a state police investigation into file-sharing services last March.

Trooper Michael Murphy discovered pornography being made available by a computer that he traced to the home Macaro shares with his mother. The trooper got a search warrant for the computer and turned up more than 50 images of child pornography, including still pictures and videos.

Patten told the judge that the images display a variety of sexual acts involving children, as well as images of children being posed in lewd positions and one showing a child tied to a bed.

The distribution charge stemmed from the fact that Macaro was offering to share the files with anyone else on the peer-to-peer network, the prosecutor said.

Defense lawyer Jessica Hedges, who urged Whitehead not to send her client to jail, said Macaro received commendations for his Army service during the Iraq War.

After the charges were brought against Macaro last year, he voluntarily sought treatment from Dr. Carol Ball, an Arlington psychotherapist who specializes in treating sex offenders, his lawyer said. Ball concluded that Macaro is not a “deviant,” Hedges said, but instead suffers from Asperger’s syndrome.

Asperger’s, which has become more widely known in recent years, is a diagnosis on the “autism spectrum,” in which a person exhibits difficulty maintaining social connections.

Hedges told the judge that her client suffers from a compulsion to collect things, and that while he collected the child pornography, testing did not show that he was sexually interested in children.

There is also no evidence that he has ever had any sexual contact with a child.

That’s one factor that Whitehead noted in his sentencing.

The judge said that he’s reviewed similar cases in Essex County and noticed that the sentences being handed down are “generally four, five, six months.”

The judge said that the defendant’s Asperger’s diagnosis and his military service in Iraq were also factors in his decision.

“That does count for something with me and, hopefully, many of my fellow citizens,” Whitehead said.

Once released, Macaro will be required to register as a sex offender and undergo a mental health evaluation and sex offender treatment if deemed necessary. He may also be required to wear a GPS bracelet to monitor his whereabouts.

The judge said he would not ban Macaro from using a computer for other purposes, saying a total ban would be impractical and akin to barring him from using a telephone or a car, but warned him that he’ll have to hand the computer over to a probation officer for random inspections.

Macaro, who had been free on $10,000 bail before yesterday, was taken into custody in the courtroom.

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at jmanganis@salemnews.com or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.