Cuba, U.S.A. co-operate to put child pornographer away for 100 years
MIAMI (AP) - A man was sentenced Friday to 100 years in prison for recording his sex acts with at least 120 children in Cuba and Ecuador and distributing the videotapes and CDs to customers in the United States.
Angel Rafael Mariscal was found guilty in April of producing, importing and selling child pornography. Judge Cecilia Altonaga said his crimes were so reprehensible "that it gravitates at or near the bottom rung of human behaviour."
She said Mariscal, 45, was able to "perfect the business" as actor, producer and distributor by preying on poor children on his regular travels to foreign countries. Investigators said he charged customers as much as $975 US for custom-made videos.
The judge watched excerpts from about 10 tapes as a pediatrician with expertise in child abuse estimated eight victims were under age 12 and 13 more were under 16.
"It was difficult to watch," she said.
Investigators believe Mariscal, who is HIV positive, was in the child pornography business for 10 years. He was arrested in September 2002 in Miami Beach, following a mail-order sting and the discovery of a storage facility filled with videotapes, customer lists and photo equipment.
The Cuban government, co-operating with U.S. investigators, tracked down nine victims using still images lifted from tapes and disks; Ecuador identified three victims. Cuba prosecuted three women and a man who helped recruit girls and boys for the illicit productions.
None of the 12 children tracked down have initially tested positive for HIV.
Pleading for a shorter sentence, Mariscal said he doesn't have long to live because he tested positive for HIV in 1994. He said he became a sex addict after going to the United States in 1980 and blamed easy access to pornography in New York City's Times Square.
"I am not a freak of nature. I'm just an average guy," he said.
"Addiction to pornography is not something society is willing to accept."
He said he now knows how damaging his addiction was.
"When I was engaged in sexual activity with these girls, I really thought I was somehow helping them," he said.
"I knew it was illegal. I didn't think it was wrong."
Defence lawyer David Hodge said he would appeal, acknowledging: "It's
a horrible crime. It's a sad crime."