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Judge won't jail accused Ill. child porn collector
Associated Press
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Published: 6/11/2009 12:02 AM

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A judge on Wednesday refused to jail a former school bus driver facing child pornography charges despite pleas from his suburban Chicago neighbors who want him kept far away from their children.

About two dozen residents of Plainfield attended a Chicago court hearing in the case against Mario Meschino, 41. U.S. Magistrate Judge Martin C. Ashman ordered Meschino to turn over his camera and close his window blinds but said the case doesn't merit he be jailed before trial.

Meschino was arrested May 27 and released on bond after Ashman agreed that he be held in home confinement with electronic monitoring. Neighbors want that reversed.

Meschino is accused of photographing neighborhood children, and parents said some kids are so scared they wake up in the middle of the night. One girl went to the family swimming pool with a towel over her head, afraid she would be photographed.

"We put this pool in our back yard because we wanted to keep a close eye on our children -- we made this investment," Naidi Mack, a mother who lives behind Meschino, said after the hearing.

Ashman ordered Meschino to draw the shades on his windows that face the pool, but ruled that Meschino shouldn't be held in jail. Defendants are often released on bond pending trial if they're not considered dangerous or a flight risk.

"It is somewhat creepy," Ashman said. "On the other hand, we don't revoke a bond because of creepiness."

Meschino is charged in a criminal complaint with sending child porn over the Internet. A trial date hasn't been scheduled but will likely be set after Meschino is indicted.

Meschino's attorney, J. Clifford Greene Jr., said after the hearing that Meschino has been in full compliance with the court's order, hasn't been convicted and has never been accused of harming anyone. Greene also said the blinds ordered shut by the judge were already closed.

"It is paranoia, I believe," Greene said of neighbors' request that Meschino be jailed.

Greene said Meschino was testing a new camera before he went on vacation, and there was nothing sexual about the photographs later confiscated by investigators.

But during a search of his home, investigators found numerous computer discs containing suspected images of children engaged in sexual activity, the FBI said. Authorities said Meschino's e-mail accounts were used to transmit child pornography.

Residents of the Will County community said the government told them last Friday that photos of neighborhood children had been found on Meschino's computer.

"We know he's not convicted but he's sitting in his home taking pictures of little kids and that's very disturbing," Sarah Ridenour, who lives with her children near Meschino, said after leaving court.

Federal prosecutors asked Ashman to allow Plainfield residents to speak during the hearing. But he denied the request, saying they were neither witnesses nor victims in the case. He said lawyers could address the court and witnesses could only testify to facts, not their opinions.

The Plainfield residents said they were disappointed but understood.

"I respect the judge's decision," Mack said. "We understand that he has to do his job and he has to obey the law."