Man held in child pornography case asking for ‘temporary release’ from jail due to COVID-19
The bid by Carmelo Fonseca Jr. appears to be among the first in Chicago’s federal court system since the outbreak.
A man accused by prosecutors of terrorizing young girls and distributing pornographic images of them is asking for a “temporary release” from jail while he awaits trial amid the coronavirus outbreak.
The bid by Carmelo Fonseca Jr. appears to be among the first in Chicago’s federal court system since U.S. Chief District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer created a special docket for emergency motions related to the coronavirus.
Prosecutors agreed to a motion filed last week seeking the release of Marcus Pickens, who is accused of failing to update his sex offender registration, under certain conditions, records show. But in the case of Fonseca, the feds have previously argued that “no set of conditions can reasonably protect the safety of the community.”
Fonseca is being held in the Kendall County Jail, records show.
“(Fonseca) terrorized the lives of young girls without leaving his home,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew McCrobie wrote in a court filing late last year.
McCrobie wrote that Fonseca tricked young girls into sending him compromising images. He then saved and used them to force the girls to send “increasingly graphic photos and videos of themselves engaging in sexually explicit activity at his direction,” the prosecutor wrote.
Fonseca allegedly threatened to send the images he’d collected to their parents, grandparents, friends and schoolmates.
“When they stopped communicating with him or didn’t respond to his threats quickly enough, he found the minors’ acquaintances on social media and sent their images,” McCrobie wrote.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Sheila Finnegan ordered Fonseca held in custody Dec. 23, records show.
However, in a motion filed Monday seeking Fonseca’s release, defense attorney Dena Singer noted that, “jails are a hotbed for COVID-19 to spread.” She also wrote that Fonseca’s family needs help caring for his father, who has health problems.
She wrote that Fonseca would “not be left to his own devices,” if he were released but would be monitored by court personnel.
U.S. District Judge Andrea Wood, who is presiding over Fonseca’s case, ordered prosecutors to respond by Thursday to Fonseca’s request for release. The judge said she would likely rule electronically.
The judge noted she is not conducting in-court hearings until after April 3, citing last week’s order from Pallmeyer that largely put civil and criminal cases on hold in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.