Ex-Priest Must Face Porn Rap, High Court Says
Criminal Court Dismissal Reversed

By Bill Voelker
The Times-Picayune [New Orleans, LA]
December 1, 1994

A former Roman Catholic priest must stand trial for allegedly violating the state's child pornography law, despite a judge's decision earlier this year to throw out the statute because a portion of it was unconstitutional.

The Louisiana Supreme Court ruled Dino Cinel must go to trial and that Criminal District Judge Frank Marullo should not have thrown out the law and dismissed charges against the ex-priest last March.

The high court's unanimous ruling declared unconstitutional only one line of the state's law: "Lack of knowledge of the juvenile's age shall not be a defense."

The state has to prove that defendants know those in the pornographic materials are underage.

"We've been waiting for this decision for a long time," New Orleans District Attorney Harry Connick said. "We're very pleased with it, and we're ready to go forward."

Cinel, 51, who now lives in New York state, was an assistant pastor at St. Rita's Church in New Orleans. On Dec. 28, 1988, while Cinel was in his native Italy for a visit, Linda Pollack accidentally locked keys in Cinel's car after dropping him off at the airport. Pollack, who later became Cinel's wife, called the rectory looking for another set of keys, and the pastor, the Rev. James Tarantino, entered Cinel's room to look for them.

Tarantino said he found pornographic videos and envelopes stuffed with photographs of nude young men.

Cinel was charged with violating the state's child pornography law. But Marullo said the law was too broad and that part of it violated the constitutional right to free speech.

The court hasn't decided whether the penalties for conviction under the child pornography law constitute cruel and unusual punishment. The defense argued the mandated two-year minimum prison sentence for violators is excessive.


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