Miller County jury gives 73-year-old Fouke man 300 years in child porn case

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A 73-year-old Fouke, Ark., man was sentenced to a total 300 years Wednesday by a Miller County jury in a child pornography case.

Ronald Antoniello denied he has ever touched a child sexually and claimed his interest in child pornography is a curiosity, when he testified during the punishment phase of his trial Wednesday under questioning from Texarkana lawyer Carolyn Whitefield. Investigators with the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office testified Tuesday that more than 3,000 images of young girls being raped and tortured were discovered in digital and hard copy form during a search of Antoniello’s home in September 2014.

Wednesday the jury heard gripping testimony from a 52-year-old former stepdaughter of Antoniello who, along with her sister, was sexually abused by Antoniello in the late 1970s in Florida. The former stepdaughter cried as she described horrific abuse at Antoniello’s hands and her mother’s indifference to it. Photos of the adult victim from more than 40 years ago which had been scanned into digital images and altered to appear nude and sexually posed were discovered on Antoniello’s computer equipment and accessories.

Tuesday the jury watched snips of graphic, violent videos depicting the rape of young girls which investigators James Lett and Chris Cone of the Arkansas AG’s office discovered in online and forensic searches of Antoniello’s computer and photographic collection.

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Deputy Attorney Generals Will Jones and Julie Irwin asked the jury to sentence Antoniello to the maximum on each of 30 counts of distributing, possessing or viewing matter depicting sexually explicit conduct involving a child, with each count punishable by a fine up to $10,000 and three to ten years in prison.

The jury sentenced Antoniello to the maximum sentence and recommended to Circuit Judge Brent Haltom that the terms run consecutively. The jury assessed a $10,000 fine on each count for a total $300,000.

The video images played Tuesday showed children as young as 2 being assaulted sexually by adult men. Some of the images showed violent rapes including bondage and children being burned with candle wax as a man raped and sodomized them. Wednesday the jury heard from Antoniello’s former stepdaughter after finding him guilty of 30 counts after about 30 minutes of deliberation.

“Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, it gets worse,” Jones argued in closing remarks. “It’s an evil that stains your soul, an evil that seeps into your soul and you can’t wash away.”

Irwin pointed out in closing remarks that Antoniello held on to evidence of his abuse of his former stepdaughters for more than 40 years. Photos of one girl in a bikini and another in a First Communion dress were altered to make them appear nude or pasted onto the sexually explicit photo of a child abuse victim.

“We don’t just have her word,” Irwin argued. “He kept evidence of what he did 40 years after the fact.”

The jury didn’t buy Antoniello’s explanation that photos of girls found on a digital camera in his home were non-sexual. One series of photos showed a young girl stepping off a school bus in Fouke and walking down the street. Another was “zoomed in” on the “backside” of a girl walking a dog in New York, Jones said during his cross examination of Antoniello.

Jones questioned Antoniello about computer folders on his computer titled, “10-year-old lover” on his computer which contained images of his former stepdaughters. Antoniello denied he was stimulated by a downloaded child abuse fantasy from the website, “Perverts are us,” titled, “Another third grader in my bed.”

“I hate to get too graphic,” Jones said as he questioned Antoniello. “But what is this towel for in the chair at your computer desk?”

The adult victim who testified Wednesday sobbed as Circuit Judge Brent Haltom read the jury’s verdicts on each of the 30 counts.

“I would lie there and pretend to be asleep when he was doing things to my body,” the woman testified. “He had this laugh, this evil laugh, and the smell of him.”

Prosecuting Attorney Stephanie Black said she is grateful to the state’s AG’s office for handling the cyber porn case involving Antoniello.

“The Arkansas attorney general’s office Cyber Crime Unit is a wonderful asset to the citizens of the state,” Black said. “The prosecutors and investigators from that unit exhibited the utmost professionalism and determination in seeking justice for the child victims in this case. They have the specialized training and expertise to investigate cyber crime and the resources to identify and find these victims from the illegal videos as they did in this case by bringing a victim from 40 years ago from Florida to Texarkana to testify. I am grateful to all their hard work to rid this community from a sexual predator and true monster.”

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