Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Jurors in Abuse Case View Images

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Jurors in Abuse Case View Images

Article excerpt

CHILD PORNOGRAPHY: Judge denied delay after suspect was put on suicide watch


The courtroom was deathly silent as jurors slowly passed the manila folders with printed emails and photos Anthony Hanifan was accused of taking and then sending of himself molesting a 2-year- old girl in his North Port home.

The 40 or so people in the courtroom Thursday waited as each of the six jurors and two alternates viewed the emails and images that attorneys had talked about throughout Hanifan's trial.

Those same pictures, partially covered, had already been passed to the toddler's mother on the witness stand. As she flipped the pages, Assistant State Attorney Andrea McHugh asked, is that your daughter in the photographs? No face is visible in another photo, she said, do you recognize the partly visible girl's pajamas? Do you recognize Hanifan in a photo?

Yes, the mother said, that is my baby. Yes, those are the pajamas I bought for my 2-year-old daughter. Yes, that is Hanifan, the man I knew for years and once treated as family.

A small-town bank manager, Hanifan was arrested in October 2011 after his phone number was identified in a Massachusetts child pornography investigation. He was married then, with a child, and no criminal record.

Out of 11 total counts, one count of transmitting child pornography will not be going before the jury, after John Scotese, Hanifan's appointed defense attorney, argued that the image was sent while Hanifan was outside of Sarasota County.

The other 10 charges, including sexual battery of a child, molesting a child, cruelty toward a child and additional counts of transmitting child pornography, will go to the jury today after attorneys give their closing arguments. If convicted, Hanifan faces up to multiple life sentences and 70 years in prison.

The trial was nearly derailed when Hanifan, 38, asked the judge to delay the remainder of the proceedings after jail staff unexpectedly placed him in a different cell Wednesday night without consulting court officials.

He spent a sleepless night in a strange bed -- cell 4A -- that was in the "direct observation area," otherwise known as suicide watch.

An unusual request

Wearing a thick dress-like garment, which cannot be tied into knots to inflict injuries on oneself, Hanifan listened to mentally ill inmates screaming through the night, guards talking through the bars and a constant radio stream.

The cell change was revealed in court Thursday morning, before the entrance of the jurors, who have repeatedly been warned not to read anything or talk about the trial outside the courtroom. Hanifan and his defense attorneys asked for the remainder of the trail to be delayed until Hanifan could be sure to fully participate and make decisions.

"The lack of sleep is definitely affecting my ability to focus and function at 100 percent," Hanifan told the court. …

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