Steve Giardini Accused of Sexually Enticing a Child Walks Away Free

Child sex crimes against a former assistant district attorney in Mobile County, Alabama,  were dismissed in a state courthouse on Tuesday thanks to his criminal defense attorney.

Ex-prosecutor Steve Giardini who was accused of enticing a child for sex and soliciting child pornography was cleared of both charges by Special Judge Gaines McCorquodale who ruled that the indictment had to be thrown out because there was no actual victim.

The 52-year-old Giardini, who ironically previously handled sex crime cases involving children for the Mobile County District Attorney’s Office, allegedly enticed a 15-year-old girl named “Diana Gautier” for sex and requested a topless photo of her. According to court records, the government had evidence showing that Giardini spoke by phone with a male undercover FBI agent, posing as that 15-year-old girl, for at least three months. The jury heard tapes of the conversations between Giardini and the undercover agent who used voice-altering technology to make himself sound like a young girl. The tapes included Giardini discussing “Diana’s” sexual history, plans to travel to the beach together and her mother’s schedule. The recordings also included a masturbation session and descriptions of sexual acts.

Giardini’s trial on child enticement charges ended in a mistrial after jurors failed to reach a unanimous verdict last year. This week, judge McCorquodale finally tossed out the charges against him because there was no actual victim under age 16 as state statutory law requires. The judge said, “The issue becomes whether or not that statute can be applicable to an undercover agent purporting to be a 15-year-old female child. The law in this state is well settled that statutes are to be given their plain meaning.” In other words, the plain language of the Alabama law under which Giardini was prosecuted required an actual victim younger than age 16. In his five page ruling, McCorquodale cites an Alabama law passed in 1975 which he acknowledges predates the Internet and computers.  That state law said there had to be an underage victim, but since the victim in the case was not a real person, Giardini cannot be prosecuted.

The plain language of the law requirement is a problem that Alabama state prosecutors have already had in the past. That is why the state Legislature recently updated its electronic solicitation law to make it clear that a person could be convicted of the offense not only if the victim was younger than 16 but also if the defendant had reason to believe that the victim was younger than 16. However, the amended state law did not take effect until after Giardini was charged and it could not be made to work retroactively.

Had Giardini been prosecuted by federal authorities, they may have gained a conviction because sex crime laws were stricter at the federal level in 2008. However, while the investigation did began with the FBI, no federal charges were actually filed.

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