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Maui Democrat says online sting creates sex crime


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POSTED: Friday, April 03, 2009

WAILUKU » State Rep. Joe Bertram has argued a friend caught in an Internet predator sting should not be sent to prison for an “;imaginary crime.”;

Bertram (D, Makena-Kihei) spoke yesterday in support of Mark Marcantonio, 52, of Maui, who had pleaded no contest to second-degree electronic enticement of a child.

Marcantonio was arrested in November 2007 when he went to Maui Mall in Kahului to meet someone he thought was a 14-year-old girl, who turned out to be an undercover police officer.

Bertram said he was the only representative who voted last year against changing the law to make a 10-year prison term without probation mandatory for someone convicted of first-degree electronic enticement of a child.

“;This is a bad law,”; Bertram told Circuit Judge Joel August at Marcantonio's sentencing hearing. “;It's an imaginary crime. I feel very strongly that people should not be put into prison for an imaginary crime, especially when you have somebody who's so committed to correcting this mistake.”;

August ordered Marcantonio to serve nine months in jail after Deputy Prosecutor Andrew Martin requested five years and defense attorney Cary Virtue asked for a suspended jail term.

When August asked Bertram whether he thought police should wait to make an arrest until after a suspect had an actual 14-year-old girl in a car with him and was engaged in sexual contact, the lawmaker replied he did not like sting operations.

“;Sting operations in general, they put out a possibility that something may happen,”; he said. “;You can't predict what somebody's behavior will be.”;

Martin argued the crime was not “;imaginary.”;

“;He showed up at the Maui Mall that day,”; Martin said of Marcantonio. “;To him this was not imaginary. This was real.”;

Martin said that in an October 2007 online chat, Marcantonio talked about how “;he had done this before”; with a 15-year-old Oahu girl.

Bertram said he has known Marcantonio for more than 30 years, starting when they worked at a rental car firm.

“;He has been an upstanding member of the community,”; Bertram said. “;He has been a good father.”;