PITTSBURGH — For two years, 12-year-old Mea has wanted to see a judge pronounce her father wrong for what he did to her, and on Tuesday, a Pennsylvania State Court found Matthew Alan Mancuso guilty on 11 charges, including incest and rape.
Mancuso did not contest charges that he had sexually abused the light-haired girl he adopted from a Russian orphanage when she was 5 or that he had posted hundreds of explicit photos on the Internet. After police digitally erased the girl from the pictures and asked the public to help identify the locations in February, she became known as the "Disney World Girl," because one of the sites was a hotel at Disney World.
Now she is known by another name. Her new adoptive mother calls her Mea, and on Tuesday, Judge Donna Jo McDaniel called her "a very brave young lady." Mea stayed outside of the courtroom while Deputy Dist. Atty. Laura Ditka detailed the charges against Mancuso, which could carry a sentence of 140 years. The 47-year-old retired engineer is already serving a 15 1/2 -year sentence for trafficking obscene material on the Internet.
But Mea had asked to come into the courtroom to hear the verdicts on what she alleged that Mancuso had done to her almost daily from the day he brought her from Russia in 1998 to the night before the FBI raided their home in 2003.
Mea "felt it was an important step in her life" to witness the verdict, the prosecutor told the court after reading a letter from Mea saying that the pictures would remain eternally online, but maybe this day would help dissolve the effect of those years behind her.
Mea had not seen Mancuso since he went to prison for the Internet photos after he was caught in a child pornography sting. She had braced herself for seeing him Tuesday and for anything he might say. She wore a long, white ruffled dress imprinted with roses, and she stared, chin up, at her former father clad in a khaki jumpsuit, ankle chains and handcuffs.
As McDaniel read the guilty verdicts against Mancuso count-by-count, a small smile flickered across Mea's face, her hands clenched in her lap. The judge set sentencing for November and said Mancuso would have to register as a sex offender so that communities would know about his crimes if he were released.
Mancuso waived the chance to speak, and studiously gazed away from Mea and her new mother as he shuffled out of the courtroom. "Coward," hissed the mother of one of Mea's friends. Mea and the friend held hands as they left court in their summer dresses, then Mea turned back to thank the judge with a hug.
"It was a strain today for everyone involved," said Mancuso's lawyer, Stanley W. Greenfield, after the hearing. "I don't think seeing her was something he wanted very much."
Greenfield said he planned to appeal the case because Pennsylvania let more than a year pass after Mancuso's arrest in May 2003 before prosecuting him, which the lawyer said violated Mancuso's right to a speedy trial. The state had withdrawn its case in June 2004 to let federal authorities prosecute the Internet photos case, and Greenfield said when the state pressed charges again in November, it was too late.
"He's not getting away with anything, and he's not getting out for a long, long time," Greenfield said. "But they should not be able to prosecute him for essentially the same acts."