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Defense cites Tourette syndrome in case of New Castle man

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Friday, Aug. 13, 2010
 

A Lawrence County man became attracted to underage girls and collected child pornography because Tourette syndrome and an isolated upbringing limited his ability to interact with women his age, a forensic psychologist said Thursday during a sentencing hearing in Pittsburgh federal court.

Kelly Hardy, 40, of New Castle grew up in a "petri dish of dysfunction" and his parents ignored doctor's recommendations for counseling and treatment because "they don't talk to psychiatrists," said Jolie Brams, a Columbus, Ohio, psychologist. His parents discouraged Hardy and his two brothers from making friends, so Hardy grew up with a desire for relationships he couldn't form, she said.

"He just had no idea how to have one," Brams said.

Hardy pleaded guilty Oct. 22 to possession, receipt and transportation of child pornography. Federal guidelines recommend that he receive a prison sentence of 30 years to life.

Public defender Penn Hackney asked U.S. District Judge Nora Barry Fischer to ignore the guidelines.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Haller argued that Hardy's mental problems should not entitle him to leniency. Both of Hardy's brothers exhibit symptoms similar to Hardy's but haven't become pedophiles, he said.

University of Pittsburgh law professor David Harris said that he never heard of using Tourette syndrome as a defense in a child pornography case but said mental issues frequently are raised when judges consider sentences.

"This testimony from the forensic psychologist is not being used to excuse or justify his conduct in a way that would result in his being acquitted. It is being used to offer an explanation to the judge as to how he ended up in this situation," Harris said.

Hardy amassed thousands of images and videos of child pornography, videotaped neighborhood children playing and stole girls' panties from homes he visited, according to court documents. In online chats with other child pornography collectors, Hardy said "he would most like to rape 8-year-old girls but would rape any girls from 2 to 15 years of age," court records show.

Brams said Tourette syndrome causes people to obsessively collect or "hoard" things. That helps explains the 60 hard drives and other digital media police found when they searched Hardy's home, she said.

"He collected more pornography than anyone could ever look at," she said.

Haller said even if Hardy didn't watch the pornography, he traded it for other images and videos. Although Tourette might cause someone to collect compulsively, "it does not decide what you are interested in collecting," he said.

If anything, the combination of Tourette syndrome and pedophilia makes Hardy more of a risk to society because it means he has less control over his impulses, Haller argued.

Fischer took the arguments under advisement and continued Hardy's sentencing hearing to Sept. 28.

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