E. Haven man faces prison in Net case

Published: Saturday, July 11, 2009
By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff

GUILFORD — An East Haven man is facing several years in prison after pleading no contest to charges that he held sexually explicit conversations with a 13-year-old girl using online instant messaging.

The girl’s mother, who discovered the chats more than a year ago, said the case shows that parents and teenagers need to be aware of how much information they share through messaging and social networking services.

Police arrested Gene Crescenzi, 33, last June after the girl’s parents approached the department with concerns about conversations they had found on their computer. Police seized several computers, cameras, VHS tapes, CDs and DVDs from Crescenzi’s residence, and working with state police they later uncovered images of child pornography, leading to a second arrest.

This week, Crescenzi pleaded no contest to three felony charges: risk of injury to a minor, enticing a minor by computer and illegal possession of less than 25 images of child pornography. According to the terms of his plea agreement, he faces eight years in prison, suspended after four years, followed by 10 years of probation and registration as a sex offender. He has been free on $175,000 bail and is due to be sentenced Sept. 30.

Assistant State’s Attorney Jack Doyle said in court this week that many of the instant messaging conversations police uncovered included graphic sexual language, and that Crescenzi had attempted to approach or meet the girl during the conversations.

The girl’s mother, who asked not to be identified to protect her family’s privacy, called the incident “really frightening” and said it showed that parents need to be aware of their children’s use of the Internet.

“We sometimes think, ‘Not in Guilford, Conn., it’s safe here,’ but because of how far reaching the Internet is, we have to be aware and be cautious,” she said. “Not (to) be in a state of panic, but we have to be cautious and teach our kids safe Internet practices.”

Crescenzi first contacted her daughter using AOL Instant Messaging, and then looked at her MySpace page, the mother said. He allegedly misrepresented himself by using a fake name and saying he was in his 20s.

By pleading nolo contendere, or no contest, Crescenzi accepted that the state had enough evidence to convict him at trial, but did not admit guilt. Although the effect of the plea is that he is found guilty, it could not be used as an admission of guilt in a civil trial. The mother said the family is not planning to pursue a civil suit.

The woman, who attended court this week, said she and her husband are planning to write a letter to the judge for sentencing. But she said she is satisfied with the plea deal as it will allow her daughter to avoid having to testify in court.

She added that she wanted to see the judicial process through to show her children the “responsibility of making sure that kind of thing doesn’t happen to other people.”

“It’s very scary today, the access,” she said. “I feel like my daughter was being assaulted in my own living room and I had no idea.”

She said she has talked to her children about the importance of using strong privacy settings on social networking sites like MySpace or Facebook.

“I think everyone has to be a little more aware, especially the parents, that our teenagers and our young ones can be hurt while we’re sitting right there,” she said. “We want them to have fun, we want them to socialize with their friends and we want them to do all the things teenagers do online to have fun, but we want them to be safe.”

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