An Alabama court has denied reinstatement to a former prosecutor who worked on child sex crimes cases but was suspended himself in 2015 after being arrested for electronic solicitation of an underage girl.
The Alabama Supreme Court on May 8 reversed its disciplinary board’s decision to grant reinstatement to former Mobile County Assistant District Attorney Steven John Giardini, holding that the board’s findings were “clearly erroneous in light of the facts in this case.”
Giardini was arrested in April 2009 after engaging in online conversations of a graphic sexual nature with an FBI agent posing as a 15-year-old girl, the court recounted.
A search of Giardini’s home uncovered multiple computers revealing chat-room conversations with numerous underage girls, it said. He used more than 20 separate screen names to solicit sex and nude images from individuals in the chat rooms, the court said. The computers also contained thousands of nude images, including those allegedly depicting females under the age of 17, it said.
The court noted that the criminal charges against Giardini were ultimately dismissed because the law at the time required the victim to be an actual child. It was changed about a month after Giardini’s arrest to prohibit solicitation of a person online that a defendant believes is a child, the court said in a footnote.
Giardini pleaded guilty to the disciplinary board charges in 2015. The board found he violated ethics rules prohibiting an attorney from engaging in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice and in any other conduct that adversely reflects on his or her fitness to practice law. The state bar argued for disbarment but Giardini was suspended instead for three years.
The panel reviewing Giardini’s petition for reinstatement in 2018 relied on testimony of witnesses, including his therapist, who hadn’t read the chat-room transcripts and were thus “unaware of the graphic content of Giardini’s conversations,” the high court said.
“The depravity contained in Giardini’s conversations with purported minors is, frankly, shocking,” the court said.
Contrary to the conclusions of Giardini’s therapist, who said his behavior was an “isolated incident,” Giardini’s behavior “was consistently predatory in nature,” it said.
The court did note that Giardini said he was remorseful about the potential for harm that was caused by his chat-room conversations and ashamed of the graphic nature of his conversations.
Nevertheless, it concluded that reinstating a former child-sex-crimes prosecutor to the practice of law “after he engaged in the above-described sexually related conduct with children” would be detrimental to the administration of justice and “subversive to the public interest.”
The case is Ala. State Bar v. Giardini, 2020 BL 173495, Ala., No. 1180248, 5/8/20.