MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A federal judge on Tuesday sentenced a former Illinois lawyer to five years in prison for his role in a multimillion-dollar porn-related scheme.
John Steele, 48, was sentenced after pleading guilty in 2017 and cooperating with authorities.
U.S. District Judge Joan Ericksen said federal sentencing guidelines recommended a sentence of 10 to 12½ years for what she called a "vile scheme." Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin Langer recommended Steele receive a five-year sentence, the Star Tribune reported.
Steele told the court he is "trying to live a life of virtue."
"All I can control is obviously the thoughts and actions now and in the future. I think it's important that I stand here today and look at you and apologize," Steele said.
Steele's attorney, Mark Eiglarsh, said Steele offered to cooperate immediately after he wasindicted in December 2016.
"It was almost like he wanted to go to confession," Eiglarsh said. "He jumped in headfirst."
Steele's co-defendant, Minneapolis lawyer Paul Hansmeier, was sentenced last month to 14 years in prison. Prosecutors alleged that from 2011 to 2014, Hansmeier and Steele extracted millions of dollars in settlements from people who feared being exposed as pornography customers.
Steele admitted in court during his plea that he and Hansmeier created sham entities — which they secretly controlled — to obtain copyrights to pornographic movies and then uploaded the movies to file-sharing websites to lure people into downloading the movies.
The judge agreed with prosecutors that five years in prison was "eminently fair," given Steele's cooperation with authorities and his efforts to turn his life around. She made him liable with Hansmeier for $1.5 million in restitution and placed him on supervised release for two years after he leaves prison.
Hansmeier reserved the right to withdraw his conditional guilty plea if he's successful in appealing a denial of his motion to dismiss the complaint.
Information from: Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com