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BSO claims deputies confused adult, child porn

1 child porn video recovered in botched case, no charges filed

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Giorgio Ardizzola insists he never possessed child pornography.

"I would love to go public on this," said the 56-year-old rock guitarist who has been playing local clubs for years.

He said the Broward Sheriff's Office never took numerous photos and videos of men forcing children -- some 10 years old or younger -- to have sex with them, as deputies alleged.

One of them, Maj. Nathan Osgood, testified that Ardizzola had an "addiction" to child porn and "should not be unsupervised with any children."

Osgood was one of three deputies who searched Ardizzola's Pompano Beach condo and said he seized eight disks and three computers from the home in 2011.

"No, he never took child porn from my house," said Ardizzola. "Never did."

Yet Ardizzola admitted to possessing the child porn before it was seized, according to BSO reports, claiming it had been left behind by a roommate six years before. He said he planned to turn it over to police, according to BSO at the time. And he told a similar story to the Department of Children and Families, according to a report from that agency as well.

Osgood testified a year later in Ardizzola's divorce case that he didn't buy the roommate story.

"For some reason [Ardizzola] didn't know his [ex-roommate's] real name which raised my suspicion," said Osgood. "I don't know if I completely buy your story here."

Osgood testified that there were "loads" of computer disks in the condo that appeared to contain adult pornography as well. But he said he suspected child porn may have been embedded in them.

"In my opinion it's not normal to have that much pornography," said Osgood. "I said, 'This is a lot of material ...' It kind of raised my suspicion that it was a possibility of dummy disks or tapes."

But Osgood and Deputy Michael Catalano only seized a sampling of eight disks and three computers from the condo, leaving the rest behind. Catalano would later tell an investigator that among the disks seized from Ardizzola's condo were "approximately 20 photographs and/or videos of children from 6 to 15 years of age engaged in sexual acts to include anal and vaginal intercourse with either an adult and/or other children," according to BSO reports.

Osgood and Catalano viewed the material on their work computers at BSO and were preparing to file a criminal case when they said the evidence mysteriously vanished from the disks at the agency.

Osgood said he had forensic technicians try to recover the child porn, but they were unsuccessful. Catalano later said that he noticed that some of the men in the photos, whose heads were cropped out to conceal their identity, had tattoos, and that when he went back to see whether those tattoos matched Ardizzola's own tattoos he discovered the material had disappeared from the disks. Catalano said he suspected the disks had a "trap door" feature that caused the illegal files to automatically erase when loaded on an unknown computer.

When the evidence disappeared, so did the case against Ardizzola, said Osgood, who testified that had the files not been lost he "absolutely" would have submitted a criminal case to the State Attorney's Office.

While the case quietly died at BSO, Ardizzola's ex-wife, Elizabeth Cole, kept pressing the case. She says she initially discovered the child porn on her then-husband's computer and that it haunts her to this day. Her complaint last March to Sheriff Scott Israel led to what is an at times confounding internal investigation conducted by BSO.

In that investigation, BSO computer forensic technician Todd Lee said he reviewed the disks and found one child porn video on them that was embedded on a disk otherwise filled with adult porn. BSO, however, decided that the remaining child porn video wasn't enough to prosecute Ardizzola criminally for possessing it. There is no indication any further investigation was ever done and no criminal case was ever presented to the State Attorney's Office. Assistant State Attorney Dennis Nicewander wrote Cole a letter stating that a BSO detective briefed him on the case and that "based on what I was told it does not appear there was sufficient evidence to prove the case."

Cole said that after deputies left the condo the night the porn was seized, Ardizzola filled a black garbage bag with the disks they left behind and took them out of the condo. She claims Ardizzola also pushed her and threatened her, prompting her to call 911. Deputy Catalano returned and advised Cole, who was pregnant with a second child at the time, to leave the condo with her daughter. She did so and never returned to Ardizzola.

Not long after that, Ardizzola became involved with an underage girl, who had been classified as an "endangered runaway," who admitted to Local 10 that she had his baby in July 2012 at the age of 17. We are not identifying the girl, who is now 20, but the two later married and are still living together at the Pompano condo with their son.

Ardizzola denied his young wife was 17 at the time his son was born.

"Are you kidding me?" he said. "No, she wasn't."

Cole told the Department of Children and Families about the relationship, according to a report filed by the agency, and passed on the information to the Broward Sheriff's Office, which chose not to investigate the matter.

"Because she is already 18 and currently married to Giorgio, law enforcement refused to follow up on it," DCF reported. "BSO sex crime was contacted [and advised] a detective was not going to be assigned to the case."

Ardizzola now insists the child porn -- even the video BSO says remains in evidence -- never existed. He blames all the trouble on his ex-wife, Cole.

"She's manipulating and doing all this stuff, falsifying information," said Ardizzola.

But Local 10 spoke with another source, who asked not to be named, who alleged Ardizzola also showed her images of child pornography on his computer. Ardizzola denied that claim as well.

So what happened to all the photos and videos that both Maj. Osgood and Deputy Catalano insisted they viewed before it allegedly vanished? BSO now says it never existed, that both deputies must have been confused. The agency insists no evidence was ever lost or deleted from the disks.

The conclusion is largely based on forensic technician Lee's statement in the internal investigation that all of the Ardizzola-related disks "appeared to be fully published, meaning you cannot alter or delete the contents from the disks." But that, of course, doesn't explain away the fact that both Osgood and Catalano reported seeing much more than a single video on disks seized from the condo, rather numerous photographs and videos, a wide array of material.

BSO is claiming that they were simply wrong about what they saw and they again rely on the forensic technician, Lee, to explain how that might have happened. After his initial interview, Lee returned to the internal investigator on the case, Sgt. Hajmy Halabi, a month later and told him he had been thinking of how Osgood may have got it wrong. Lee said he came up with the idea that they may have confused thumbnails of adult porn videos on the disks with photographs of child pornography. Sheriff's spokeswoman Veda Coleman-Wright cited that theory in her explanation of the case.

"To some, those thumbnails could appear to be still images, especially during a very 'quick glance' review," she wrote in an email to Local 10.

Another deputy, Detective Arnaldo Barrionuevo, opined to Halabi that perhaps Osgood and Catalano confused "child erotica" with child pornography.

"Detective Barrionuevo explained that he believed Osgood [and Catalano] confused child pornography with child erotica and gave some examples," Halabi wrote in his report. "One example of child erotica he gave was a nude family portrait with children."

Yet the report doesn't specify that any "child erotica" was recovered on the Ardizzola-related disks, all that is mentioned other than adult pornography is the single child porn video. And in the 2012 deposition he gave on the case, Osgood seemed to understand that distinction just fine, noting that in addition to the child porn images there "still photos of young girls posing nude."

In the end, BSO administratively charged one deputy for failing to file a report in the case as well as Deputy Catalano for failing to report lost evidence, a charge that wasn't sustained by the Professional Standards Committee, according to BSO. Maj. Osgood, however, wasn't charged in the internal investigation at all though he also failed to file a report at the time he believed the material was lost as well.

Ardizzola said he wants full custody of the two young daughters that he had with Cole. She says she is fighting in the court system to make sure that never happens.

"They deserve to be kept safe," she said. "There's no room for mistakes when it comes down to children's safety."

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