Judge needs evidence to let illusionist undo porn plea
LAS VEGAS (AP) — A federal judge said Friday she needs to see evidence that a former Las Vegas Strip illusionist didn’t understand what his sentence could be before she can let him withdraw his guilty plea in a pornography case involving thousands of videos and images, including some depicting kindergarten-age boys in sex acts.
Chief U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro scheduled a March 9 date to hear lawyers involved in the trial of Jan Rouven Fuechtener discuss whether he was fully advised that he could face at least 24 years in prison as a result of his plea.
“I’m very much on the edge,” the judge said after Fuechtener’s new lawyer, Karen Connolly, said his lawyers told him he might get as few as five years behind bars and rushed the plea to end his trial.
“We don’t have any evidence that anyone went over the guidelines with Mr. Fuechtener,” Navarro said. “A lot ... depends on what the attorneys told the defendant.”
Connolly blamed Fuechtener’s trial lawyer, Jess Marchese and attorneys Ben Durham and Michael Sanft for focusing on a five-year sentence and not telling him that findings about the number of images and his acknowledgements about sharing pornography and trying to destroy computer files could add years to his sentence.
Connolly said a presentencing report prepared by federal authorities now recommends minimums of 24 to 30 years in federal prison — and a possible life sentence.
“He was not properly advised. He was misinformed,” Connolly said. “They didn’t tell him that obstruction and knowing distribution could lead to more time.”
Fuechtener, 39, is a German citizen who performed under the name Jan Rouven. His show closed following his arrest in March 2016. He remains in federal custody.
Marchese said Friday he couldn’t say what he’ll discuss under oath. But he noted that his former client will be giving up attorney-client confidentiality if he is asked to testify.
Durham declined to comment. Sanft did not immediately respond to telephone and email messages.
Navarro was hearing the trial without a jury at Fuechtener’s request when he stopped the proceedings to plead guilty to possession, receipt and distribution of child pornography.
An FBI agent was testifying at the time about items found in password-protected files on computer devices seized from the Las Vegas home Fuechtener shared with his husband.
Fuechtener agreed as part of his plea to pay $5,000 in restitution per victim. Authorities said at the time they had identified about 85 child sex victims in the case. That would total some $425,000.
The house has been sold, and Navarro noted Friday that Fuechtener has deposited $975,000 in a trust account for fines and restitution.