Judge rejects plea deal with man described as world's largest child porn purveyor

A man described by authorities as the world’s largest child pornography purveyor had his plea agreement thrown out by a federal judge Wednesday over arguments that the level of his criminal violations may be worthy of a longer sentence. 

In the plea deal initially announced last year, Eric Eoin Marques agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to advertise child pornography on the dark web in exchange for 15 to 21 years in prison. 

However, U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang for the District of Maryland on Wednesday specifically took issue with a component of the plea deal that would not give Marques credit for the six years he was in custody while fighting extradition from Ireland to the U.S.

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Marques, who holds citizenship in both the U.S. and Ireland, was arrested in Dublin in 2013 after FBI agents connected him to the creation of a web hosting service called “Freedom Hosting,” which ran on the dark net between 2008 and 2013. 

According to court records, federal authorities found that the web service contained more than 8.5 million images and videos of child pornography, including more than 1.97 million that involved victims previously unknown to law enforcement. 

Marques was eventually extradited to Maryland in March 2019. 

Chuang said in court Wednesday that the agreement reached between prosecutors and Marques’s attorneys is “too flawed,” noting that he can’t specifically demand the federal Bureau of Prisons not count his time in custody toward his sentence, The Associated Press reported. 

Additionally, the judge said that if Marques does, in fact, get credit for those six years, a 15- to 21-year sentence would be too short in response to his sharing of millions of illegal photos and videos, including ones that depicted the rape and torture of infants and toddlers, according to the AP. 

“I want a sentence higher than that,” Chuang explained. “It’s not going to be 21 minus 6 to 15. That’s not going to happen.” 

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“I don’t have to follow what you all did,” he told the prosecutors and defense attorneys who recommended the sentencing range included in the plea agreement. 

“It’s clear neither of you really understood what you were doing,” Chuang added. 

He went on to say, “I certainly think the process was such that I shouldn’t defer to the parties’ agreement when I’m not sure they really thought it out that carefully,” also noting that lawyers for both sides have still not been able to agree on certain facts of the case. 

The AP reported that defense attorney Brendan Hurson in response to the judge asked for “some time to set a trial date,” and Chuang subsequently scheduled a June 25 hearing for attorneys to provide an update. 

Prior to the plea deal, Marques, now 35, faced 15 to 30 years in prison for conspiracy to advertise child pornography.