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Hearing on plea change in child porn snakes case

A federal judge has scheduled a hearing for Monday in the case of John Joseph Maillet, who wants to withdraw his guilty plea to charges of coercing an underage girl to pose for child pornography with poisonous snakes.

Maillet pleaded guilty in September in U.S. District Court in south Mississippi to one count of production of child pornography. A plea agreement in the case called for Maillet’s sentence to be no fewer than 15 years in prison, and possibly as many as 30.

Maillet asked Nov. 8 to withdraw the plea and fire his public defender, Stephen Dick.

In a handwritten letter to the court, Maillet said he didn’t know his plea agreement carried a mandatory sentence and that Dick didn’t do a good job of explaining it.

Dick also filed a motion to withdraw from the case, saying Maillet made a request that “has caused irreconcilable differences” between them and that their relationship is “shattered beyond repair.”

Dick has said he wouldn’t comment on the dispute with Maillet.

U.S. District Judge Sul Ozerden granted the request and the case was handed over to another public defender.

Federal prosecutors have urged the judge to reject Maillet’s request to withdraw his plea, saying Maillet has admitted to the crime and was represented by experience attorneys.

“Maillet does not profess innocence to the production of material involving the sexual exploitation of a minor only that he was not told the maximum sentence for the offense,” prosecutors said in motion Friday.

Maillet, of Port Jervis, N.Y., was living in Carriere, Miss., where the alleged crime took place, when he was arrested in August. He is being held without bond. His sentencing hearing was scheduled for Dec. 8.

FBI spokeswoman Deborah Madden has said there were 41 venomous snakes in Maillet’s home when agents executed a search warrant in 2009. When they returned Aug. 10 of this year, shortly after Maillet’s arrest, there were only 12 snakes remaining. Agents called in an expert who removed the remaining snakes from the property.

It’s not clear what happened to the other snakes.