WEST PALM BEACH — Was it a one-time blip fueled by curiosity -- a young man's download of 49 images of child pornography, pictures so grotesque they would leave a judge hanging her head Monday?
Or was it feeding some kind of fetish of 22-year-old Alexander Colletta, who admitted to police the images gave him a guilty pleasure, but said he didn't like them.
And what price now should Colletta pay: probation or prison?
Circuit Judge Amy Smith must now decide.
Colletta pleaded guilty Monday to 30 charges of possession of a sexual performance by a child -- opening himself up to a prison term, under Florida's sentencing guidelines, punishable at a minimum of nearly 10 years up to a maximum of 150.
It's all part of a new aggressive tack of prosecuting child pornography possession cases taken by State Attorney Michael McAuliffe and a task force set up to root out the images and those who possess them.
Colletta's plea was followed by hours of testimony Monday by psychologists, one for the defense who opined Colletta has no deviant sexual tendencies, one for the prosecution who opined he scored like someone trying to present himself in a falsely positive light.
Then came Colletta's parents, Gail and Julius of Boynton Beach, who told Smith of his inability to tell a lie and a history of suicide attempts as they tried to medicate his bipolar disorder.
And finally Colletta himself testified, still struggling to answer why he downloaded the child pornography.
"I did something I can't explain even today," Colletta said. "I made an error of judgment when my judgment was impaired."
Members of the special victims task force swooped in on Colletta's parents home in July 2009 after identifying child pornography on a computer there. Colletta spoke with task force detective, Charles Ramos, admitting he had downloaded it and used such terms as 4YO, meaning searching for children that young.
And that is what he found.
And what Asst. State Atty. Gregory Schiller made a point of showing Judge Smith at Monday's hearing. Smith at times hung her head, looking away from the images displayed on a laptop before her.
Defense attorney Edward Reagan has asked that Colletta, who has an IQ in the gifted range, be kept out of prison, sentenced beneath those sentencing guidelines, given an opportunity to go to school. "He will forever be labeled a sex offender. That's his lot. That's his responsibility for this."
Prosecutor Schiller asked for a sentence of 10 years in prison, followed by 10 years' sex offender probation.
Smith is scheduled to announce his sentence Friday at 2 p.m.
Her last remark, though, before adjourning Monday could be an indicator. Smith told Colletta that he, people like him, are the reason there is a market for child pornography.
"I have never seen anything like that," Smith said. "And I hope I never do again."