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Former TV reporter pleads guilty to abuse

Former Spokane television news reporter Eric R. Cannavaro pleaded guilty in Latah County District Court on Monday to the felony charge of sexual abuse of a child.

Cannavaro, 37, last worked as a news reporter for KIRO-TV in Seattle, but was removed from his job in January 2004 when the criminal charges came to light.

He spent seven years at KXLY-TV in Spokane, a job he left in 2002. Prior to that he worked at KLEW-TV in Lewiston and earned a master’s degree at the University of Idaho. He was a local celebrity, known not only as a TV reporter, but also as a jazz musician who performed at community events around the region.

Last winter he was charged with lewd conduct with a minor, a more serious charge, for fondling the son of a friend over a period of several years. The incidents took place at the boy’s home in Genesee, Idaho, where Cannavaro would spend the night in the child’s room.

The victim and his father filed a complaint with the sheriff’s department in the summer of 2003. The boy, then 14, said the abuse started in 1998 when he was 9 or 10 and last occurred in the spring of 2002. The victim said that when Cannavaro spent the night, he would wake to find the adult fondling him, said a Latah County detective’s report.

Local investigators tried several times to get Cannavaro to admit the crime to the boy over the phone, but failed. They stopped trying when Cannavaro started asking the boy to meet him in person. Instead, they contacted a detective in King County who interviewed the suspect last December. During that interview, Cannavaro admitted to having sexual contact with the boy four times over a three-year period, said police reports. He told the detective “it was a matter of curiosity,” said the reports.

Cannavaro’s plea to sexual abuse of a child Monday was to a lesser charge than lewd conduct, though still a felony, said Bill Thompson, Latah County prosecutor. Cannavaro faces up to 15 years in prison, Thompson said. Lewd conduct with a minor under 16 could bring a maximum sentence of life.

The plea came the same day jury selection for Cannavaro’s trial was scheduled to start.

Though he no longer works as a television reporter in Seattle, Cannavaro continues to live in Western Washington.

His attorney, Tim Gresback, said he wouldn’t comment on the plea and that his client would not comment either.

Cannavaro’s sentencing is scheduled in Latah County for Nov. 8.