Alex Capasso, former chef at a series of high-profile Philadelphia restaurants, was sentenced Wednesday to 20 years in federal prison for his guilty plea to a child-pornography-related charge. The sentence was issued following a hearing marked by disturbing descriptions of what Capasso did and wanted to do to children.

Without the plea deal, Capasso, described by one victim's mother as a "monster," could have faced life in prison had he been convicted at trial.

"This is one of the most depraved things I have ever seen in 34 years as a federal judge," U.S. District Judge Jerome Simandle said before sentencing Capasso at the federal courthouse in Camden.

Simandle also ordered Capasso to remain under supervision for life, register as a sex offender, and participate in counseling in prison and upon release. He also restricted contact with minors and ordered Capasso to submit to regular polygraph testing when free.

Capasso, 44, of Collingswood, gained recognition as a chef at restaurants including Blackbird Dining Establishment and Crow and the Pitcher, which changed its name to Baril before closing this month.

He was arrested in July 2015 after he was caught sending a federal undercover agent explicit photos of a girl he identified as the 5-year-old relative of his former girlfriend. The Inquirer and Daily News are not identifying the ex-girlfriend because of her relationship to the child. He is also accused of abusing a boy about the same age who is also related to the ex-girlfriend.

In pleading guilty in June to a charge of conspiring to engage in sexual exploitation of children, Capasso acknowledged distributing five such images. Charges of production of child pornography and distribution of child pornography were dismissed in exchange for the plea.

In court on Wednesday, parents of the girl who was abused by Capasso said his actions tore the family apart. Their daughter, they said, still recalls what happened with Capasso.

"He's shown no remorse for the evil crimes he committed," the girl's mother said. "Alex Capasso is a monster who should never have access outside prison walls."

Capasso appeared in court in a green prison jumpsuit, his hair in a buzz cut, with a mustache and bushy beard. Seated beside his attorney, Teri Lodge, he showed little emotion during the hearing.

"I just would like to say how incredibly sorry I am for what I've done … I promise you that it will never ever happen again," Capasso said.

Simandle expressed concerns. Why did he abuse the children? the judge asked. Capasso said he did not know.

The judge then said that if Capasso has not figured it out after more than two years, he was worried Capasso would commit the same crimes if given the opportunity.

Capasso swore he never abused other children. The judge was quick to point out that Capasso, in a 1997 interaction with a minor, had been convicted of lewd behavior. And after the breakup with his girlfriend in 2014, he pursued interaction with a Camden County mother who agreed to send a pornographic picture of her daughter. Investigators found messages in which Capasso described what he wanted to do to the child. The mother was charged in that case.

On Wednesday, Capasso said he never hurt his own children. "I want my children to know that I love them more than anything in the world," he said.

Capasso's stepfather, Richard Williams, asked for leniency. "If he was released today, he would never do this again," Williams said. Capasso, he said, is a good father and misses his family. "Please, your honor, I beg you."

Simandle was not convinced. Before this last child was born, Simandle said, Capasso told the undercover agent in graphic detail that he was looking forward to abusing the infant. "How can that be consistent with love?" the judge asked.

"I did nothing to my children," Capasso insisted. "I just never could commit incest. I just couldn't do it."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Diana Carrig asked for the maximum 20-year term, calling Capasso a sexual predator and pedophile whose crimes were "atrocious."

"He doesn't care who he hurts. He only cares about himself and his own gratification," Carrig said. "This is the kind of man who should be behind bars as long as possible."

Update: Capasso's former girlfriend, 32, also pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge and was sentenced on Friday, Jan. 19, to 12 years in prison followed by 10 years of supervised release.