Articles Posted in Sex Crimes

In an April 2024 opinion regarding sexual exploitation of a minor, Division Two of the Arizona Court of Appeals sided with the defendant by ruling that the government should not have searched the defendant’s personal property without a warrant. The case revolved around the defendant’s spy camera, which he put in a bathroom to secretly record the young foster girls living in his home. On appeal, the court had to decide whether the officer searching the camera’s SD card had the right to do so without a warrant.

The Officer’s Search

The government first became aware of the hidden camera when a teenage foster girl living at the defendant’s house spotted it in the common bathroom and brought it to her Department of Child Safety caseworker. The caseworker called the police, and one of the police department’s detectives examined the device a few days later. On it, he found videos of the girls in the bathroom.

Proceedings Below

The defendant was charged with sexual exploitation of a minor, and his case went to trial. Prior to trial, the defendant filed a motion to suppress, arguing the officer should have had a warrant to search the SD card associated with the camera. The trial court denied this motion, and a jury ultimately found the defendant guilty as charged. The defendant was sentenced to 90.5 years in prison.

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Under the U.S. Constitution as well as the Arizona Constitution, the Eighth Amendment protects individuals from “cruel and unusual punishment.” Courts interpret this standard differently in different contexts. In a new case coming out of the Arizona Court of Appeals, Division Two, the court offered some guidance about interpreting the Eighth Amendment in relation to a defendant’s lengthy prison sentence.

Procedural History

In the opinion, the court detailed the facts of the case: the defendant, when he was 15 and 16 years old, committed repeated forced sexual acts on two young children that he was responsible for babysitting. The children came forward a couple of years later, and the defendant was arrested and tried after he turned 18 years old. He pled not guilty, and a jury found him guilty of four counts of sexual conduct with a minor, plus four counts of molestation of a child. The trial court sentenced the defendant to a minimum prison term of 208 years, meaning he would be in prison for the rest of his life.

The defendant appealed the trial court’s sentencing decision, arguing that under the Eighth Amendment, the sentence was unnecessarily harsh. Especially considering that he was a teenager at the time, argued the defendant, the court sentenced him to time that was not proportionate with the severity of his crimes.

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The Arizona Court of Appeals, Division One, recently addressed a defendant’s argument that at 21 years old, he was too young to understand the crimes he committed and therefore his resulting sentence was excessive. In the case before the court, the defendant had engaged in sexual conduct with a minor. After he was found guilty of molestation of a child as well as sexual misconduct with a minor, he appealed. Ultimately, the higher court determined that the lower court acted within its authority when sentencing the defendant, and it denied the defendant’s appeal.

Sentencing Decisions in Arizona Criminal Cases

In both the United States and Arizona, there are certain requirements for sentencing that trial courts must consider. Under the Eighth Amendment in particular, sentences must not impose “cruel and unusual punishment” on offenders. According to Arizona case law, higher courts are to respect lower courts’ sentencing decisions, trusting that trial courts are in the best position to decide on how a defendant should be punished. Only in rare circumstances should a higher court question a lower court’s sentencing decision; very seldom will these decisions violate the Eighth Amendment if they are within the law’s sentencing guidelines.

In this case, the defendant was sentenced to twenty-five years’ imprisonment after being found guilty. The trial court judge decided this sentence based on the crimes that the defendant committed: he had engaged in consistent sexual activity with a 13-year-old girl, and he was old enough to understand that this was not appropriate or legal. He had told the girl that he was 16 years old when he engaged in sexual activity with her, and he had not heeded the girl’s mother’s warnings that he should stay away from her daughter.

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Facing criminal charges is a daunting experience, and the legal complexities that accompany such cases can be overwhelming. In this blog post, we delve into a recent Arizona judicial opinion involving a child pornography case, shedding light on the difficulties presented by hearsay and the challenges of calling witnesses who invoke the Fifth Amendment. The recently decided case provides valuable insights into the importance of retaining a qualified criminal defense attorney to assist with lodging a robust defense.


On November 17, 2016, the State of Arizona charged the defendant with ten counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, primarily based on materials found on a computer in his home. The defendant asserted a third-party culpability defense, alleging that an acquaintance who was frequently present in his home, had used his computer to download the incriminating material. As part of the defendant’s defense preparation, an investigator was hired by the defendant to interview a former housemate of the defendant, who could potentially corroborate the third-party culpability defense.

The Challenge of Hearsay

One of the significant hurdles in the defendant’s defense was the admissibility of his former housemate’s statements, which were considered hearsay. Hearsay is generally not admissible in court unless specific exceptions apply. In this case, the court focused on the hearsay rule, particularly Rule 804(b)(3), which allows for the admission of hearsay if the declarant is unavailable and the statement is against their interest, supported by corroborating circumstances indicating trustworthiness.

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In a recent matter before a court of appeals in Arizona, the State asked the court to reconsider a lower court’s dismissal of a case involving possible sexual exploitation. The trial court had originally dismissed the case for several reasons, one of which was that the significant delays caused the defendant emotional and financial harm. On appeal, the higher court ultimately agreed with the State that the case was incorrectly dismissed. The court therefore vacated the trial court’s order.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant in this case was charged with sexual exploitation of a minor, based on alleged incidents with her adopted son. The defendant pled not guilty, and her case was set for trial in the summer of 2020. Because of the pandemic, however, the court rescheduled trial for several months later.

Over the next two years, the case was delayed again and again. At one point, one of the attorneys in the case had an emergency surgery; at another point, witnesses’ travel made them unavailable to testify. For a variety of reasons, each time the trial approached, either the defendant or the State requested a continuance. This process went on until September 2022, at which point the defendant argued that the delay was so substantial it had drained her financial resources, depleted witnesses’ memories, and caused her significant emotional turmoil.

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In a November 2023 case before an Arizona court of appeals, the defendant appealed convictions of burglary, kidnapping, attempted sexual assault, and sexual assault. The alleged incident occurred in 1991, and the defendant argued on appeal that the State’s late introduction of evidence during trial had adverse effects on the case’s outcome. According to the defendant, the lower court should have granted his motion for a mistrial. Considering the defendant’s argument, the court ultimately sided with the state, ruling that the trial court properly denied the defendant’s motion.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the complainant in this case was in her house one evening when a man came into the house unannounced, tied her up, and sexually assaulted her. The man warned the woman that he would kill her if she called the police. Eventually, after the man left, the woman was able to get to a phone, and she called 911. First responders took her to the hospital and arranged for DNA samples to be taken from the woman’s body.

The case went unresolved, as investigators were unable to come up with any legitimate suspects. The DNA swabs from the woman’s hospital visit, however, remained at the DNA testing site for 23 years. By 2014, DNA testing had significantly advanced. Investigators therefore reopened the case, ran the DNA through the system, and connected it to the defendant in this case.

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In a recent Arizona criminal case arising out of attempted sexual exploitation of a minor, the defendant asked the higher court to reconsider the lower court’s denial of his motion to suppress. The defendant was charged after investigators found out he was involved in an attempted meet up with a teenage girl. The defendant filed a motion to suppress incriminating evidence that the investigators found in his phone, and the court denied his motion. A jury later found the defendant guilty as charged, and the defendant appealed the lower court’s denial.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, investigators in Arizona began looking into an online chat forum and found the defendant’s profile. Pretending to be a teenage girl, the investigators began chatting with the defendant. Through these messages, the defendant asked the girl to meet up with him so that the pair could have sex. He also informed the girl that he would bring drugs to the meet-up.

On the day and time of the meet-up, the investigators waited for the defendant at a nearby bus stop. Using the phone they had pretended was the teenage girl’s phone, they dialed the defendant’s phone number. He answered, and the investigators approached and arrested him. They later found drugs in the defendant’s backpack. They also seized the defendant’s phone and found evidence showing the defendant’s exchanges with the teenage girl, which were mostly sexual in nature.

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In a September 2023 case before an Arizona court of appeals, the defendant argued that the lower court made a mistake by allowing the victim to discuss her religious beliefs on the stand. Originally, the defendant was charged with and convicted of sexual assault, kidnapping, sexual abuse, and assault. After a jury found him guilty, the court sentenced the defendant to almost 80 years in prison. The defendant appealed, but the higher court ultimately affirmed the guilty conviction.

Facts of the Case

The defendant’s criminal charges arose from an incident in which he and his girlfriend met a girl at a local gas station. The girl was asking passersby for a ride, so the defendant and his girlfriend agreed to drive her to a friend’s house. As the group drove, they became high and inebriated. They eventually drove back to the defendant’s home.

While there, the defendant and his girlfriend poured the girl a strong alcoholic drink, then proceeded to sexually assault her. They slapped her in the face, hit her in the leg, and then forced the girl to engage in sexual intercourse. The girl escaped as soon as she could, running to a nearby security officer who helped her call the police. The defendant and his girlfriend were charged, and the girlfriend accepted a plea deal. She later testified at the defendant’s trial.

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In an August 2023 case before an Arizona court of appeals, the defendant successfully got his convictions overturned by arguing that the prosecution showed the jury too many prejudicial images during the defendant’s trial. Originally, the defendant was charged with sexual exploitation of a minor. His case went to trial, and a jury found him guilty. On appeal, however, the higher court considered the defendant’s argument, overturned the conviction, and set the case for a new trial.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, a detective in Arizona made contact with the defendant as part of a local sting operation. The detective posed as a 13-year-old girl and responded to the defendant’s advertisement asking for sexually exploitative photos. During the pair’s communications, the defendant continuously said that he did not mind the girl’s young age and that he wanted to be sent pictures of the girl’s genitalia.

Eventually, the State obtained a warrant to search the defendant’s phone and apartment. The State found many exploitative photos of young girls on the defendant’s devices, charging him with two counts of attempted sexual exploitation of a minor. The defendant’s case went to trial.

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In a June 2023 case before an Arizona court of appeals, the defendant unsuccessfully appealed his conviction for sex trafficking. The defendant was charged after investigators discovered he was trafficking at least one young girl, and a jury found him guilty as charged. On appeal, the defendant argued that the trial court improperly admitted evidence relating to the typical characteristics of a pimp; the higher court, however, disagreed with the argument and kept the conviction in place.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, investigators approached a teenage girl one evening after they saw her walking up and down the street, conferring with men that were driving by. The officers noticed that she would talk to the driver, go and speak with the defendant (who was waiting nearby), then go back to the driver. When the officers approached the girl, she told them she was 16 years old and was a runaway. She also told them she was being trafficked and that the defendant was forcing her to give all of the money she earned as a prostitute to him.

The State charged the defendant with several crimes, one of which was sex trafficking. His case went to trial, and a jury unanimously found him guilty. The court sentenced him to 135 years in prison. The defendant promptly appealed.

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