Plea Offer Not Accepted, State Prepares Case On Porn Charges

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The state is preparing to go to trial against a 72-year-old Payson man accused of downloading and scanning hundreds of photos of underage children onto his computer, after he refused a plea deal.

On Monday, the man and his lawyer, Elizabeth Flynn, appeared in front of Gila County Superior Court Judge Peter Cahill and Flynn said the plea offer was “not acceptable.”

With a plea deal off the table for now, both sides are continuing forward with witness interviews and forensic analysis of computer equipment.

“We are moving forward as quickly as we can,” Flynn told Cahill. “We have another expert waiting to analyze the evidence (after the state’s expert).”

On Oct. 5, police arrested the man after a computer technician reportedly uncovered several images of underage girls on the man’s computer. It is the Roundup’s policy not to name victims or suspects in sex crimes. Suspects will be identified only after a conviction.

The suspect told police the images were downloaded onto his computer without his knowledge or consent through a virus. The man also told police he asked a computer technician at Computer Problems Specialists to rid the computer of the viruses.

My client “has had numerous problems with the computer over the past few years and Computer Problem Specialists has always worked on it,” Flynn said. 

My client “was alarmed when these images came flooding onto his computer and he could not stop it.

He called Computer Problem Specialists again and told them what had happened.  He wanted them to get rid of the images and fix the problem, which he guessed was a virus. Instead, they called the police.”

In an interview with Payson Police Det. Matt Van Camp, the suspect said that at least 50 images of young girls in sexual acts had started popping up on his screen after he searched for “Disney” and “Ariel” for his granddaughter, and “that he had no control over it.”

Police arrested and charged the man with three counts of sexual exploitation of a minor. In early October, a grand jury indicted the man on 10 counts of sexual exploitation of a minor.

On Oct. 13, the man was arraigned in a Gila County courtroom and he pleaded not guilty. In mid November, Flynn said she needed more time to examine the state’s evidence and was granted an extension to challenge the grand jury proceedings.

At Monday’s case management conference, Flynn said there has been “some discovery from the state” and three interviews were scheduled for this week.

“As soon as the state gives me access to the evidence, I will have an experienced computer forensic specialist examine it in preparation for trial,” Flynn said. “I have asked the state to maintain the evidence unchanged until my expert can examine it.”

Cahill asked Flynn and the state to continue to work on the case as they have.

“These cases are problematic to investigate,” he said. “In computer cases, experts are reluctant to express their opinions without the facts.”

Flynn said her client will waive his constitutional right to a quick trial to allow for more research.

The next case management hearing is set for Feb. 8 at 11 a.m. with Cahill.

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