Flibotte Given 90 Years For Child Porn

Judge calls sentence ‘clearly excessive’

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Emotion choked the courtroom Monday as Superior Court Judge Peter Cahill imposed the minimum 90-year sentence on Robert Thomas Flibotte for child pornography.

Cahill called the consecutive sentences were “clearly excessive,” but said he had no other choice in the sentence imposed on one of Payson’s most prominent community members and Realtors.

Flibotte, 73, will likely appeal the ruling and may ask the Arizona Board of Executive Clemency for a sentence reduction, said his attorney, Michael Bernays.

Cahill said he would have sentenced Flibotte to a shorter sentence if the law had allowed it, but Arizona has some of the strictest child pornography laws in the U.S.

Under state law, Flibotte was found guilty of not only possessing child pornography, but of sexual exploitation of a minor, which carries with it a 10-year minimum sentence on each count. Moreover, each count must be served consecutively.

“Judges ought to be able to make the right decision in a particular case and not have the legislatures take away from the discretion of the courts in fashioning the right sentencing, but that is not how we do it in Arizona.

The defense has several weeks to file a formal order, which could then go to the clemency board.

In his ruling, Cahill write that he found that Flibotte’s consecutive sentences totaling 90 years were ‘clearly excessive,’ but he also found that Flibotte’s 10-year sentence on each count was not excessive.

In the meantime, Flibotte will stay in custody, where he has spent the last 30 days.

A jury on July 28 unanimously found Flibotte guilty on 10 counts of possessing child pornography.

During trial, the state presented Flibotte as an avid collector of child porn, who hoarded thousands of explicit sexual images and hundreds of videos involving children, some as young as 3.

Flibotte had never publicly addressed those claims. But on Monday — also his 47th wedding anniversary — he spoke up for the first time. “On Aug. 22, 1964, this beautiful woman over here married me and gave me two wonderful children, each of whom have their own minds.”

Flibotte said his daughters, as well as he, take after his grandparents and parents, who strived to do the right thing.

“My mother said stay within in the lines, always color within the lines,” he said.

As a 33-year Payson resident, Flibotte said he always applied this philosophy to everything he did, whether it be with Rotary, the Payson Planning and Zoning Commission or selling homes as a Realtor.

“I have served my community and my family and I would like to spend my remaining years with them,” he said. “I don’t look forward to spending my remaining years locked in some institution where I have to constantly watch my back.”

A courtroom packed with supporters staunchly stood behind Flibotte during Monday’s sentencing. Many others who could not attend had filed letters with the court — more than 60 in all. Every wall in the small Payson courtroom was filled with friends and family, many brushing away tears as Flibotte’s wife Kally and daughter Amy spoke.

Kally said she still believes in her husband and his ethics. “If you had told me 47 years ago that I would be standing here right now I would never have believed it; it is a surreal world, but I love this man,” she said.

Amy said her father always provided a loving home for her and her sister and now her own children.

“In the 39 years that I have known my father, he has never given me a reason to doubt him or his integrity,” she said. “I am everything that I am because of my mother and my father and I ask you, I beg you for mercy. This sentence does not fit ... He is not a monster.”

Realtors Cliff Potts, John Hanna and Bob McQueen all said Flibotte was an honest, hard-working man who gave back to the community.

“He was a very contributing member of society ... very, very solid and always treated everyone with honesty and we just all feel very upset,” Hanna said.

State prosecutor Lacy Cooper said while Flibotte portrays himself as a victim, the real victims are the children explicitly portrayed in the photographs and videos found on his computers and flash drives.

Although the names of the children are unknown, “these were real children,” Cooper said.

The state found 26,000 images and 540 videos of child pornography on 30 media storage devices in Flibotte’s possession. E-mails from both Flibotte’s personal and work accounts were also found containing correspondence on how to find more child porn.

“If there were no Mr. Flibottes out there, there would be no people posting these things on the Internet,” she said.

Flibotte has maintained, even after the jury trial, that a virus was to blame for the thousands of images found on both his work and home computers.

Furthermore, computer technicians and fellow Realtors may have planted those images, defense attorneys argued during trial.

“He has excuses and shifts the blame to everyone else but himself and to this day has not taken responsibility for the crimes,” Cooper said.

Although Flibotte gave no outward indication he was living a double life, Cooper said in her mind that only made the crime of secrecy worse.

“He portrayed himself as a role model ... but he has demonstrated what kind of role model he really is,” she said. “I am sure that it is traumatic to find out that your father, your friend or your coworker is a collector of child pornography, but the damage the defendant has caused his family, his friends and his community is due to his actions.”

Bernays said Flibotte has accepted the trial results, but is not offering a judicial confession.

“If you look at Mr. Flibotte ... and all the people he has touched and impacted, it is clear Mr. Flibotte, as I have come to know him, is a wonderful man and a wonderful friend,” Bernays said. “If for the purposes of argument we accept the jury’s verdict ... if he had this demon, if this is something he did indeed intentionally engage in, it is something he kept to himself and he didn’t buy it from anyone or sell it to anyone and he certainly didn’t share it with anyone.”

While the evidence found on Flibotte’s computers is sealed, anyone who would have seen the images or videos would understand that a serious crime has been committed and needs to be treated severely, Cahill said.

Cahill sentenced Flibotte to 90 years for nine counts of dangerous acts against children and lifetime probation for a 10th charge.

If he is ever released, Flibotte will have to register as a sex offender.

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