A judge will allow a former local Realtor to appeal his 90-year sentencing for possessing child pornography.
On Oct. 17, Superior Court Judge Peter Cahill found sentencing Robert Flibotte to consecutive sentences totaling 90 years in prison is “clearly excessive” and granted Flibotte’s request to petition the Arizona Board of Executive Clemency for a sentence reduction.
If granted by the clemency board, Flibotte could serve a shorter sentence.
Under Arizona law, each count of dangerous crimes against children carries with it a sentence of 10 years, with a judge prohibited from grouping sentences together. Therefore, Cahill could not sentence Flibotte to anything less than 90 years.
While Cahill found that Flibotte’s consecutive sentences totaling 90 years were ‘clearly excessive’ and permitted Flibotte to file a petition with the clemency board, Cahill found that Flibotte’s 10-year sentence on each count was not excessive. Cahill denied Flibotte permission to file a petition for a reduction of the 10-year sentences.
During a week-long trial in Globe, the state showed Flibotte had collected child pornography for years.
“The images found in the defendant’s possession, both at home and at his office, graphically depict sordid and perverse sexual conduct with young children, almost all of whom were under age 15, some were even infants and elementary-aged children,” Cahill wrote.
A state expert found more than 26,000 images and 500 videos of child pornography on Flibotte’s home and work computers, with some images dating back to 2000.
During the trial and sentencing, Flibotte and his defense team maintained Flibotte was a victim of computer viruses and a local computer repair shop planting images on his hard drive. However, there was no evidence to support these claims.
In addition, Flibotte said a fellow Realtor gave him pornographic images of children, another claim without evidence.
Cahill said he does not believe Flibotte would re-offend if on supervised probation, given he is a first-time offender, has substantial employment history and has a stable and supportive family network.
However, given the harm done to the victims, Cahill found some prison term is appropriate.
“Mere possession of child pornography is not a ‘victimless crime’ — it abuses children,” Cahill wrote. “Those who acquire and collect child pornography provide the support needed for its continued production, thereby resulting in the victimization of more children.
“Thus, when the harm done to children is considered along with the harm to the community, the crimes of sexual exploitation of a minor do require a prison sentence — regardless of whether or not the defendant might succeed on probation supervision.”