90-Year Sentence In Child Porn Case May Be Reduced

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A 74-year-old man who received a 90-year sentence for possessing child pornography may be out in as little as five years if the governor approves a sentence reduction.

A jury in August convicted Robert Thomas Flibotte on 10 counts of dangerous acts against children after prosecutors presented dozens of pornographic images and videos of underage children engaged in sexual acts, some as young as 3.

The images were found on both Flibotte’s home and work computers and several other media devices.

Superior Court Judge Peter Cahill sentenced Flibotte to nine, 10-year sentences served consecutively, the minimum under state law.

While Cahill said that Flibotte’s consecutive sentences totaling 90 years was “clearly excessive” Cahill found that Flibotte’s 10-year sentence on each count was not.  

Cahill permitted Flibotte to file a petition with the Arizona Board of Executive Clemency for a reduction of the 90-year sentence, but denied his request to file a petition for a reduction of the 10-year sentences.

On Jan. 26, the clemency board unanimously approved Flibotte’s appeal for a five-year sentence with lifetime probation, said Edward Novak, Flibotte’s attorney.

It will take several weeks before the request lands on Gov. Jan Brewer’s desk. She then has 90 days to approve, veto or take no action, Novak said. Only if she vetoes the petition will the request be denied.

Unlike other states, in Arizona, the governor can only grant a commutation of sentence or pardon upon recommendation of the clemency board.

Normally, someone cannot file for a reduction of sentence until two years after sentencing, Novak said. However, with Cahill’s order, Flibotte could appeal sooner.

Novak said he does not know if the governor will approve Flibotte’s request since he is unfamiliar with her voting record. Novak said it is clear that Flibotte’s 90-year sentence is “unduly harsh and certainly unrealistic given his age.”

At sentencing, Gila County prosecutor Lacy Cooper said while Flibotte portrays himself as a victim, the real victims are the children explicitly portrayed in the photographs and videos.

The state allegedly found some 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 and hide child porn.

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

At sentencing, Flibotte said he did not want to spend his remaining years in a prison where he would have to constantly watch his back. Flibotte is being held in a Florence prison in a special management unit due to the length of sentence, Novak said. That means limited visitations and almost no contact with the outside world or other inmates.

“It is a pretty difficult existence, it is very stark,” he said. “To say it is spartan is an understatement.”

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