Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has rejected a former local real-estate agent’s request for a reduction in his 90-year sentence for possession of child pornography.
The Arizona Board of Executive Clemency in February recommended the governor commute Robert Thomas Flibotte’s sentence to five years in jail with lifetime probation, but the governor nonetheless denied the appeal, according to Jesse Hernandez, chair of the clemency board.
The governor’s office offered no comment.
Flibotte’s attorney Edward Novak did not return a call seeking comment as of press time.
On July 28, a jury convicted Flibotte, 74, on 10 counts of dangerous acts against children after prosecutors presented images and videos of children engaged in sexual acts to the jury.
Prosecutors said Flibotte collected child pornography, as evidenced by the 26,000 images and 500 videos detectives found on 30 media storage devices in Flibotte’s home and work. Some depicted girls between the ages of eight and 12 engaged in various sexual acts.
The prosecution also pointed out that Flibotte had literature detailing how to hide porn on a computer and unlock encrypted files.
Prosecutors originally charged Flibotte with 15 counts of child porn, but only ended up going to trial on 10 counts.
At sentencing, Gila County Superior Court Judge Peter Cahill ordered Flibotte to serve nine, 10-year sentences. By state law, each sentence must be served consecutively; therefore, Flibotte faces 90 years in jail as well as lifetime probation.
Throughout the trial, Flibotte maintained his innocence and said the pornographic images came from a computer virus.
Five months after the sentencing, the Arizona Board of Executive Clemency met to discuss Flibotte’s appeal.
The clemency board unanimously agreed the 90-year sentence was excessive based on Flibotte’s clean criminal record and reputation in the community.
Flibotte, a 33-year resident of Payson and Air Force Reserve veteran, received an outpouring of support from the community.
Nearly 100 letters presented to Cahill before sentencing asked the court to consider probation.
Flibotte cultivated many strong relationships in the area as a community leader and volunteer.
Flibotte co-founded Payson Coldwell Banker Realty, served 16 years on Payson’s Planning and Zoning Commission and was a member of Rotary.
Cahill allowed Flibotte to seek a sentence commutation.
“If I were to think of the murderers I’ve sentenced to mere decades, 22 years, and compare it to the sentence I’ve just imposed for 90 years, it’s clearly excessive,” Cahill said at sentencing.
After a psychological and psychosexual evaluation, Dr. Richard Lanyon said he did not believe Flibotte would re-offend especially with counseling.
“Given Mr. Flibotte’s long-term monogamous relationship and the fact that he has reportedly never engaged in deviant sexual activity (with) actual children, despite many opportunities to do so, I believe it is unnecessary for him to register as a sex offender,” Lanyon said in a report.
At a clemency hearing, the board questioned Flibotte on his responsibility for his actions. Flibotte reportedly acknowledged his behavior and “the horrors of child pornography” and that it is “not a harmless, victimless crime.”
The clemency board said despite the seriousness of Flibotte’s crime, a five-year jail sentence and lifetime probation is “adequate to serve justice and protection for the community.”
Brewer has since replaced three of the five board members that made this recommendation.
According to an article by The Arizona Republic, “a person familiar with the board said that the governor was upset about the board’s unanimous Jan. 26 decision to recommend a reduction to five years in prison and lifetime supervision for Robert Flibotte, 74, a Payson real estate agent sentenced to 90 years for possession of child pornography.”