As prosecutors we very much thank and stand firm with Governor Brewer in her denial of the shockingly lenient recommendation from the Board of Executive Clemency in the Robert Flibotte matter. Without even having served one year of his sentence, the Board recommended he serve only five years of a 90-year sentence in the Arizona Department of Corrections. Flibotte was convicted of 10 counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, nine of which were designated as dangerous crimes against children because they involved young boys and girls under the age of 15 — one as young as 3 years old. He was sentenced in accordance with Arizona law to 90 years in prison, followed by a term of probation. Clearly, child pornography is not something that any prosecutor, the Arizona Legislature, or the governor believes should be treated lightly.
While many of Flibotte’s supporters have suggested that he harmed no victim, sexual exploitation of a minor is not a victimless crime. The Legislature’s choice in sentencing ranges demonstrates the level of harm to the victims. These are real children being photographed or video recorded while engaged in real sexual conduct or exploitive exhibition. These children are victims, regardless of their inability to testify in court. The fact that the state cannot provide their names does not make them any less victims or diminish the abuse that they endured. The initial sexual abuse suffered by these victims is a heinous crime; and the victimization continues each time the photograph or video depicting their abuse is viewed by defendants like Flibotte.
Each image possessed by Flibotte constituted a separate and distinct crime. Flibotte committed 10 separate and distinct crimes and, as a result, was lawfully sentenced to consecutive terms. He committed his crimes repeatedly against multiple different victims and under the cover of his innocent public facade.
The Roundup referred to what Flibotte offered in his defense, a psychosexual evaluation. A psychosexual evaluation is a tool used in the criminal field to determine propensity to commit sexual misconduct offenses in the future. The evaluation offered by Flibotte lacked critical information. First, the evaluation was redacted so that Flibotte’s statements regarding his sexual history and sexual contact with minors are blacked-out. Further, the examiner did not conduct a polygraph to verify the history or the Abel Assessment for sexual interest (which is an empirically-validated, comprehensive evaluation and treatment assessment system for adults with sexual behavior problems.) These are glaring omissions and deviate from testing generally relied upon by the Association for Treatment of Sexual Abusers. Our office and other county attorney’s offices would not rely on such psychosexual evaluation. Thus, there is no reliable information which would tend to disprove Flibotte’s history of engaging in or interest in sexual contact with minors.
While we did not offer and are not claiming there is any evidence of direct sexual contact with a child, statistically speaking, the vast majority of offenders who possess child pornography have also committed a hands-on offense. In one study, 85 percent of suspects sentenced for child pornography offenses eventually admitted having had at least one hands-on sexual offense with a child.
The sentence imposed by the court is not excessive. Rather, it is a sentence the Arizona Legislature, with members representing our entire state dictated was just and proper for the crimes. The Arizona Supreme Court has previously ruled that Arizona’s mandatory sentencing guidelines for child pornography are constitutional. This is not a situation where a defendant made only one terrible mistake and admitted to that mistake. The size of his collection of images (over 26,000) and videos (over 500) is staggering. His actions were deliberate and, following conviction by a jury of his peers, he was sentenced to the minimum sentence for each crime. Simply put, Flibotte repeatedly, and over the course of many years dating back to the 1990s, collected child pornography involving thousands of child victims. Yet, he denied any involvement in child pornography and refused to accept responsibility throughout the prosecution of the case.
Governor Brewer’s decision to deny clemency and reject the decision of the Board was not made in isolation. The voice of my office was joined by that of not just one other prosecution office, but the Arizona Prosecuting Attorney’s Advisory Council representing the attorney general, the 15 elected county attorneys, and five municipal prosecutors. Our unified voice as prosecutors representing the state of Arizona called for Governor Brewer to deny clemency to Flibotte. Governor Brewer’s decision is the correct one and she should be applauded. It is supported by the law of our great state and the prosecutors that are tasked with enforcing our laws.
While we can certainly understand that Flibotte had many supporters and led a public life to be commended, it was his private secret life as a child pornographer for which he has been held accountable. In short, Robert Flibotte, is a convicted child pornographer and the people of Arizona believe child pornographers should be treated harshly to protect further exploitation of our children.