LAS VEGAS – The man accused of abusing a 3-year-old girl in an explicit sex videotape has received so many death threats that he was surrounded by six armed officers during his first appearance in court since he was snared in a nationwide manhunt.
Chester Arthur Stiles, 37, did not enter a plea during a two-minute hearing Wednesday in Las Vegas Justice Court. He waived a reading of the charges and spoke briefly to confirm that he could not afford a lawyer.
Stiles stood wearing blue jail scrubs, his eyes downcast and with unkempt hair over his forehead. His fists shackled at his side to a chain belt, Stiles said "No ma'am," when asked if he could pay for a lawyer. Deputy Public Defender Jeff Banks was appointed to represent Stiles.
Stiles was arraigned on 23 felony charges, including 10 counts of lewdness with a child under 14 and 11 counts of sexual assault of a child under 14. Three charges date back to the alleged molestation of a 6-year-old girl in December 2003.
Stiles was arrested Monday during a traffic stop in Henderson, southeast of Las Vegas. He became the subject of a massive manhunt after authorities released images of him from the video.
Outside court, Banks characterized Stiles as "down in the mouth" but said he expected he would fight the charges at future hearings. "Of course he's going to plead not guilty," Banks told reporters.
Court administrator Chuck Short said Stiles had received death threats, so security was tightened for Stiles and his lawyer. No bail was set, but Banks said he might seek bail later.
Stiles faces multiple terms of life in prison if convicted.
The U.S. attorney has also unsealed a grand jury indictment of a federal charge of producing child pornography, which could carry a sentence of 15 to 30 years in federal prison. Officials said Stiles will be tried on state charges first.
In the video, Stiles is shown committing a variety of sexual acts on the young girl while addressing her by name and repositioning the camera himself, according to a police report.
The girl's mother chose not to watch the video, but told police that she recognized striped sheets, her daughter's favorite leopard-print dress at the time and the knob-less wooden armoire in an apartment they moved from before the girl's third birthday in September 2003.
The girl assaulted in the video was found safe Sept. 28 with her mother in Las Vegas after sheriff's detectives circulated her photo to the media and asked for help finding her. She is now 7 and her mother's lawyer has said she has no memory of any molestation.
Police are still searching for other possible victims and accomplices.
The man who turned in the videotape, Darrin Tuck, 26, remains in custody after appearing Monday in a Pahrump court on a probation violation charge. He is due to appear Monday on a felony pornography possession charge, his lawyer said.
Tuck told Nye County sheriff's investigators he found the tape beneath a fallen sign in the desert. DeMeo alleged that Tuck kept the video for several months and showed it to other people before turning it over to detectives.
Tuck's lawyer, Chris Rasmussen, has said Tuck had no involvement with Stiles.