LAS VEGAS – A jury has begun deliberating the fate of a man accused of sexually assaulting two little girls in separate incidents in 2003, and videotaping one of them.
The nine men and three women began work at 10:15 a.m. Tuesday.
Chester Arthur Stiles' defense lawyers didn't put witnesses on the stand and the 38-year-old Stiles chose not to testify before closing arguments late Monday.
Prosecutors rested their case after 16 witnesses over six days of testimony.
The key evidence is a videotape showing Stiles in sex acts with a 2-year-old girl.
He pleaded not guilty to 22 felony child lewdness, sexual assault and attempted sexual assault charges.
Three charges accuse Stiles of molesting a 6-year-old girl in December 2003.
The graphic pornographic video surfaced in 2007.
The charges could get Stiles multiple terms of life in prison.
Defense attorney Stacey Roundtree pointed to a big-screen computer monitor showing pieces of a puzzle not fitting together and urged the jury to focus on shortcomings in the prosecution evidence and inconsistencies in witness testimony.
"You cannot trust the evidence in this case," she said.
Prosecutors Jim Sweetin and Mary Kay Holthus urged the jury to remember the video and to believe what they saw.
"What crimes have been committed here?" Sweetin said as he began direct and accusatory closing arguments that included excruciating detail of the alleged molestation. "The videotape shows exactly what happened, doesn't it?"
The jury somberly viewed the video Friday, after Clark County District Judge Jennifer Togliatti closed the courtroom to the public.
Outside the presence of the jury, the judge called the recorded images "clearly child pornography in its most graphic form." She banned cameras, cell phones and audio recorders, and admitted only five news reporters who filed written requests to be in the courtroom.
Stiles has pleaded not guilty to 22 felony charges: 10 counts of lewdness with a child under the age of 14; 11 counts of sexual assault with a minor under 14; and one count of attempted sexual assault with a minor under 14.
Twenty-one charges carry sentences of life in prison with the possibility of parole. Nineteen charges stem from acts on the video with a 2-year-old girl.
Three charges stem from allegations that Stiles molested a 6-year-old girl while he and his girlfriend spent two nights as guests at the girl's Las Vegas home in December 2003.
That encounter was not videotaped. But the girl, now 11 and living in Washington state, testified last week that she awoke one morning with Stiles fondling her "private."
The girl's mother and two of Stiles' former girlfriends also testified.
"We see on the video the very same acts that in fact (the 6-year-old) says were committed on her," Sweetin said Monday.
Jurors decided to return at 10 a.m. Tuesday to begin deliberating Stiles' fate. Togliatti told them they could not fault Stiles for his decision not to testify.
Sweetin said the young girls, whose names are being withheld because The Associated Press usually does not identify alleged victims of sexual abuse, were "incapable of resisting or understanding the nature of the conduct."
Prosecutors called 15 witnesses in the case. The last on Monday was an FBI agent who earlier identified Stiles as the man in the homemade videotape.
Besides the state charges, Stiles faces pending federal charges of producing child pornography, which could carry a sentence of 15 to 30 years in prison. Officials decided Stiles will be tried on state charges first.
Agent Andy Gruninger also found notes Stiles wrote to former girlfriends, saying that he was sexually abused as a child, apologizing and appearing to acknowledge what was on the videotape, and calling himself "a monster."
"What I've done there's no making up for," one letter said.
Roundtree on Monday portrayed Stiles as "a man full of sorrow and sometimes anger" but tried to soften the way he had been portrayed by prosecutors.
"You have no way of knowing what Mr. Stiles meant when he said, 'I'm a monster,"' the defense lawyer added.
But "nothing we can say will erase the images of the video you saw last week," she conceded.
The video surfaced in September 2007 when an ex-convict and admitted methamphetamine user turned it in to Nye County sheriff's deputies in Pahrump, saying he found it in the desert about 60 miles west of Las Vegas.
Authorities released photo images from the video to locate the child in Las Vegas, and mounted a nationwide manhunt before Stiles was arrested October 2007 during a routine police traffic stop in Henderson.
The girl, now 8, did not testify. Her mother took the stand last week and said the girl didn't remember anything about the encounter, which occurred sometime in a four-month period when she lived with a friend's family in an apartment in Las Vegas.
Roundtree, who with co-defense lawyer Amy Coffee lost bids to sever the cases, accused the district attorney of combining the cases involving the 6-year-old and 2-year-old "to satisfy the deficiencies in one case by the emotional impact of the other."
"There is no medical evidence of sexual abuse in this case. There is no DNA evidence," Roundtree said, adding that authorities acknowledged that the VHS tape turned in to authorities in Pahrump was a copy, not an original recording.
"It could have been manipulated," Roundtree insisted. "You cannot trust the way that tape came about. In this day and age ... you cannot literally trust what you see."
But prosecutor Mary Kay Holthus reminded jurors to remember the video, which the judge has sealed as evidence.
"We saw the video. It was that man," Holthus said of Stiles, whom she called the "director, producer and leading man.
"We saw him manipulating the video and calling the shots. Nobody else could be guilty on that level."