Jury Convicts Man for Taped Sexual Attack on Toddler

A man who was tracked down after a video of him sexually assaulting a 2-year-old girl was found in the Nevada desert was convicted Tuesday of that attack and another on a 6-year-old.

Chester Arthur Stiles remained sitting, showed no emotion and stared straight ahead as guilty verdicts were read against him for 22 felonies, including sexual assault.

He faces multiple life prison terms at sentencing, which was set for May 8.

"This guy is sick," juror Jeffrey Taube, 34, said later.

Nineteen of the charges stemmed from acts Stiles videotaped of himself with the 2-year-old sometime from April to August 2003. The jury somberly viewed the graphic homemade VHS tape late Friday in a hushed courtroom where the judge excluded the public but allowed five news reporters to remain.

Outside the presence of the jury, Clark County District Court Judge Jennifer Togliatti called the recorded images "clearly child pornography in its most graphic form."

A man gave the tape to authorities in September 2007, five months after he found it hidden in a desert lot about 60 miles west of Las Vegas. That man later pleaded guilty to conspiracy to obstruct a public officer for the delay in turning in the video.

With clear evidence of a sex crime on a toddler but neither the victim nor the abuser identified, investigators released images from the video in a nationwide hunt for both people.

Stiles, 38, of Las Vegas, was arrested in October 2007 after he was identified as the man on the video and a fugitive in a case involving a 6-year-old girl. Prosecutors said he molested the older child in late 2003.

The jury of nine men and three women deliberated about four hours after hearing 16 prosecution witnesses testify over six days.

Stiles' defense lawyers called no witnesses, and Stiles chose not to testify.

The child who was molested when she was 2 is now 8. Her mother testified she has no recollection of the encounter, which occurred when she lived with a friend's family in an apartment in Las Vegas. The friend's mother was Stiles' girlfriend.

Stiles was convicted of 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.

Deputy public defender Stacey Roundtree asked jurors to focus on shortcomings in the prosecution evidence and inconsistencies in witness testimony.

"There is no medical evidence of sexual abuse in this case. There is no DNA evidence," Roundtree said during closings. She added that authorities acknowledged that the videotape turned in to authorities was a copy, not an original recording.

"It could have been manipulated," Roundtree insisted.

Three charges stemmed from allegations that Stiles molested the 6-year-old 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 that she awoke before dawn one morning with Stiles kneeling next to her bed and fondling her.

The names of the girls are being withheld because The Associated Press usually does not identify victims of sexual abuse.

Prosecutor Jim Sweetin said the girls were "incapable of resisting or understanding the nature of the conduct."

Clark County District Attorney David Roger said Stiles was never offered a plea deal before trial, which he acknowledged was difficult for witnesses, families and jurors because of the nature of the offenses and the age of the victims.

"It's important for parents to open their eyes widely and be aware there are child predators out there looking for young victims," Roger said.

Roundtree said Stiles was "a man full of sorrow and sometimes anger" as she tried to soften the "inflammatory" way she said he was portrayed by prosecutors.

"Nothing we can say will erase the images of the video you saw last week," she told the jury, but added, "You have no way of knowing what Mr. Stiles meant when he said, 'I'm a monster."'

She referred to a letter in which Stiles recounted his own sexual abuse as a child, apologized for his actions and appeared to acknowledge what was on the videotape.

"What I've done there's no making up for," said one letter Stiles addressed to four former girlfriends. "Somehow being abused made my conscience a smaller voice than it should have been. I'm a monster.

"Please! Please let all guilt die with me. Chester."

Roundtree and Deputy Public Defender Amy Coffee said after the verdict they will appeal the judge's decisions to let prosecutors show the video, air jailhouse telephone recordings and read Stiles' personal letters to the jury.

Stiles also faces federal charges of producing child pornography, which could carry a sentence of 15 to 30 years in federal prison. That trial is set for April 6 in Las Vegas.