Trial Begins In Las Vegas Toddler Video Sex Case


LAS VEGAS (AP) - A community was horrified when authorities
issued a public plea to help track down a man who videotaped
himself molesting a 2-year-old girl.

The same graphic video that helped end a frantic manhunt for
Chester Arthur Stiles in 2007 and located his victim will be the
key piece of evidence as Stiles goes on trial this week.

Stiles, who also is accused of molesting a 6-year-old, faces 22
felony charges, including 21 that carry a life sentence.

"You like that? Feel good?" Stiles asks the toddler in the
video, according to a Las Vegas police report filed after Stiles
was arrested on Oct. 15, 2007, in Henderson. Police said Stiles can
be seen adjusting the camera as he sexually assaults the child.

The haunting video hasn't been shown publicly, but authorities
took photo images of the girl and a man's face from it and
distributed them to the media to help find the child and Stiles
during a two-week nationwide search.

Now, after several delays, Stiles, 38, is on trial in Las Vegas
on charges he sexually assaulted the two girls in 2003. Jury
selection began Tuesday. Stiles has pleaded not guilty to 11 counts
of sexual assault with a minor under 14 years of age, 10 counts of
lewdness with a child under 14, and one charge of attempted sexual
assault with a minor under 14.

"I'm done," Stiles wrote in letters to his girlfriend from the
Clark County jail, where he has been held for the past 16 months.
He refers to himself as "a monster" with "no defense" facing
"forever" in prison "for a crime that happened once."

"No weapon was used; no drugs, no violence, no blood, no tears,
no threats," he said in one of his letters, with an apparent
reference to the younger girl having "no memory of it."

"Coercion used for some touching, and they have turned it into
the crime of the century," he wrote.

Stiles waived a preliminary hearing, which spared the young
girls from having to testify. But after he pleaded not guilty, his
defense lawyers fought to edit the letters before they are shown to
the jury.

His lawyers also plan to challenge the authenticity of the
videotape and raise questions about the way it came into the hands
of sheriff's deputies in the nearby desert town of Pahrump.

"This is by no means an open-and-shut case," insisted Stacey
Roundtree, a deputy public defender who represents Stiles. "The
jury will find that they really cannot trust what they see."

No decision has been made about whether Stiles will testify,
Roundtree said.

His lawyers also plan to challenge the memory of the older girl,
who now lives with her mother in Washington state and is due to
take the witness stand. There is no video of her alleged attack.

The case burst onto the public scene in late summer 2007 when
Nye County sheriff's deputies say 26-year-old Darren Tuck gave them
a videotape that he said he found about five months earlier,
wrapped in a plastic bag beneath a piece of wood in a desert lot
about 60 miles west of Las Vegas.

Sheriff's investigators say they were initially unable to
identify the man or the child pictured in the video.

"We were getting kind of desperate. We didn't know where she
was, or whether she was alive," Nye County Sheriff Tony DeMeo
said, recalling why he made the unusual decision to distribute
images of a sexual assault victim.

"We felt she was still in danger," DeMeo said.

It didn't take long before a Las Vegas woman saw the image of
the child on television and called the girl's mother. The child was
found safe in Las Vegas, and police say the mother identified the
bedroom where the video was filmed. She told police that she and
her daughter had moved from the apartment in late 2003.

Authorities don't plan to call the little girl to testify.
Prosecutors say the images will speak for themselves.

A lawyer for the girl's mother says the child, now 8, doesn't
remember the alleged assault.

"She's just a normal, happy kid - a rambunctious kid at that,"
lawyer Jerry Donahue said. "She can't testify. She's got nothing
really to say."

The mother has not spoken publicly about the case. Donahue said
she was "trying to remain as anonymous as she can for as long as
she can" and was trying to protect her daughter's identity.

"She knows she's going to have to testify," Donahue said of
the single mother. "She's not looking forward to it. They've told
her to expect a pretty thorough and difficult cross examination."

After Stiles was identified as the man in the video, authorities
said he also was sought on a warrant issued in April 2006 on a
charge of lewdness with a child under age 14.

That case stemmed from a 6-year-old girl's report in December
2003 that Stiles kissed and fondled her while he was staying the
night at her home. The girl referred to Stiles as her boyfriend,
police said.

Stiles was in the home visiting his girlfriend, who had been
given shelter by the 6-year-old's parents after losing a job,
police said.

Some 200 prospective jurors answered eight-page questionnaires
containing 29 questions, including whether they can remain fair and
impartial about evidence including the graphic videotape, and
whether they can take part in a trial lasting two weeks or more.

Clark County District Court Judge Jennifer Togliatti said she
expects it will take several days to seat a jury of 12 people and
three alternates.

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