LAS VEGAS (AP) - Jurors grimly viewed key evidence late Friday
in the trial of a man accused of sexually assaulting two little
girls in separate incidents in 2003.
Several jurors dabbed their eyes with tissues in a hushed
courtroom as they watched a video showing the defendant, Chester
Arthur Stiles, whisper to a 2-year-old while he repositioned her on
a bed for various sex acts.
"Do you like that? Does it feel good?" Stiles asks the girl
near the end of the 15-minute video, which the judge deemed so
disturbing that she closed the courtroom to all but a few news
reporters, security officers and court officials during the
Clark County District Judge Jennifer Togliatti also banned
cameras, cell phones and recorders after granting access to five
reporters who filed written applications to watch what she called -
outside the jury's presence - "as graphic a child pornography
video that anyone has ever observed."
Stiles, 38, kept his eyes on notes he wrote on a yellow legal
pad and passed to one of his two defense lawyers while jurors
watched the video.
He faces multiple terms of life in prison if convicted of any of
21 charges of lewdness with a child under the age of 14 and sexual
assault with a minor under 14. He also faces two to 20 years if
convicted of a charge of attempted sexual assault with a minor
One juror, sitting directly in front of the flat-screen monitor,
closed his eyes several times and clutched a tissue in his clenched
fist against the bridge of his nose. He stared down into the jury
box for several moments after the video ended.
No one spoke. As the nine men and five women filed solemnly out
of the courtroom afterward, one middle-aged man glanced toward
Stiles sitting at the defendant's table. The other 13 kept their
eyes fixed straight ahead.
"Everything builds up to the video," prosecutor Jim Sweetin
said of the VHS tape, which prosecutors say Stiles filmed with the
girl in a Las Vegas apartment sometime between April and August
Stiles also is accused of sexually assaulting a 6-year-old girl
while he and a girlfriend spent two nights as guests at the girl's
Las Vegas home in December 2003. That girl, now 11 and living in
Washington state, testified Monday.
The video is the crucial piece of evidence that Stiles allegedly
committed 19 felonious acts on the toddler, now 8. She has not
testified. Her mother told the jury Wednesday the child has no
recollection of the taped encounter with Stiles.
The video surfaced in September 2007 when an ex-convict and
admitted methampetamine 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 it to locate the child in
Las Vegas, and mounted a nationwide manhunt that led to Stiles'
arrest in October 2007 in Henderson.
Also Friday, the jury heard an audiotape of a jailhouse
telephone call in which Stiles tells an unidentified woman he is
aware of what the video shows.
"I, you know, can't deny what's on the video," he says. "And
I'm not proud of it. But that's the facts. I'm sorry."
"I don't even know what to say, Chet," the woman responds.
"I don't either," Stiles says. "I'm just gonna sit back and
take my medicine."
Prosecutors are expected to rest their case Monday.
Stiles' lawyers have not said if he will testify during the
defense portion of the case, which could last less than a day.
The defense lost bids to prevent letters by Stiles, the jail
audio, and the video from being entered as evidence.
But they have said they plan to challenge the authenticity of
the tape, which they maintain has been edited.
Stiles received a warning from Togliatti during testimony
earlier Friday after protesting aloud about jailhouse letters
entered as evidence against him.
"It's all taken out of context," Stiles blurted while a former
girlfriend, Susan Windrem, read a letter in which he acknowledged
making "horrible decisions," but denied being "a predator."
Togliatti allowed Windrem to continue her testimony. Once the
jury left the room, she warned Stiles he faced "ramifications" if
he disrupted the trial again.