Video: Accused child rapist appears in court

updated 10/17/2007 1:00:03 PM ET 2007-10-17T17:00:03

The man accused in the videotaped sexual abuse of a 3-year-old girl was arraigned Wednesday, a day after his arrest during a routine traffic stop.

Chester Arthur Stiles, 37, did not enter pleas during the two-minute hearing in Las Vegas Justice Court.

Stiles faces 23 felony charges, including sexual assault of a minor and use of a minor in producing pornography, that could get him multiple sentences of life in prison if he is convicted. He stood shackled wearing blue jail scrubs, his eyes downcast, with unkempt hair over his forehead.

Stiles responded, “No ma’am,” when asked if he could afford a lawyer. The judge appointed a public defender, Jeff Banks, to represent him.

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 said.

Security at the courthouse was unusually tight. A court administrator, Chuck Short, said Stiles had received death threats, and said additional security had been appointed for Stiles and his lawyer.

No bail was set, but Banks said he might seek bail later.

In a video that led to a police manhunt for him, Stiles is shown committing a variety of sexual acts on a young girl while addressing her by name and repositioning the camera himself, according to a police report.

Mom recognized girl's room
The girl’s mother chose not to watch the video, but told police 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.

On Tuesday, the mother’s lawyer, Jerry Donohue, said the girl, now a 7-year-old second-grader, “clearly has no memory of any molestation, which is good.” But he said she has been interviewed by medical professionals and police, and “she knows something’s going on around her.”

Stiles’ image — drawn from the brutally explicit videotape — had circulated widely in the media. He was about to have been named one of the FBI’s most-wanted fugitives before he was apprehended, said Special Agent David Staretz, spokesman for the FBI office in Las Vegas.

Stiles was being held in isolation at the Clark County jail in Las Vegas. The charges against him were amended Wednesday to add felony lewdness with a child under the age of 14 and sexual assault of a minor under the age of 14, related to a 2003 case alleging he fondled a 6-year-old girl.

The charges filed in court by the Clark County District Attorney included 10 counts of lewdness with child under the age of 14, 11 counts of sexual assault with a minor under the age of 14, one count of attempted sexual assault of a minor under the age of 14 and one count of use of a minor in producing pornography.

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.

The state criminal charges could get him multiple terms of life in prison if convicted.

The girl assaulted in the video was found safe Sept. 28 with her mother in Las Vegas after sheriff’s detectives in neighboring Nye County circulated her photo to the media and asked for help finding her.

The pressure of the search appeared to unnerve Stiles, who vomited several times following his arrest Monday in suburban Henderson, Las Vegas police Sgt. Dave Stansbury said.

Stopped driving car with no plates
Stiles was arrested by a Henderson patrol officer who said he was spotted driving a white Buick Century with no license plates.

A booking photo showed Stiles with long hair — a change in appearance police knew enough about to have a sketch made in early October, but which it did not release to the media for fear it would drive him further underground.

No weapons were found in the car, and Stansbury said it did not appear that Stiles had enough bedding, food, water and other supplies to live in the vehicle, which was impounded. The woman who owns the car was questioned but not charged.

“I honestly don’t feel he was living out of his car the whole time,” Stansbury said. “He obviously had friends who either didn’t know he was the most wanted person in Las Vegas or they didn’t care.”

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 next 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. Nye County Sheriff Tony DeMeo alleged that Tuck kept the video for several months and showed it to other people before turning it over to detectives.

“We’re hoping that Stiles cooperates with police and this will illuminate what we’ve been saying from the beginning,” said Tuck’s lawyer, Chris Rasmussen. “Mr. Tuck had no involvement with Mr. Stiles.”

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