HOLBROOK, Ariz. - Navajo County Attorney Brad Carlyon has nominated Blaine Rhoton of Joseph City to the Arizona Prosecuting Attorneys' Advisory Council (APAAC) as 2011 Felony Prosecutor of the Year, citing Rhoton's outstanding performance as his office's lead prosecutor of serious sex crimes.
Rhoton's nomination will be considered by the APAAC governing council, which includes the Arizona Attorney General and the county attorneys of all 15 Arizona counties. The recipient will be announced at the APAAC summer conference in early August.
Rhoton joined the County Attorney's Office in 2005 after graduating from law school at the University of Houston. After prosecuting misdemeanors for two years, he advanced to felonies in 2007 and began concentrating on sex crimes in early 2009.
"Blaine won convictions in two exceptionally difficult jury trials during the past year," Carlyon said. "He has excellent courtroom skills, and I'm proud to have him on my team."
The first trial cited by Carlyon was that of 56-year-old Randal Kenneth Clark of Show Low, who was convicted of molesting his live-in girlfriend's daughter over a period of nearly nine years, beginning when the child was only seven. Despite a long line of defense witnesses who testified to Clark's good character and reputation and cast doubt on the victim's motives and truthfulness, the jury returned a five-count guilty verdict in less than five hours and Clark was sentenced to 29 years in prison.
Rhoton's second difficult trial, according to Carlyon, was that of 41-year-old Jon Anthony Schweder of White Mountain Lake. Schweder was convicted of molesting his 13-year-old victim at his home during what he had described as their "wedding night." Their relationship had begun with an exchange of messages on MySpace, where Schweder had described himself as being only 17-years-old. Carlyon said the trial was made difficult by a lack of physical evidence, inconsistencies in the victim's version of events, and the nearly uncontrollable behavior in the courtroom of the victim and three young friends who also testified. Nevertheless, the jury deliberated only three hours before convicting Schweder of five counts of sexual contact with a minor. He was sentenced to 65 years in prison.
"Both of these cases could definitely have been lost without Blaine's careful preparation and superb trial skills," the County Attorney said. "In both trials, he brought the truth to light through exceptionally effective cross-examination of hostile witnesses. Thanks to his dedication to criminal justice, two dangerous sexual predators are gone from Navajo County."
Carlyon said Rhoton has been extremely effective in negotiating guilty pleas as well.
"Before each settlement conference, Blaine files a very thorough description of the charges to make clear to the judge the seriousness of the defendant's misconduct," Carlyon said. "The judge before whom he appears most frequently has said how much she appreciates the effort he puts into these pre-trial filings. They help her steer the settlement conference toward an appropriate plea agreement."
Carlyon said another factor in his decision to nominate Rhoton was Rhoton's willingness to make himself available to police and investigators at all hours. "Blaine is constantly on call to attend forensic interviews and advise law enforcement during investigations, often in the middle of the night," the Carlyon said. "Local officers praise him as an invaluable and exceptionally cooperative resource."
"Blaine would be a deserving winner of the APAAC award," Carlyon added. "But regardless of whether he wins, I want the citizens of Navajo County to know how much I appreciate his efforts and how much confidence they can have in him and the other members of my team of prosecutors."
Rhoton and his wife Sheri live in Joseph City, have been married 10 years and have four children.