Doubting Thomas

County prosecutors charged a teenager with looking at kiddy porn. Turns out they hadn't done their homework

Matt Bandy was a 16-year-old kid who'd never committed a violent crime, had absolutely no prior record, and yet was looking at 90 years in prison.

Acting on a tip from Yahoo!, Phoenix police had searched the Bandy family computer in December 2004 and found 10 images of child pornography. Prosecutors, convinced they were Matt's, charged him with ten felonies, each worth a non-negotiable 10 to 24 years in the slammer — served consecutively.

It's a case that recently attracted attention from the ABC newsmagazine show 20/20, and it's easy to see why: 90 years is a long time for any teenager to be facing.

Dr. Gregory Bandy and his wife, Jeanne, spent $250,000 defending their son, Matt.
Tony Blei
Dr. Gregory Bandy and his wife, Jeanne, spent $250,000 defending their son, Matt.
County Attorney Andy Thomas ran on a platform of being tough on child porn.
courtesy of Andrew Thomas
County Attorney Andy Thomas ran on a platform of being tough on child porn.

And, when it comes to heinous crime, a 16-year-old looking at 12-year-olds isn't at the top of the list. A 16-year-old is practically a kid himself. Especially a sheltered 16-year-old like Matt, who went to Valley Christian Academy, acted in school plays, and liked going to Disneyland.

All that's beside the point, though, because Matt insisted he was innocent. Yeah, he told the cops, he'd looked at adult porn on the family computer. But child porn — no way.

They all say that, of course. But records show that Matt passed two lie detector tests, one administered by a nationally recognized expert. He also passed a psychosexual evaluation with a local psychiatrist.

Matt, the doctor concluded, was not a pervert and not into little kids.

Ultimately, the case was resolved last November in a bittersweet way. Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas dropped the child porn charges, Matt copped to three other felonies, and the only question left was whether the now 18-year-old should be labeled a sex offender.

But what makes this case so shocking is what the record now shows: Thomas had an appalling lack of evidence. His investigators had never even checked out the most basic facts that would ultimately vindicate Matt.

Thomas' spokesman, Barnett Lottstein, declined comment, but Matt Bandy and his family were happy to talk. Matt, who has enrolled at Scottsdale Community College, skipped his first day of class last week to talk about the case with his parents and New Times. (The family's also put up a Web site, www.justice4matt.com.)

"The idea to go public with this — all along, it was Matt," says Jeanne Bandy.

"I don't want this to happen to anyone else," Matt adds. "And it's going to happen again. Computers are so unsafe — and the prosecution in this state is so harsh — it could easily happen to someone else."

Matt's father, Dr. Gregory Bandy, is an emergency room physician. He has a hard time believing everything that's happened to his family in the last two years.

"They don't have to prove you're guilty — you have to prove yourself innocent," Gregory Bandy says, and the disbelief is clear on his face.

"They've turned the Constitution upside down."


In retrospect, the case against Matt Bandy was always incredibly weak. Still, resolution took a long time.

The plea deal came two years after police showed up at the Bandy's door, and a year after Matt was charged and forced to wear an ankle bracelet, recording his every move.

Blame Thomas' typically hard-nosed approach. When his prosecutors initially offered a deal, says Ed Novak, Matt's attorney, it was contingent on Matt copping to two second-degree felonies, spending a year in Tent City, and registering as a sex offender. The Bandys, convinced of Matt's innocence, said no.

But the long wait also occurred because prosecutors hadn't done their homework, yet seemed intent on keeping the defense from doing it for them.

Novak, a savvy Phoenix attorney with little patience for prosecutorial grandstanding, had gotten a court order requiring Thomas' office to give him a complete copy of the Bandys' hard drive. He'd hired an expert in Tucson to see what was really on there.

The prosecutors appealed the order, but the appeals court refused to grant them a stay and then refused to hear the case.

So Thomas went on to the Arizona Supreme Court. Again, the court refused to give him a stay. And again, the court dismissed the argument without a hearing.

But all that took time and energy. It took Novak two months — and twocourt orders — to get the data turned over. (The prosecutors had a right to appeal, but without a court-ordered "stay," the defense was supposed to get the material in the meantime.)

And so while Matt was saddled with an ankle bracelet, and while his parents shelled out thousands of dollars and worried about keeping him out of jail, Novak waited for a copy of the hard drive.

Only after the defense had the hard-drive information did the evidence against Matt Bandy become a bit more clear.

"The hard drive was infected with hundreds of viruses and spyware and backdoor Trojans," says Tami Loehrs, the expert Novak hired. She works with a firm called Law 2000 and consults on many porn cases. "With a backdoor Trojan, anyone can actually get into your computer."

Including someone who was dealing in child porn — someone who'd have particularly good reason not to save the contraband to their own hard drive.

"They're doing it so they don't get caught with it," Loehrs explains. "If I'm on your computer thanks to a backdoor Trojan, I know everything you do. I can get your user name, your password, everything. And I can make it look like you're the one posting pictures."

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6 comments
Amypanther
Amypanther

I think of the Bandy family frequently and pray they are recovering from this horrible violation and Matt is doing well. Nothing made me happier, then hearing Andrew Thomas was disbarred this week.A.Panther

Sarah Tumbler
Sarah Tumbler

ya know.....The more I think about this....if he was 16....he would have been in school right?every image on a computer has a digtal time stamp as to when it was downloaded created etc...If the images dont match the time he was home...

AJ
AJ

I'm happy the family was able to afford a attornery and get justice for there son.We are going through a simliar case right now.We just found out the alleged victim recanted her statement shortly after a dependency was file in to court July 2009.We did'nt find out about her recanting until I wrote Senator John McCain asking him to look into the case in 2010 of this year.He replied back by a letter saying he was forwarding the letter to Gov Jan Brewer office to have them look into the case.We received a letter back from Neal Young Department of Economic Security in August 2010 stating that the alleged victim recanted her statement to the Phoenix Police Department and CPS that why there were not criminal charges made.But the fact is that the AG's Office and CPS withheld evidence from us and are public defender (attornerys).I sure wish we had the money to get some real attornerys to fight for us and our kids.I would also like to know the name of the doctor who conducted the psychosexual evalaution for Matt Bandy and family.The reason why is because even though the AG's office has know evidence to support there case they still want my husband to take a psychosexual.The doctor the state has recommend is a doctor we were told from a source that would be used to rule in the states favor.Dr.Gray is known to handle all CPS cases for them so the results will come back in favor of the state.Thank you for letting me vent a little bit on your web site hopefully I receive some helpful information back.

Justice4all
Justice4all

and now weels of justice take another turn andy thomass is voted out 2010

THIS is a good reason not to hire him as atty in his new private office, maybe he''ll be run out of the state.

very sad what he did to this family , I hope Matt and the family recover this horriffic ordeal.

Judy Day
Judy Day

I believe it is about time we make DA's, judges, CPS workers, doctors and others that have the power to alter lives or distroy them accountable for their actions! They certainly want others to be that way!

Take the immunity clause off these people so they will think befor they act! Too many innocent lives are being distroyed by people that hide their actions behind "IMMUNITY"!

Richard Connors
Richard Connors

Most DA's are incompetent lawyers and political wannabes and they have destroyed more innocent lives than should be allowed. just look at the rape cases in Georgia that have unravelled because of DNA testing once again DA's are just bigoted bullis with an agenda. I know because I went through it in massachusettes when I lost my wallet and some felon committed a crime with my id's the DA in my case kwen it wasn't me and still made me get a lawyer and go to court. I will say this most people who go before a judge have done something wrong. But it usualy easier to prove.

 
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