Doubting Thomas

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

As it turns out, the sum total of the prosecution's evidence against Matt Bandy was that someone with access to his family's computer had posted child porn on a Yahoo! chat room.

That might have been anyone with a bit of computer savvy, as Loehrs determined. Thanks to the Trojans, a person didn't have to be in the Bandy home to be accessing the family's hard drive.

The prosecutor's computer "expert," Detective Larry Core of the county attorney's office, had never even bothered to check out the possibility of a virtual intruder.

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.

"Did you find any viruses, evidence of any virus?" Novak asked, according to the transcripts.

"I didn't look," Core replied.

"Did you look for any evidence of hacking?" Novak asked.

"Nope," Core replied.

"Did you look for any evidence of back-door entries into the computer?"

"Nope," said Core.


Los Angeles-based computer expert Jeff Fischbach first started consulting on porn cases 11 years ago. He immediately assumed, he admits, that if someone was charged with possession of child porn, they were guilty.

But since that time, Fischbach has learned to make no assumptions. Viruses that allow remote access are on practically every hard drive, he says, yet few prosecutors bother to look for them and weigh their presence before throwing the book at a defendant. (Really, the only way most people can guarantee safety is to have a full-time IT expert, like most big companies. Long before the police showed up at their door, after all, the Bandys had asked their salesman at Best Buy how to make the computer safe, and followed his recommendations. Clearly, that was not enough.)

But despite what any outside party would likely consider reasonable doubt, good criminal lawyers have learned that they have little chance of winning over a jury, even with a virus-riddled hard drive.

Their only hope is to convince a prosecutor to be reasonable — to look for evidence of someone with a child porn problem, not just someone with a few random images on a pregnable hard drive.

"The minute you get these images before the jury, their ability to think about anything else is gone," says Fischbach, who has consulted on numerous cases. (He was not involved with either side on the Bandy case.) "At that point, somebody's responsible. Somebody's got to pay. The problem is, in that process, lives get ruined."

That very nearly was Matt Bandy.

He spent months wearing an ankle bracelet. He dropped out of high school because of the stress of trying to hide it from his classmates — and the stress of facing life in prison. His parents, who believed in his innocence from the beginning and never wavered, spent $250,000 on attorneys and experts.

Mindful of the fact that a jury trial could easily net 90 years in prison, Matt agreed in October to plead to lesser felonies: three counts of showing a Playboy around at school, when he was 16.

And he agreed to be registered as a sex offender — despite the fact thatthe report from the county's probation department decreed that Matt "doesnot fit the criteria for sex offender status" and recommended against it.

"I had to be in by 9 p.m.," says Matt. A tall, gawky kid who'd like to be the next Steven Spielberg, his quiet manner masks a dry wit.

"I couldn't have anything depicting a woman in a sexual manner — basically, I couldn't even have a Sports Illustrated with a cheerleader in it. I couldn't be around children. If I wanted to date anyone, I had to inform her on the first date what I'd done and take her to meet my probation officer."

Matt's probation officer, his mother says, insisted that if he wanted to accompany his family to church, he needed a signed letter from their priest, saying it was okay.

If a kid sat down next to him in the pew, Matt had to move.

"Have you ever had one of those dreams where nothing was making sense?" asks Jeanne Bandy, shaking her head. "This was literally a nightmare."

It was only Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Arthur T. Anderson who served as a voice of reason. In Matt's sentencing hearing on November 22, Assistant County Prosecutor Daniel Strange argued that the prosecution was being "generous" and stressed the presence of child porn on the Bandys' computer.

"I believe it's appropriate to monitor this young man's development and make sure that in the future there are no such pictures, pornography, adult or child, in his possession," Strange said.

"Okay," Judge Anderson replied, according to the transcripts.

"And I'll just note for the record," the judge continued, "as you were negotiating the plea agreement here, the reason why this agreement took place is because you couldn't prove the things you just alleged now, or else we wouldn't be here."

"I'm sorry, Your Honor," Strange said. "That's not true."

"Well, that was my memory," the judge said. ". . . Was my memory wrong, Mr. Novak?" (Novak, of course, agreed that it was not.)

Anderson told the Bandys he wouldn't change the plea agreement — he didn't want either side to walk away, leaving Matt to face, once again, 90 years in prison. But the judge strongly encouraged the family to appeal the sex offender designation to his probation officer, according to the transcripts.

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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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