After two mistrials and finally a guilty verdict by a jury earlier this year, a Phoenix man accused of repeatedly molesting a young boy on fishing trips to the Flagstaff area has been sentenced to life in prison.
Stephen James Bruni, 46, who was living in the Phoenix area at the time, was convicted on one count of sexual conduct with a minor under the age of 12, a class 2 felony and a dangerous crime against a child. Arizona law requires the life sentence, with eligibility for parole only after 35 years have been served in prison.
The child molestation allegedly occurred on a family camping trip south of Flagstaff between July 22-24, 2008.
Bruni shared a tent with the child at the Woods Canyon Lake Campground south of Flagstaff, where prosecutors contend he molested the child multiple times between fishing outings.
Bruni allegedly told the child not to tell anyone, but the child didn't keep quiet about it.
According to a police report, the child had also accused Bruni of molestation several years earlier and relatives didn't believe him.
A trial in August 2011 ended in a hung jury after three jurors told Coconino County Superior Court Judge Mark Moran they couldn't come to an agreement with the remaining jurors. A previous trial in fall of 2010 was called off by the judge after evidence wasn't disclosed to the defense in a timely manner.
The defendant admitted to sexual conduct with the boy in a taped phone call set up by Coconino County Sheriff's Offices detectives after the child told family members about being molested.
In the phone conversation, the child's father told Bruni that the boy was seeing a counselor and having trouble discussing the molestation. The father said they needed to know what happened in order to help the child.
Bruni confessed in the call to certain sexual acts; however, the defendant maintained in court that he only made the statements under duress because he was scared of the boy's father, who had previously tried to fight him.
The boy's father had admitted to detectives that he lied to detectives about fighting with the defendant because the father didn't want to go back to prison.
Eric Betz can be reached at 556-2250 or email@example.com.