If David Greenberg were to serve his prison sentence in reverse instead of forward -- and survive it entirely -- he would be released just in time to see Sir Isaac Newton define the laws of gravity.
Last month, Coconino County Superior Court Judge Cathleen Brown Nichols convicted the 45-year-old Flagstaff man on 23 of 26 counts last month.
On Wednesday, she sentenced Greenberg to the presumptive term of 17 years on each of 20 counts for sexual exploitation of a minor, a Class 2 felony and a dangerous crime against a child. The charges date back to 2009.
Arizona's sentencing laws require that those convictions be served consecutively, adding up to a whopping 340 years in prison. Nichols said that the defendant's actions had caused extreme harm to the victims and doubted Greenberg's expressions of remorse.
Prosecutors heralded the sentencing as eliminating a threat to society.
"The 'peeping' behavior by this defendant is merely the tip of the iceberg," said Coconino County Attorney David Rozema. "Greenberg is an extremely dangerous pedophile as shown by his horrific collection of child pornography and his surreptitious videotaping activities, including one episode involving a young Flagstaff girl in her bedroom. The threat of harm from this type of offender cannot be overstated."
BUCKETS OF CHILD PORN
The hasty trial and conviction by a judge instead of a jury was a tactic by the defense to speed the case along to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in hopes of having the evidence thrown out.
But that was not the topic at the courthouse on Wednesday.
During a sentencing hearing that lasted more than two hours, a prosecutor for the Coconino County Attorney's Office asked the judge for no fewer than 482 years in prison -- the maximum term -- while Greenberg's defense attorney asked for the minimum 190-year term.
Over the objection of the defense, a Flagstaff Police Department detective reviewed in detail the extensive investigation, describing how the man had videotaped young girls undressing in their homes, stalked a coworker at length, recorded himself masturbating while watching women in Cline Library and downloaded "buckets" of child porn.
The defendant had so much pornography that police officials made the decision not to look at most of it after they calculated it would take a detective one year of full-time work to review it all.
"There were so many videos I just didn't humanly have the time to watch every single video," said Sgt. Gene Shantz. "This was the most graphic, gutwrenching, stomach-turning content I've ever seen."
ARRESTED FOR TRESPASSING
Greenberg had worked in a prestigious laboratory at NAU, doing scientific research and working toward his Ph.D.
Shantz said the case came together after Greenberg was arrested trespassing at a home and investigators suspected, based on talking to the defendant, that the man was a predator. Investigators combed through old cases in the area that were similar and found evidence to connect him to those peeping Tom cases as well. Detectives also learned that NAU police had contacted Greenberg for videotaping women in the library.
At his home, they found videos of the victims, as well as other children the defendant had recorded who couldn't be identified.
One of the young female victims said she spotted the red light of his video camera peering through her window as she undressed. Detectives recovered that video. The state recounted the victim's testimony that she couldn't sleep in her bedroom for months afterward until her parents remodeled the room entirely.
HEINOUS AND DEPRAVED
But it was the child pornography that the state used to send Greenberg away for the rest of his life. Among the cache of videos were heinous and depraved acts of violence to children, including an infant.
Greenberg's attorney, David Bednar, had argued that the sentencing violated his client's Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment, but the judge ruled that because she was sentencing him on multiple counts, it was not unconstitutional.
"I don't think that a 200-year sentence could be considered lenient under any circumstances, judge," Bednar said.
In an interview with the Daily Sun, Bednar said that he and his client knew that the sentence would amount to life in prison, but said their goal remained to have the case thrown out entirely on appeal.
"We believe that the trial court made the correct decision when it determined that the police had no right to search Mr. Greenberg's home," Bednar said. "We believe that there are factually similar cases in the Ninth Circuit that support the trial court's earlier decision of suppression, and we plan to accomplish the same for Mr. Greenberg."
At one point, Greenberg was released from custody and all but one charge was dismissed when then Coconino County Superior Court Judge Dana Hendrix ruled the Flagstaff Police Department had acted improperly.
The judge said that the search warrant contained facts "... so facially deficient that the executing officer could not reasonably assume it is valid." A detective also told Greenberg he only faced misdemeanor charges.
The ruling forced prosecutors to dismiss all but one charge, allowing the defendant to leave Arizona on probation.
Hendrix's decision was overturned by the Arizona Court of Appeals and Greenberg was rearrested in Maryland and brought back to Flagstaff in the back of a prisoner transport van over the course of a week.
Eventually, Bednar asked to have Judge Nichols determine his client's guilt, which set up the sentencing this week.
SUFFERING AN ADDICTION
On Wednesday, with many detectives and victims in the audience, the defendant told Nichols that his obsession was shameful and disgusting. However, Greenberg said it was an addiction that never physically threatened anyone because he never actually touched any of the victims.
However, when detectives served a search warrant on his home, they discovered a tent set up as if it were a child's play area, as well as chemicals commonly used for rendering people unconscious.
When Greenberg was given his chance to address the court, he begged forgiveness from the people he victimized, adding that his legal situation was very bad for him.
"I'm addicted to pornography and I have been for a long time and I didn't know where to get help," he said. "The shame I feel no one can even begin to understand and I have to live with that for the rest of my life. I don't understand how I'm going to prison for the rest of my life."
Greenberg told the judge that he got himself caught because he wanted help, but he said he didn't expect the drastic consequences he now faces under Arizona law.
"I'm not interested in hurting anyone," he said.
Senior Trial Deputy Jonathan Mosher said he believed the defendant when he said he had an addiction, but told the judge that Greenberg's behavior had caused great harm. Each time a person views an image or video of a child being abused, that child is victimized again, Mosher said.
"When you possess an image of a baby being (sexually abused) you get the maximum -- period," Mosher said. "The defendant deserves an extreme punishment for his extreme crime."
Eric Betz can be reached at 556-2250 or email@example.com.