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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

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12/15/2011 1:00:00 PM
Costa, once held on record bond, gets probation, will be deported
"Please don't let this case set an all-time new low in plea-bargain history..."
By Scott Orr
Contributing Reporter

PRESCOTT - Ricardo Costa, once held on a state-record-high $75 million bond, on Wednesday pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted sexual abuse of a minor under 14 and was granted probation.

Costa, 39, was charged with two counts of continuous sexual abuse of a child. He originally faced a dozen counts of sexual misconduct and was not eligible for bond. Last year, those charges were thrown out, and Yavapai County Superior Court Judge Tina Ainley set his bond at $75 million, cash only.

The Arizona Court of Appeals ruled that amount was excessive and Ainley dropped it to $2 million. He was still unable to bond out, his attorney claiming he could do no better than $25,000.

Costa has been in the Yavapai County Jail since Dec. 19, 2008. A Brazilian citizen and longtime Sedona resident, Costa went to the courthouse in Prescott to deal with financial issues related to his divorce. Instead, he was arrested and charged with molesting children. His supporters claim his ex-wife falsely accused him to get back at him.

On Wednesday, Yavapai County Superior Court Judge Tina Ainley started the session by noting that the usual procedure was to begin sentencing right away, but because "the victims continue to object to the plea agreement," she would hear them first.

Two children testified on video. One, a girl, said, "(Costa) ruined parts of my life. I just hope I can get the image of him out of my head."

"I have to say I want to rip his head off," she continued. "You should never let him out of jail. He will keep doing this to children."

The second, a boy, said, "He is the scum of the Earth."

"My fantasy is to make him feel the pain I did ... by beating him," he said.

"He did rape me over and over again," the boy added. "He does rape children."

An adult family member of a third child victim read a statement from her.

"You should never let him out of jail. He will never change," she read. "I just want to block out everything I saw."

But the longest and most damning comments came from the victims' mother.

She spoke for nearly 30 minutes, explaining how the children had been affected, what she claimed Costa did to them, and how he had managed to rally community support for himself even while in jail.

"(The victims) saw photos of the perpetrator around town with angels' wings around him," she said. "Sedona did a benefit fundraiser for him - he was celebrated as a cult hero."

"He has shown no sign of remorse or redemption," she said. "He is an unfit candidate for probation. Our only saving grace is that he will be deported. But what about the children in the country where he is going?"

She said she'd only gone along with a plea to spare the children from the further trauma of a trial. But, she said, "I am not one of the parties who agreed to the stipulations of probation (as part of the deal)."

"Please don't let this case set an all-time new low in plea-bargain history," she said.

Attorney Jeff Johnson, appearing on behalf of the victims, told Ainley that the agreement was not binding and that "in light of what you have heard ... the victims would like to see the defendant in prison at least until the youngest victim reaches the age of majority."

Costa's attorney, Bruce Griffen, declined to speak, as did Costa himself, instead handing the judge a written statement.

Ainley said, "From the beginning this case has been difficult." She said she'd seriously considered rejecting the plea, and that handing the case to a jury "certainly would be easier."

"The bottom line remains that this case would be challenging to prove (to a jury) beyond a reasonable doubt," noting that some of the testimony she had just heard tended to confirm that.

"This case involves children, and no one can predict what a jury will do," she added.

Ainley found Costa guilty of two counts of attempted continuous sexual abuse of a minor under 14, and sentenced him to lifetime sex offender probation; he has expressed a desire to return to Brazil and, in any case, would be deported due to his conviction.

Ainley pointed out that, if he should violate his probation, including a provision that he have no contact with the victims, she could sentence him to 15 years on each count.

"Mr. Costa is released from custody today," she said.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, December 16, 2011
Article comment by: Actions speak louder than words

So Judge Ainley goes from a record high $75 million bond all the way to probation. Does this set a new record low for jurisprudence?

Its clear from Judge Ainley\\\'s remarks that in her eyes Mr. Costa was guilty until proven innocent, and has been from day one. She also indicated it was unlikely the allegations against him could be proven in a court of law, even hers.

But judges are supposed to be fair and objective. Theyre supposed to serve blind justice. Theyre supposed to uphold the standard of innocent until proven guilty. Thats our system of justice. Looks like it didnt happen for Mr. Costa.

By her actions, Judge Ainley showed she thinks Mr. Costa would be judged innocent by a jury of his peers.

The tragedy of all this is that Mr. Costa sat rotting in Yavapai County jail for almost 3 years. Innocent or guilty, he did not get his day in court in a timely manner. Judge Ainley made sure of that.

We do know from published reports that the ex-wife is characterized as being vindictive after a messy divorce. She is described as a woman scorned and seeking revenge.

She reportedly enlisted the services of a now-disgraced psychologist who lost her license, and who apparently shared the ex-wifes antipathy toward men.

Apparently Judge Ainley lapped all this up. This is the same Judge, by the way, that recently set free an attempted murderer in our community because the defendant was allegedly incompetent to stand trial.

Have we had enough of this yet?

Judge Ainley is an elected judge. She will soon be up for re-election to the bench. Lets hope the good people of Arizona, when they next see her name on the ballot, do not just rubber stamp their approval.

Posted: Friday, December 16, 2011
Article comment by: Tanya Amis

ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!! job well done judicial system youve shown children that have the courage to speak up and tell someone of their abuse that this means nothing to adults. This "man" should be locked away in an American jail ... Give me a break Judge your pathetic.

Posted: Friday, December 16, 2011
Article comment by: Michael Young

I can't belive this story. Judge, Are you kidding me? I am tired of hearing about Judges letting criminals get out of jail after a slap on the wrist.

The pedifilies are every where, I just read there is
one convicted living locally in a van?!! I urge all parents to be aware that these convicts are everywhere and make sure your kids are not walking around town by them selves. Be weary but safe. Also, lets hope this Judge is near retirement.

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