An Arizona appeals court has vacated what was perhaps one of the highest bail amounts on record in U.S. history that had been set for a father accused of sexually abusing his children.
The brief order issued last week sends the case back to Yavapai County Superior Court Judge Tina Ainley to reset the $75 million cash-only bond for the longtime Sedona resident. She has scheduled a Monday status conference.
The defendant's attorney, Bruce Griffen, sought relief from the appellate court after he tried unsuccessfully to have the case assigned to another trial court judge.
Griffen accused Ainley of abusing her discretion, and exhibiting bias and prejudice.
Prosecutors say those accusations were not proven. They contend the defendant has significant family ties in Brazil and is a flight risk.
The appellate court said Ainley cannot set a bail amount greater than what is necessary to ensure the defendant appears at trial, and can set other release conditions. The court is expected to elaborate on its decision but had not done so as of Friday.
The allegations of sexual abuse arose after the defendant and his wife started on the path to divorce in 2007, according to court documents. The defense claims the children's mother and a psychotherapist manufactured the allegations to keep the father from seeing his three children.
Prosecutors say the mother was in denial when the therapist first told her the youngest child possibly was a victim of sexual abuse because of the way he acted. The mother "is NOT the accuser, the state and the children are," prosecutors said in court documents.
The Associated Press typically does not identify victims of sexual abuse and is withholding the parents' names to protect the children's privacy.
The decision to have the bail amount reset offered little relief for the defendant's brother, who believes the situation will change little under the same judge. He said he's talked almost daily with his brother, who has been jailed in Camp Verde since late 2008.
"He's hanging in there. He's a very strong person, but it's hard to swallow some of this stuff," the brother said from his home in San Diego. His name also was withheld by the AP.
The defense had asked the appellate court to have a new judge determine the bond or to set the bond itself. Instead, the court granted only partial relief.
Prosecutors declined to comment on the court's decision, citing the ongoing case.
The suspect initially was charged with a dozen counts alleging sexual misconduct that are not eligible for bond. Those charges were replaced with an indictment last year alleging two counts of continuous sexual abuse.
Prosecutors argued to the appellate court that Arizona law should not be narrowly construed to exclude the latter charges as non-bondable offenses.