Tyler Kost sentenced to jail, probation in San Tan Valley sex crimes casePosted: Updated:
Tyler Kost, the San Tan Valley man who pleaded guilty in a sex crimes case involving girls at Poston Butte High School, was sentenced to three years in jail and 15 years of probation after apologizing for his actions in open court Friday morning.
Kost had accepted a plea deal and was found guilty of attempted sexual conduct with a minor and child abuse.
Kost also will get credit for 990 days that he has already served. Doing the basic math, that leaves 105 days, a little more than three months, of jail time. Because Kost has served more than 85 percent of his term, which amounts to 959 days, he is now eligible for early release.
While attorneys admit Kost could theoretically be released as early as Friday, it could take a couple weeks for the right paperwork to be filed and processed. Kost will have to be processed through the Department of Corrections and stay there until he is released to serve probation.
Friday's sentencing hearing brings an end to a case that started with Kost's arrest -- the first of two -- in 2014.
“Your honor, I want to apologize for my actions," Kost said in court before learning his fate. "I know I made some serious mistakes and I want you to know that I accept responsibility for what I did. I’m so sorry for the pain I’ve caused everyone. I’ve spent most of the last three years in jail thinking about what happened and the damage I’ve done."
“I hope the court will give me an opportunity to prove that I’ve matured and will never repeat my past mistakes," he continued. "I took every class I could while in jail and am looking forward to participating in every program offered by probation to better myself.”
Kost's family was in his corner as character witnesses.
“We are all here to support Tyler in the next chapter of his life," Kost's father, James Kost, said during Friday morning's hearing. "He’s grown from this experience and will go on to do something incredible with his life I have no doubt. Judge, Tyler’s a good kid and we ask that you allow him to come home to his family and let the healing process begin for everybody."
Other family members also stood up to speak Kost's behalf.
[SLIDESHOW: From the courtroom]
“We are standing before this court this morning with the understanding that Tyler has made a mistake," Kost's uncle, Richard Kost, told the judge during the sentencing hearing. "He has taken responsibility as a man for a misstep he made as an adolescent.”
Arrested in May 2014, Kost was 18 when he was accused of sexually assaulting several girls -- all between the ages of 12 and 17 -- at San Tan Valley's Poston Butte High School.
A letter from one of Kost's victims was read by the prosecutor during the sentencing hearing.
“The impact my sexual assault had on me was devastating," the victim wrote. "My life changed forever. I didn’t sleep for months. I had nightmares and to this day, a few years later, I still get nightmares. I became extremely depressed to the point I was physically hurting myself and I ended up in a mental health facility for three weeks a month after it happened. I was getting flashbacks all the time.
“I was also getting bullied," the letter continued. "I was pushed into walls in the hallway, called a slut, and many people called me a liar.”
A letter from a second victim described similar personal devastation and self-destruction, including a statement aimed directly at Kost.
“I was 14 when Tyler did what he did to me. He took advantage of how young I was and manipulated me into thinking what happened was my fault. He told me God never loved me and my parents will never forgive me. I believed it. I hated myself because of this. I kept it a secret and I think that could have been the worst thing I could have done. It made me bitter and I instantly pushed God and my family out of my life. This all led me into a very destructive lifestyle. I didn’t care about anything. My heart was so full of hate and guilt I didn’t have room for anything else. I forgot how to love and pushed away anyone who tried to love me. To this day I struggle with all these things, but, Tyler, no matter what I did or how I felt, my parents never stopped loving me.”
“I’ve considered the recommendation of the Adult Probation Department in its pre-sentence report that the sentences in this case be served concurrently," Judge Kevin D. White said. "And again, rightly so, considering your young age at the time of these offenses. I’ve also, again, considered the fact that this is your first involvement in the criminal justice system -- that there’s been no prior involvement in the juvenile justice system, either -- and this will be the first effort to have intervention on behalf of the criminal justice system. And perhaps, most significantly, I’ve considered the fact that this plea agreement provides that you shall be sentenced to 15 years of probation on four separate counts which would, by terms of the plea agreement, run consecutive to the prison terms imposed on Count 14 and 26.
“As a consequence of that, if you ever violate your probation, you’ll be looking at a prison sentence of up to near 50 years in the Department of Corrections," White continued. "And I’ve further considered in light of the significant restrictions that will be imposed through probation, including sex offender terms, computer terms and registration as a sex offender, that this will carry with it a long-term punitive effect in itself.
“Utlimately, I’m convinced based on these circumstances, that these sentences should run concurrent with each other.”
Kost has been in jail for more than 1,000 days
When Kost was arrested, some of the crimes he was charged with were not bond eligible. But in June 2016, the Arizona Court of Appeals overturned the bail prohibition, deeming it unconstitutional. Kost was released on $100,000 bond. A month later the Arizona Supreme Court issued a stay on the lower court's decision and Kost was ordered to return to jail.
Kost's lawyers argued that Kost, now 20, should be allowed bond while the debate continued on the bail prohibition law, but on Dec. 19, a judge denied Kost bail.
Ahead of his scheduled February trial date, Kost pleaded guilty last month to felony charges, including dangerous crimes against children, child abuse, and attempted sexual conduct with a minor.
Pinal County officials say that per the plea agreement, Kost must register as a sex offender on the probation counts carrying the 15 years of probation.
Once he hits 25 years old or completes rules of probation, he can work his way off the list.
Kost was initially booked on two counts of sexual assault and two counts of sexual misconduct with a minor. Detectives later identified eight other girls who said they were sexually abused by Kost.
Kost's defense attorneys believed the victims might have colluded with each other and lied about their stories. But the girls claimed they were just venting and didn't have a plan against Kost.
A Pinal County grand jury originally indicted Kost on 27 counts for sex crimes alleged by 11 victims.
Those incidents dated back to Oct. 1, 2009, when Kost himself was still a minor. The most recent incident reportedly took place one day before Kost was arrested on April 30, 2014. He had turned 18, legally an adult, by then.
Kost posted bond only to be arrested again a few days later after more alleged victims came forward.
On May 2, 2014, Paul Babeu, the Pinal County sheriff at the time, held a news conference to announce 25 new charges. During that news conference, he described Kost as "a serious and serial sex offender and rapist."
There was no bail for Kost after his second arrest, and there would not be for more than two years. Even when bail was finally permitted, Kost's release was short-lived.
The no-bail measure
On Thursday, the eve of Kost's sentencing, the Arizona Supreme Court overturned part of the no-bail measure that kept Kost in jail for more than 1,000 days. The unanimous ruling, according to The Associated Press, said it's unconstitutional to categorically deny bail for people charged with sexual conduct with a minor younger than 15 without first determining that the defendants are dangerous to somebody else or the community.
Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.