ST. JOHNS — Accused child molester Ethan Alan Finch, 23, of Safford pleaded guilty to one count of attempted molestation of a child under 15 years of age, a Class 3 Felony in the Apache County Superior Court on Feb. 1 and was sentenced on March 8. Finch avoided prison and will spend the next six months in the county jail less credit for the 133 days he has already served. He is on supervised probation for 10 years with strict sex offender terms and will have to register as a sex offender. He was originally charged with two counts of molestation of a child, Class 2 Felonies.
The case started when a girl in a blended family started displaying emotional and behavioral problems, including cutting herself. The girl’s mother told investigators that she was aware of the molestation that had happened, by estimate, eight to ten 10 years years earlier, when Finch himself was aged 15 to 18 and the girl was between seven and nine. Finch is now 23. The mother said that she did not report it immediately because in her view, the girl “wasn’t ready” to have it reported.
After the investigation, the court issued a warrant for Finch on Oct. 20, 2020 and Finch was arrested in Morenci where he was working as a “crusher mechanic” for a construction company. At the time, he was living in Safford with his fiancee. He was interrogated by Greenlee County authorities and returned to Apache County for further proceedings.
At first blush, it seems that no prison and six months in jail is unusually lenient for the crime to which he pleaded guilty. But according to a pre-sentence report prepared by the county’s probation department, Finch has no prior charges, does not drink or do drugs and exhibited a “willingness to take responsibility to resolve this matter.” Plus, the age of the allegation, the fact that Finch may have been a minor at the time, possible unreliable memories from a then 7- to 9-year-old girl, as well as the possible trauma to girl if the case went to trial, are factors which may have influenced the decision by the prosecutors to extend the offer that they did.
Pre-sentence probation writers use a process called a “criminogenic assessment,” in coming up with a recommendation about an appropriate sentence. According to a 2019 article in the journal Law and Human Behavior from the American Psychologist Association, proponents of criminogenic techniques hail it as a means to tap into criminal behavior to better understand its causes, and may lead to crime prevention. Other experts are not so sure of its effectiveness.
As part of the Finch’s assessment the writer used what is called an OST, standing for Offender Screening Tool which examines 42 different aspects of an offender’s circumstances. That tool has been approved for use by the Administrative Office of the Courts, the management arm of the Supreme Court of Arizona. An examination of the tool itself is beyond the scope of this article, but in any event the Apache County pre-sentence writer concluded that Finch is at a “low risk to re-offend.” The court in this case followed the sentencing recommendation.
If Finch does not successfully complete his ten year probation term, he could be sent to prison for 8.75 years.