SALT LAKE CITY - The Utah Supreme Court rejected the appeal of a now retired New Mexico Air Force major who solicited sex with someone he thought was a 15-year-old girl in Utah. Reinaldo Canton was arrested in 2007 after he traveled to meet the girl, who was actually an undercover agent, in Layton.
Canton was indicted on federal charges of coercion and enticement of a 15-year-old girl. Canton was released and returned to his home in New Mexico to await trial. The federal charges were dropped more than two years later after Canton claimed his poor medical health prevented him from travelling to Utah to face trial.
Assistant Attorney General Paul Amann filed state charges shortly after the federal charges were dismissed. While the state case was pending, Amann and the FBI uncovered photos of Canton snowmobiling with his family in the Colorado mountains in 2010.
Canton moved to dismiss the state charges, claiming the two-year statute of limitations had run. The trial court denied the motion because Utah law tolls a criminal statute of limitations during the time that the defendant is "out of the state."
In his appeal to the Utah Supreme Court, Canton argued that although he was physically outside Utah, he had a "legal presence" in Utah by making several court appearances in federal district court. Assistant Attorney General John Nielsen successfully argued the statute of limitations had not expired because "out of the state" means just that.
On Tuesday, Justice Thomas Lee, writing for a unanimous court, also rejected Canton's argument that it violated equal protection for a statute of limitations to treat criminal defendants who are physically absent from the state differently from those who remain here.
Canton was working as a rocket science program manager for the Air Force in Albuquerque, New Mexico when he arranged to have sex with the undercover agent posing as a young girl. The entire ruling can be found here: http://www.utcourts.gov/opinions/supopin/Canton1344072313.pdf.