SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Supreme Court has rejected the appeal of a retired Air Force major from New Mexico who solicited sex with someone he thought was a 15-year-old girl in Layton.
Reinaldo Canton was arrested in 2007 after he traveled to meet the girl, who was an undercover agent, according to a press release from the Utah Attorney General’s Office.
Canton was indicted on federal charges of coercion and enticement of the teen. He was released and returned to New Mexico to await trial. The federal charges were dropped more than two years later after Canton said his poor health prevented him from traveling to Utah to face trial.
Assistant Utah Attorney General Paul Amann filed state charges shortly after the federal charges were dismissed, the press release said. While the state case was pending, Amann and the FBI found photos of Canton snowmobiling with his family in Colorado in 2010.
Canton moved to dismiss the state charges, claiming the two-year statute of limitations was passed. The trial court denied the motion because Utah law suspends the running of a criminal statute of limitations during the time the defendant is out of state.
In his appeal to the Utah Supreme Court, Canton argued that although he was physically outside Utah he had a “legal presence” in the state as he made several appearances in federal district court.
Assistant Utah Attorney General John Nielsen successfully argued the statute of limitations had not expired because “out of the state” means just that.
Utah Supreme Court Justice Thomas Lee, writing for a unanimous court on Tuesday, 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 when he arranged to have sex with the undercover officer he thought was a teenage girl.