A Sierra Vista man who avoided prison last year after pleading no contest to arranging to meet a 14-year-old boy for sex (the “boy” was a specially trained law enforcement officer) will now serve seven years in prison after failing to comply with the conditions of his five-year probation term.
Aaron Michael Garner told Judge Laura Cardinal on March 30 that he was tired of the challenges with probation and instead wished to be incarcerated for luring a minor for sexual exploitation. He was given credit toward his prison sentence for 247 days spent in custody at various times since his arrest.
Garner, 35, was one of nine men taken into custody in February 2019 by a multi-agency taskforce that targeted adults using the internet and social media apps to sexually exploit young kids. He was initially placed on probation in July 2020 but one week later was found to have used methamphetamine and possessed sexually stimulating images of adults, both violations of his probation.
The violations prompted Garner’s probation officer to petition the judge to send Garner to prison for 10 years. The judge decided to reinstate Garner to probation in October 2020 on the condition he receive treatment for substance abuse and mental health issues.
A lack of appropriate treatment facilities in Cochise County prompted Cardinal to allow Garner to live in Maricopa County to receive services, so he remained in the Cochise County jail while further efforts were made to admit him into a treatment program.
Court records show Garner’s probation officer was told Dec. 16 by a social services specialist that Garner “was next on the wait list” for a bed in a treatment program. Then all communication about Garner’s placement went unanswered; it was later learned the specialist left her job, according to the probation officer.
Garner was held in the Cochise County jail for 77 days waiting to be approved for a treatment program but was released Dec. 17 on Cardinal’s order while the search continued. He admittedly continued to use meth and ran into bureaucratic problems, including being ordered to move out of his Phoenix housing even though it was previously approved.
He was also forced to move from a Tempe location when the landlord found out about Garner’s sex offender status. A few days later Garner spent about one week at a detox facility but never followed up with case manager about further treatment.
On Feb. 1 Garner was taken back in custody after moving from Tempe to Pima County without informing his probation officer. He also failed to register as a sex offender with the local sheriff’s office.
According to state law, Garner will be required to register as a sex offender wherever he lives after getting out of prison.