Former Moffat County High School teacher, coach, acquitted on child sexual exploitation charges |

Former Moffat County High School teacher, coach, acquitted on child sexual exploitation charges

Lauren Blair For Craig Daily Press

Justin Folley, left, walks down the halls of the Moffat County Courthouse after being acquitted on all counts Monday afternoon with his defense team, Public Defender Sheryl Uhlmann and Deputy Public Defender Kiyomi Bolick. Folley was found not guilty on 10 counts of child sexual exploitation. (Photo by Lauren Blair/Craig Daily Press)

CRAIG — Family members and witnesses had been waiting in the halls of Moffat County Courthouse Monday afternoon to learn the jury’s verdict in the trial of former Moffat County High School teacher and coach Justin Folley. And as they seated themselves in the courtroom, they did so according to whether they were on the side of the defense or the side of the prosecution.

District Court Judge Shelley Hill read the verdict.

“As to all counts, we the jury find the defendant not guilty.”

Folley was charged with 10 felony counts of sexual exploitation of a child based on evidence that he allegedly elicited three nude photographs of a female student over the course of a sexually explicit text message exchange and that he sent her a video of himself masturbating.

Each alleged image had three charges attached to it; two class 3 felonies and one class 6 felony. One charge was brought on account of the alleged video. The sentence per each convicted class 3 felony could have ranged from four to 16 years in prison.

The exchange of sexually explicit verbal text messages between Folley and the victim — who was 14 or 15 years old at the time — was more than evident: jurors reviewed 30 pages of screenshots of those messages describing sexual acts he said he would like to perform on the victim.

But those messages contained no direct evidence of images or video, and as the defense reiterated during jury selection and throughout the trial, it is not against the law for an adult, even a teacher, to send messages of a sexual nature to a minor, so long as those messages contain words only and not images.

The 14th Judicial District Attorney’s Office could not provide copies of the alleged images or video themselves, as they had allegedly been exchanged over Snapchat, an app that automatically deletes images after a short viewing window.

As the verdict was read, the victim’s sister, who was seated in the back of the courtroom, began to weep. She and several other young women — witnesses in the trial — were quickly ushered away as they, too, burst into tears. At least two dozen friends, family, and observers were present in the courtroom to hear the verdict.

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