Streaming videos, using webcams and sharing links makes proving possession harder today than when the law was written Fort Collins Coloradoan
A Loveland man who admitted to possessing child pornography received a deferred sentence — a decision that sparked outcry in the community but has been defended by the deputy district attorney in the case.
After his arrest in October, Steven Yaden, 31, pleaded guilty to child pornography possession, a Class 4 felony, in December. Court records show Yaden received a four-year supervised deferred sentence Feb. 13.
A deferred sentence requires people to complete terms ordered by a judge in a specified amount of time. If they successfully complete the deferred sentence, they are allowed to withdraw their guilty plea, can sometimes seal their record from the public, and avoid a conviction on their record. If they fail to complete any of the terms, the conviction enters their record.
Court records show Yaden pleaded guilty as part of a plea agreement offered by Deputy District Attorney Cara Boxberger. That agreement stipulated a deferred sentence, and Eighth Judicial District Judge Laurie Dean accepted the agreement and sentenced Yaden accordingly.
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The sentence sparked outcry from some community members who were upset Yaden did not receive any jail time.
But Boxberger said a deferred sentence was appropriate in this case for a variety of reasons. Compared with other people in cases involving sexually exploitative images of children, Yaden possessed what Boxberger described as a relatively low number. An initial search by investigators uncovered about 150 inappropriate images of children. After a more thorough analysis, investigators found 1,073 images on the phone were considered “child sexually exploitative material,” according to court documents.
“Typically, in these types of cases, we find a much larger amount of sexually exploitative material on offenders devices,” Boxberger said.
In other similar cases, Boxberger said they’ve had offenders in possession of tens of thousands of images, and they’ve also previously prosecuted a person who had up to 1 million illegal images.
In the majority of these kinds of cases, offenders also are in possession of videos, but Yaden only had images, Boxberger said. The legislature has made possessing videos of explicit material worse than possessing images. Possessing one video is deemed a Class 4 felony, while an individual must possess at least 20 images for the crime to be classified as a Class 4 felony.
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This case also did not present any evidence of luring or enticing children, and there was no evidence Yaden produced or distributed any of the content found on his phone, Boxberger said.
Yaden was arrested in October 2018 after an Alternative Sentencing Department employee found pornographic images of children on Yaden’s phone. Yaden was serving a jail sentence in the work release program for driving while ability impaired, a misdemeanor, from 2015, according to court records.
The images were all downloaded in large groups of pornographic images, with the photos involving children mixed in with adult pornography, Boxberger said.
Investigators found a total of 41,681 images on Yaden’s phone, according to court documents. When considering going to trial, Boxberger said she had to consider the further harm it would cause to expose community members on the potential jury to those images as part of the evidence presentation.
The charge Yaden faced did not require a prison sentence and was parole eligible, Boxberger said. If they had gone to trial, she said it’s likely Yaden would’ve received a probation sentence due to his lack of prior sex offenses and the low number of sexually exploitative images found in his possession.
The penalty range in Colorado for a Class 4 felony is up to two to six years in prison, three years of mandatory parole and a fine of $2,000 to $500,000.
“A deferred sentence allows us to have him take accountability” while also requiring him to get sex offender treatment specific to his needs, Boxberger said.
Because of the charge, Yaden will not be able to seal his record from the public if he completes his deferred sentence, Boxberger said. He must also remain a registered sex offender for a period of time after his deferred sentence ends.
Yaden must complete the following in four years to complete his deferred sentence, according to the plea agreement:
- Undergo a sex offender evaluation and complete any recommended treatment.
- Register as a sex offender.
- No unauthorized contact with anyone under the age of 18, including any of his siblings.
- No contact with any of his children under the age of 18, until and unless that contact is approved.
- No accessing the internet or having internet available in his home until approved by the probation office.
- No drug use, including marijuana.
- Remain law abiding.
Yaden’s deferred sentence is set to end Feb. 15, 2024.
Sady Swanson covers crime, courts, public safety and more throughout Northern Colorado. You can send your story ideas to her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @sadyswan. Support our work and local journalism with a digital subscription at Coloradoan.com/subscribe.
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