Wellington man sentenced to prison in child pornography case, Adams County sexual assault

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A Wellington man was sentenced to prison this week after pleading guilty to possessing child pornography with intent to distribute.

Joshua Struna, 32, was sentenced to six years in the Department of Corrections on Monday after previously pleading guilty to possession of sexually exploitative material of a child with intent to publish, sell or distribute, a Class 3 felony. Seven other charges were dismissed by the district attorney’s office as part of a plea agreement, according to court records.

While out on bond in this case in October 2019, Struna was arrested on suspicion of sexual assault on a child in Adams County. On Thursday, Struna pleaded guilty to sexual assault of a child in a position of trust, a Class 5 felony, and child abuse causing serious bodily injury, a Class 4 felony. He was sentenced to eight years in prison in that case, according to online court records.

Eighth Judicial Deputy District Attorney Erica Kasemodel asked the judge to sentence Struna to 10 to 12 years in prison for the Larimer County case. The case in Adams County was concerning, and with a pre-sentence report that said Struna was “high risk” for reoffending and he had “minimal motivation for change,” Kasemodel said she was worried about community safety. 

Struna’s defense attorney, Erin Crowlegy, said Struna suffered abuse as a child and needed treatment more than anything else. Struna echoed his desire for treatment in a statement to the judge during Monday’s sentencing.

“I apologize to everyone and regret may actions that got me here today,” Struna said, adding that he believes treatment will be essential to help him understand why he did this and how he can prevent himself from committing similar offenses in the future.

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Crowlegy asked for a shorter prison sentence — four years in the Department of Corrections — to make sure Struna had access to treatment sooner, as treatment is not easily available in prison, she said.

“He is essentially just warehoused (in prison),” Crowlegy said. “It’s not going to do anything to help him get better or help him become a productive member of society.”

Crowlegy also noted the small amount of illegal files found in Struna’s possession compared with other cases. While initial statements from investigators about Struna’s arrest said more than 6,000 illegal files were found on his computer, attorneys on Monday said Struna was in possession of 30 to 47 photos and 24 to 32 videos of suspected child pornography. 

There is a “gross disparity” in the sentence Kasemodel asked for compared with similar cases, Crowlegy said, citing recent cases where defendants were sentenced to short prison sentences or probation.

Crowlegy also argued that the Adams County case should have no bearing on Struna’s sentence in Larimer County. She noted the district attorney’s office had offered a plea agreement that would given Struna a probation sentence, but that offer was revoked after the Adams County case was filed.

Eighth Judicial District Judge Laurie Dean agreed with Crowlegy that the Adams County case should not impact sentencing in the Larimer County case.

“That would be punishing (Struna) for another case I don’t have authority on,” Dean said.

Dean said she understands Struna’s history of abuse as a reason but not an excuse for his behavior. But she said she’s also concerned about Struna’s high-risk designation in the pre-sentence report as well as his arrest on similar charges in Adams County while out on bond in October 2019.

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While she said prison is an appropriate sentence, Dean agreed with Crowlegy that a shorter sentence will get Struna access to treatment sooner — especially once he is released on parole — as he will be released and back in the community at some point.

Struna has a separate ongoing case in Adams County where he faces one charge of sexual assault on a child, a Class 4 felony, from a 2016 incident, according to online court records. He was initially charged in October 2020 while in custody on the other cases and pleaded not guilty Thursday. He has a four-day trial set to begin Aug. 16, according to online court records.

All suspects are innocent until proven guilty in court. Arrests and charges are merely accusations by law enforcement until, and unless, a suspect is convicted of a crime.

Sady Swanson covers public safety, criminal justice, Larimer County government and more throughout Northern Colorado. You can send your story ideas to her at sswanson@coloradoan.com or on Twitter at @sadyswan. Support her work and that of other Coloradoan journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.