Craig teacher charged with 10 sexual exploitation felonies in court Tuesday, given permission to leave state
August 23, 2017
Moffat County High School teacher and baseball coach Justin Folley, 35, was arrested Thursday night following a months-long investigation into allegations that he engaged in sexting with a 15-year-old high school student.
Folley appeared in Moffat County Court Tuesday morning with public defender Abby Kurtz-Phelan, where he was formally charged with 10 felony counts of sexual exploitation of a child.
The charges were based on three nude images allegedly sent by the young victim to Folley over the course of the exchange from mid-2013 to early 2015 and one video he allegedly sent of himself masturbating, according to court documents.
Seven of the counts are class 3 felonies, alleging that Folley "knowingly caused, induced, enticed or permitted" the girl to "engage in or be used for any explicit sexual conduct."
Three of the counts are class 6 felonies, based on Folley's alleged possession of the three sexually exploitative images of the girl.
During Tuesday's hearing, Folley requested to leave the state in order to return to his parents' home in Iowa, which the court allowed, according to court notes. The 14th Judicial District Attorney's office did not object.
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Judge Sandra Gardner presided over the hearing and also granted Folley permission to appear by phone at his next hearing at 2:30 p.m. Sept. 19, the notes said.
Folley has been on paid administrative leave from Moffat County School District — and remains so today pending further review — since late April, shortly after Craig Police Department began its investigation.
"These charges are very serious, and if proven would certainly be grounds for dismissal from employment," said Superintendent Dave Ulrich in a statement.
Folley has been a teacher and coach with Moffat County School District since 2008, starting at Craig Middle School before moving to the high school.
He turned himself in Thursday evening and was booked into Moffat County Jail. He was granted a $5,000 cash surety bond during a hearing Friday. He has since posted bond.
An arrest affidavit details how Folley groomed his victim, who was only a freshman at MCHS when he began messaging with her via a smart phone app. The conversation began normally, according to the victim's account in the affidavit, but eventually became sexual in nature and continued through the summer after her freshman year.
The victim told investigators she never had sexual contact with Folley.
The affidavit also includes first-hand accounts with several other former female students who told investigators about their interactions with Folley, including him sending inappropriate messages, being flirtatious, commenting on "how pretty they looked" or hugging and touching female students or athletes in a way that made them uncomfortable.
Folley even allegedly had sex with a recently graduated student the summer after her senior year of high school, after he initiated sexual conversations via Facebook Messenger with her, according to another account. She was 18 at the time.
Interviews with Folley's wife — he is also the father of two young children — reveal she confronted him on several occasions regarding messages she found or rumors she heard about his having inappropriate relationships with female students, but he consistently denied wrongdoing.