Colorado’s sexting bill passes, awaits governor’s signature
It was and then it wasn’t. Then it was again and now — if the governor signs it — it’s the law.
That’s the months-long saga of Colorado’s House Bill 19-1030 — unlawful electronic sexual communication — or Colorado’s sexting bill, after its last-minute sponsorship and subsequent death, revival and passage in the Senate last week.
Colorado’s sexting bill was filed in response to the case of Justin Dean Folley, who was arrested Aug. 17, 2017, put on trial, and subsequently acquitted Dec. 10.
According to prosecutors, Folley elicited three nude photographs of a female student over the course of a sexually explicit text message exchange and sent her a video of himself masturbating.
A Moffat County jury heard in graphic detail about how Folley systematically groomed one of his female students — who, at the time, was 14 or 15 years old — through a series of sexually charged text message conversations that continued throughout the girl’s freshman year of high school.
The jury was given 30 pages of screenshots detailing the exchanges — exchanges in which Folley told the victim of his desire to have sex with her, asked her “how bad” she wanted it to happen, and quizzed her as to whether she had ever masturbated.
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 or a person in a position of trust 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.
But Folley’s acquittal could be the last of its kind in Colorado if House Bill 19-1030 is passed into law. Many in the Craig and Moffat County communities helped lead the charge to enact HB 19-1030 and began their work in the weeks following Folley’s acquittal and the bill has undergone numerous changes since then.
On Wednesday, April 3, the bill was nearing its last few hurdles in the Senate when it was shot dead by a few senators who voted against moving it to the full senate’s consideration. Under the leadership of State Sen. Bob Rankin (R-Carbondale), the bill was suddenly revived, however, after the senators suddenly changed their votes.
“This is very unusual. Very unusual. I think that the committee just made a mistake. They didn’t understand the message this would send to the public,” Rankin told Denver 9 News in an April 3 interview. “I think when there was time to reconsider that, and they understood what they did, they said, ‘wait a minute. We at least need to let this get to the Senate.’ I think it will pass. I think it will get through to the whole Senate. They got caught up in the legality.”
The Colorado General Assembly’s website says not long after the bill cleared the senate committee April 3, it made it’s way for a second reading before the full senate chamber and passed Monday, April 8. The next day, Tuesday, April 9, the bill passed the senate without amendments and now it awaits the governor’s signature.
In a January interview with the Craig Press, Rankin gave credit to Moffat County School Superintendent David Ulrich, who made Rankin aware of the loophole in state law and has helped usher the law along its journey in Denver.
“First, I’d like to commend Superintendent Ulrich for picking up the phone and making me aware of the situation,” Rankin said. “As a follow-up, he has offered his help in moving this along, and we’ve stayed in touch every step of the way.”
Lauren Blair also contributed to this report.
Contact Clay Thorp at 970-875-1795 or cthorp@CraigDailyPress.com.