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People v. Neustel.

2023 COA 56. No. 20CA1710. Sexual Exploitation of a Child—Sexual Assault on a Child—Sexually Violent Predators—Victim—Fictional Persona.

June 22, 2023

Neustel sent sexually explicit online communications to individuals he believed were under 15 years old, but he was in fact communicating with fictional personas created by sheriff’s office investigators. Neustel pleaded guilty to sexual exploitation of a child and attempted sexual assault on a child. At the sexually violent predator (SVP) hearing, Neustel objected to an SVP designation. The district court determined that Neustel had established a relationship with his fictional victim primarily for the purpose of sexual victimization. The court sentenced him to four years in prison and designated him an SVP.

On appeal, Neustel argued that the district court erred by finding that the prosecution proved the SVP statute’s “established a relationship” prong because that statute requires the victim to be a real person rather than a fictional persona. As relevant here, the relationship criterion of the SVP statute, CRS § 18-3-414.5(1)(a)(III), allows an SVP designation for an offender whose victim was “a person with whom the offender established or promoted a relationship primarily for the purpose of sexual victimization.” The court of appeals determined that “victim” in this statute includes fictional personas, and the SVP designation should be applied equally to offenders convicted of an attempted sexual assault who established a relationship with an intended but fictional victim. Therefore, the district court did not err.

The order was affirmed.

Official Colorado Court of Appeals proceedings can be found at the Colorado Court of Appeals website.

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