Cedar City man sentenced to prison after pleading guilty to 3 counts of child sexual exploitation

Stock image, St. George News / Cedar City News

CEDAR CITY — A Cedar City man who pleaded guilty in April to child sexual exploitation after explicit images were found on his cell phone account has been sentenced to prison.

Iron County Jail booking photo of Colton Ross Hedges, Cedar City, Utah, Nov. 20, 2023 | Image courtesy of Iron County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News / Cedar City News

Colton Ross Hedges, 23, was sentenced on May 13 by 5th District Court Judge Matthew L. Bell, who ordered that Hedges serve 1-15 years in Utah State Prison for each of three counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, a second-degree felony. The judge allowed the terms to run concurrently.

According to the probable cause statement filed in support of his arrest, Hedges was arrested on Nov. 20, 2023 following an investigation that was prompted by a CyberTipline notification reporting illegal content to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

After obtaining a search warrant for Hedges’ cell phone account, the investigating Iron County Sheriff’s deputy found more than 200 images and videos depicting young children being sexually abused, according to the affidavit.

Hedges was originally charged with 10 identical counts; however, when he pleaded guilty to three counts on April 1, the remaining seven counts were dismissed as part of a plea agreement.

Stock image of Fifth District Courthouse, Cedar City, Utah, June 8, 2021 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

No fines or fees were imposed. Hedges was given credit for the time he’d served in Iron County Jail since his arrest. The exact length of Hedges’ prison term will ultimately be decided by the Utah Board of Pardons.

Contacted for comment afterward, prosecutor Trajan Evans called the case “heartbreaking” and said Hedges’ prison sentence was warranted.

“Because of the selfish and disturbing desires of the defendant and so many others like him, children have the worst moments of their lives recorded and published on the internet,” Evans said, adding, “I’m thankful that law enforcement and our investigatory tools are able to detect and apprehend those who prey on the most innocent subset of our population.”

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2024, all rights reserved.

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