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Stoehr pleads guilty to sexual abuse charge; graphic evidence heard

Mar 8, 2012 - By Martin Reed, Staff Writer

Editor's note: The following story contains graphic material taken Thursday from testimony in an open courtroom. It might not be appropriate for all readers.

Former Riverton High School teacher Sean Coby Stoehr sat quietly in court Thursday morning as he listened to a detective testifying about a text message he sent last summer asking if he could "kiss" a teenage boy's "pee pee."

In another text message, Stoehr asked the boy to perform a sexual act on him and later convinced the teen to masturbate on video so he could send the recording to another person, Riverton Police Detective Sgt. Julie Mathews testified.

Deputy Fremont County Attorney Patrick LeBrun told Lander's Ninth District Judge Norman E. Young the testimony established how Stoehr took "immodest, immoral or indecent liberties" with a minor.

The statements came after Stoehr pleaded guilty to felony third-degree sexual abuse of a minor under a plea agreement that calls for a suspended prison sentence of three to five years in exchange for up to five years of supervised probation.

Stoehr, 33, will have to register as a sex offender. The plea deal will result in dismissing Stoehr's other charges including felony sexual exploitation of children and misdemeanor counts of promoting obscenity and providing alcohol and tobacco to a minor.

The charges alleged criminal actions by Stoehr that happened between June 1 and Aug. 31.

Young did not immediately schedule a sentencing date. Stoehr remains out of jail after posting a $10,000 cash bond.

Stoehr admitted his guilt under a legal term called an Alford plea, which Young described as a death penalty case involving a defendant who maintained his innocence but thought a jury would find him guilty. In the original Alford case, "the evidence against him was described as overwhelming," Young said.

Despite Stoehr's claim, Young emphasized that "a guilty plea is a guilty plea," and his admission is "treated as such."

The judge ordered a pre-sentence investigation and said he still could reject the plea deal based on information uncovered in the report. If Young rejects the agreement, Stoehr can withdraw his guilty plea and the prosecution would continue.

The Fremont County Attorney's Office filed charges against Stoehr on Sept. 14 in Riverton's Circuit Court. Due to its sexual components, the case remained sealed until Sept. 27, when Stoehr waived a preliminary hearing that would have allowed a judge to determine whether probable cause existed for his charges.

Fremont County School District 25 in Riverton removed Stoehr from the classroom around Aug. 31. He submitted his resignation on Sept. 8, and the school board accepted it on Nov. 8, but officials on Nov. 22 dismissed and terminated his contract for multiple reasons, including inappropriate behavior with students.

During the roughly 30-minute hearing, Mathews testified that the victim's father notified police after reviewing the son's cell phone and becoming concerned about text messages from Stoehr, a teacher at the teen's school.

The detective talked about requests for sexual acts by Stoehr "and other sexual-related conversation" in the text messages.

In one incident the boy described to authorities, Stoehr invited him over to his house and "provided alcohol and cigars while they watched television, did some PlayStation video games" before watching a pornographic movie, Mathews said.

"They had gone to bed to sleep, in the same bed together," she said about Stoehr and the boy. "They were only in their boxer shorts."

At some point in bed, Stoehr retrieved the pornographic movie for them to watch that showed explicit sexual intercourse, she said. They watched the movie for about 15 to 20 minutes before Stoehr made an announcement.

"He said Mr. Stoehr advised him he was horny and wanted to masturbate," Mathews said about statements made by the minor. The boy "chose to leave and go into another room."

In another incident, Stoehr encouraged the boy to videotape himself masturbating so the teacher could send the recording to someone who in exchange would provide videos, Mathews said.

"Was that video actually made?" LeBrun asked Mathews. Yes, she replied, noting the filming happened in Stoehr's home.

While serving a search warrant at Stoehr's house, "I viewed the particular room" where the video recording happened, she said.

Stoehr's charge of third-degree sexual abuse of a minor specifically alleged that he and the boy watched a pornographic movie in bed together.

Defense attorney David Hooper of Riverton said his client stipulated to the allegations in the charge "with exception to the profane nature of the movie that was watched."

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