Booking photo for Austin E. Bashford (Courtesy: Cache County Jail)
LOGAN — A 21-year-old man has pleaded not guilty to charges of allegedly sexting with a teenage girl in Cache County last spring. Austin E. Bashford entered his plea after a judge bound him over for trial.
Bashford participated in a virtual preliminary hearing in 1st District Court Monday afternoon, appearing by web conference with his attorney. He was previously charged with 10 counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, a second-degree felony; and one count of enticing a minor over the internet, a third-degree felony.
Cache County Sheriff’s Deputy Brooks Nielsen testified about receiving a complaint from the alleged victim’s parents, after they reportedly caught their 16-year-old daughter sexting with Bashford. The two had been allegedly communicating via FaceTime for several months.
The girl told investigators Bashford would ask her to strip for him during their video calls. He would also expose himself to her.
Nelson said Bashford spoke to investigators over the phone and reportedly admitted to the allegations. He claimed that he met the girl on a website, designed to allow users to chat with strangers.
Defense attorney Jonathan Paz questioned prosecutor’s case. He noted that detectives didn’t find any pictures of the 16-year-old on Bashford’s phone. During closing statements he also said there wasn’t specific evidence that his client was the one sexting with the alleged victim when the girl’s parents caught her.
Cache County Deputy Attorney Griffin Hazard pointed to statements made by the alleged victim, describing multiple incidents when she would expose herself to Bashford through video chat.
Judge Brandon Maynard said prosecutors had provided sufficient evidence to bind Bashford over for trial. He ordered the defendant to appear again in court May 24.
Court records show, Bashford was recently bound over for trial in Salt Lake County for allegedly having an illegal relationship with a 15-year-old girl. He has yet to enter a plea to one charge of misdemeanor sexual abuse of a minor.
Bashford did not speak during Monday’s hearing. He is currently out of jail after posting $15,500 bail, and could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
Individuals arrested and charged in complaints are presumed innocent unless or until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in court.