Man pleads guilty to reduced sex charge

SUBLETTE COUNTY – A man charged with first-degree sexual abuse of a minor and incest agreed to change his plea Thursday, Feb. 11, after a third lesser charge was filed and the first two dismissed.

Joseph R. Simpson appeared before 9th District Court Judge Marv Tyler in the videoconference hearing and pleaded “guilty under Alford” to third-degree sexual abuse of a minor. He used the Alford plea to deny any guilt while understanding a reasonable jury would likely find him guilty, he said.

Simpson’s two original charges – felony sexual abuse of a minor and incest – were filed on Nov. 15, 2020 after a child or children described immoral sexual conduct and his foot and tickling fetishes, according to court records. The acts took place between February 2017 and August 2019, according to Detective Travis Lanning’s affidavit.

The third charge to which Simpson pleaded guilty under Alford states the minor victim is “at least 17 years of age.” Judge Tyler conditionally accepted the Feb. 4 plea agreement from Sublette County Attorney Mike Crosson and public defender Elisabeth Trefonas. They agreed to recommend a prison sentence of three to five years with credit for time served. The charge to which Simpson pleaded carries a maximum penalty of 15 years and $10,000 fine.

Simpson’s trial was set for March 8 and has been vacated. A sentencing date is not yet scheduled.