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Church volunteer pleads guilty to sexual exploitation of a child

An investigation identified at least three victims that said Joseph Potts asked them to watch porn, among other things.
Credit: Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office
Joseph Potts

ARAPAHOE COUNTY, Colo. — A former volunteer at a Lakewood church pleaded guilty Tuesday to sexual exploitation of a child, according to the 18th Judicial District Attorney's Office. 

Joseph Potts, 33, of Englewood, also pleaded guilty to the added count of first-degree assault with a deadly weapon causing serious bodily injury, the DA's office said.

In January 2018, the pastor of the Lakewood church volunteer told Englewood police that he learned about an incident with Potts, a May 2018 arrest affidavit says.

The affidavit says the victim spent the night at Potts' apartment in June 2017, and while there, Potts asked him to watch porn. The victim refused but Potts was persistent so the victim said they watched for about 10 minutes, then Potts told the victim he was very attracted to him.

Potts also told the victim he had homosexual tendencies, according to the affidavit. 

The victim told police he stayed at Potts' home to help with "distractions" he was facing. The victim told police he was playing video games with Potts before the incident happened, the affidavit says.

The pastor told police Potts resigned in August 2017 after texting inappropriate messages to another child, the affidavit says.

The affidavit says Potts applied to be a security guard at Englewood Public Schools, however, the school district was notified Potts was under investigation so the school said it wouldn't hire Potts until the investigation was complete. 

Potts contacted Englewood police when he learned he wasn't going to be hired by the school district. He went to the Englewood Police Station at his own request, the affidavit says. 

Potts told police he was under investigation when he worked at a Christian boarding school in Missouri but was cleared of all charges after the teen victim admitted he "made it up," referring to the accusation of Potts showing him porn and encouraging him to masturbate, the affidavit says.

Potts said he'd had other kids over to his home in the past, the affidavit says. After being told of the recent accusations against him, Potts denied the incident, then told police that after he told the victim that he struggled with homosexuality, he may have "freaked him out."

Potts said after leaving the church, he volunteered with a Boy Scouts troop. He then said, "Maybe it was a misjudgment on my part letting [the victim] come over to my house," the affidavit says. 

The affidavit says Potts told police he was aware the church had a rule that does not allow men to be alone with young females, but they do not have a rule against young males. Potts left the police station on his own following the interview with police. 

In a later interview, the victim told police Potts also offered him alcohol, marijuana and prescription drugs, which he declined. 

After the incident, Potts went to bed in his room, the victim slept on the couch and the next morning Potts "profusely" apologized and begged the victim not to tell anyone, the affidavit says. 

The affidavit says the victim told a friend who told the pastor who then contacted police. The victim also told his father.

The investigation uncovered additional accusations against Potts, the affidavit says. Jefferson County's Crimes Against Children Investigations division had an open investigation against Potts involving two male juvenile victims, as well as a possible third victim, the affidavit says. One of those victims said Potts pushed him to watch porn, touch himself and then have sex with him. The other victim had a similar story. 

The affidavit says based on the interviews, facts and circumstances, a warrant was requested for Potts. 

The 2018 affidavit shows Potts was charged with: 

  • Human trafficking of a minor for sexual servitude
  • Contributing to the delinquency of a minor
  • Enticement of a child - two counts
  • Assault on a child by on in a position of trust
  • Obscenity to a minor - two counts
  • Indecent exposure - two counts

Potts pleaded guilty to sexual exploitation of a child, a Class 3 felony. 

It's unclear what the added count of assault with a deadly weapon causing serious bodily injury stems from. 

Sentencing is set for 8:30 a.m. Dec. 3, the DA's office said. 

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