CASPER, Wyo. — A jury found a Casper man guilty of filming sex acts between himself and a 13-year-old girl.
The federal trial of Salvador Salas Jr. began Monday at the Ewing T. Kerr Federal Building and Courthouse in Casper. Salas Jr. was charged with six counts related to child pornography, one of possession and five of producing it with the victim, on Feb. 27, 2021.
After closing arguments shortly after 5 p.m. Thursday, the jury recessed for dinner and deliberations. They reached a verdict before 7 p.m.
The charges carry a penalty up to life in prison. Sentencing will be held in April
During closing arguments, federal prosecutor Christyne Martens told the jury that the images and videos they’d seen in evidence “speak for themselves.”
Martens recounted the government’s case, which included DNA evidence and Salas Jr.’s own post-Mirandized admissions to Casper police to engaging in sex with the victim and filming it. She discussed the images and videos retrieved from Salas Jr.’s electronic devices: “They’re exactly what they look like they are,” she said.
Martens also reviewed the testimony of investigators, evidence techs, and the state’s computer forensic analyst, who had attested that the evidence had been kept “under lock and key” during chain of custody.
Salas Jr.’s attorney, Mark Hardee, challenged the victim’s mother’s testimony during his closing argument, saying there were inconsistencies in her statements. He also suggested that Salas Jr.’s statements to police may have been made under pressure to conform to their case. Finally, he noted that his client’s face is never seen in the video evidence and the jury could only compare the voice of his taped interview to the voice in the videos.
The victim’s mother testified that Salas had been a friend of five or six years and that she admired him as a talented DJ and graphic designer. She said she let her daughter go to his residence to babysit and learn design.
Around 3 a.m. on the morning of Feb. 28, 2021, the woman awoke to her daughter causing a commotion and behaving unusually after being at Salas’s apartment, according to the Casper police report. The girl also had blisters on her lip. The woman took her daughter to the ER, where she was diagnosed with methamphetamine ingestion.
The girl told police in an interview the next day that she had smoked methamphetamine with Salas at his apartment, but didn’t remember anything after falling asleep on his couch, the CPD report said.
On March 2, CPD officers with the Problem Oriented Response Team executed a warrant at Salas’s residence and found about an ounce each of heroin and methamphetamine, as well as MDMA, the report said.
While on scene, police obtained a second search warrant for recording equipment and electronics found at the apartment, stating probable cause existed to look for child pornography.
Salas was originally charged in the Seventh District with multiple counts of sexual abuse of a minor, child exploitation and felony drug charges in April 2021. The federal charges were filed that summer.
Clarification, Jan. 26, 2023: The defendant’s attorney challenged the victim’s mother’s testimony. This has been clarified in the seventh paragraph.