- Associated Press - Friday, January 31, 2014

FARGO, N.D. (AP) - A North Dakota man accused of threatening girls into engaging in sexually explicit conduct pleaded not guilty Friday in the state’s first prosecution of a so-called sextortion case.

Dustin Coleman is facing federal charges of sexual exploitation of minors, possessing child pornography and extortion. The charges, which accuse the 21-year-old of using intimidation or fear to gain sexual favors, carry a combined 150 years in prison.

Prosecutors allege that Coleman, who lives in of Wahpeton, communicated with the girls through a smart phone instant-messaging ap. He allegedly told one victim last summer that he would rape her younger sister if she didn’t send him nude photographs of herself.

He later told the girl, who authorities believe was 13, that he would send the images to her brother and others if she didn’t send more. He also threatened to send images to the parents of another victim, according to court documents.

Coleman appeared in orange prison clothes and was flanked by two U.S. marshals for his court hearing Friday. He softly answered all of U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen Klein’s comments with “Yes, your honor” or “No, your honor.”

U.S. Attorney Timothy Purdon declined to comment, as did Neil Fulton, spokesman for the North Dakota federal public defender’s office, which is representing Coleman.

Court documents show that Coleman also is accused of threatening to hurt one of his victims if she didn’t consent to providing sexually explicit images.

Coleman remains jailed without bond. His trial is scheduled to begin on April 8.

Authorities were alerted to the case after a woman who was moving out of Coleman’s residence inadvertently packed his laptop computer, two hard drives and an iPod Touch. Once Coleman realized the devices were missing, he called the woman and told her the belongings were his “life.”

The woman looked on the external hard drive and found child pornography, including images of a girl the woman knew. The woman told the girl about the images and the girl contacted police, according to court documents.

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