Colorado Springs teacher: 'I downloaded explicit images of children'

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - A Colorado Springs teacher has pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography.

Following his arrest in January, Mike Hedges, 44, was placed unpaid administrative leave with Colorado Springs School District 11. According to the school website, he teaches sixth-grade science at Russell Middle School.

On Thursday, he pleaded guilty in court to sexual exploitation of a child, which is a class four felony. As part of the plea deal, the other charges were dropped.

Ahead of the plea, he said in court, "I downloaded explicit images of children.”

His sentencing is set for August 30. He faces five years of sex offender intense supervised probation and 90 days of jail or two years of work release. He also has to pay the court fees.

"They have a spectacular principal, they have really great administrative staff," said one parent who wanted to remain anonymous. "Somehow, this teacher must have slipped through the cracks, and if he did what they said he did, I hope he rots."

"We have no information at this time that any students are victims," police put out in a release.

“I had to explain to my little guy today when I talked to him after I asked him if this teacher touched him or did anything inappropriate or ever said anything inappropriate, or got too close, or anything in any way, shape or form, and my little guy says he never did anything, but I had to explain to him his teacher was not going to be coming back,” said the parent.

Arrest papers obtained in January provided more details in the case, including that it took about a year and a half to make an arrest. 11 News asked police what took so long to get Hedges behind bars. Police said it's because their biggest priority is children in immediate danger.

Based on the affidavit's timeline, CSPD's Internet Crimes Against Children Unit was first tipped off in August 2016 that five child porn images had been uploaded from a cell phone to a cloud system. The papers say the images were first reported by those monitoring a cloud storage system that's solely for Verizon Wireless customers. The pictures were of children in sexual acts who ranged from toddler age to about 9 years old. A detective reviewed the images and reportedly did not believe any of the children were local victims.

In September 2016 detectives obtained a search warrant for Verizon. Verizon gave police the name of the subscriber and his listed address a couple of weeks later.

From there, police say they obtained a search warrant for the cloud storage company in December of that year and received the requested data nearly eight months later, in late July 2017. The data was corrupted and unreadable, requiring the cloud company to resend it the following month.

Though Verizon had given police the suspect's name in 2016, according to the affidavit detectives did not discover Hedges was a teacher until reviewing the data provided by the cloud company two days before Hedges' arrest. Among the photos uploaded on the cloud were photos of a classroom, science projects, and a Russell Middle School class schedule, the affidavit said. A Google search then revealed a Mike Hedges taught sixth grade at Russell.

Hedges was interviewed Jan. 25, where he denied having any images and denied having the phone. According to arrest papers, police then saw him deleting pictures after they returned from briefly leaving the room during the interview. After that, detectives seized his phone and found 26 more photos.

Anyone with information on this investigation or any possible victims is asked to call the Colorado Springs Police Department at 719-444-7000.