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Edward Preston Newgard

Edward Preston Newgard, 39, sits Wednesday before District Judge Robert Whelan, where he pleaded not guilty to felony criminal distribution of dangerous drugs and endangering the welfare of children.

Prosecutors say a 39-year-old man tried to bribe a 16-year-old boy for sex and photographs of his genitals by offering him marijuana, but it appears that sexual activity never occurred.

Edward Preston Newgard pleaded not guilty Wednesday to felony criminal distribution of dangerous drugs and endangering the welfare of children, a misdemeanor.

District Judge Robert Whelan set the next hearing for April 24, and Newgard remains free after previously posting $50,000 bond. The felony charge is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine, the misdemeanor up to six months in jail and a $500 fine.

The boy’s father called police Aug. 18 last year and said his 16-year-old son had been solicited for sex. He said after his son didn’t come home one night, he opened his electronic tablet and saw that he had been messaging Newgard.

An officer reviewed the messages and determined that Newgard was trying to get the teen to allow him to conduct sex acts in exchange for drugs. At one point, the teen told Newgard he was 16 but the messages continued, prosecutors say.

In a forensic interview, the teen said he became aware of a man who was giving “weed” to some of his friends. He had messaged Newgard via Facebook, met him five times and, over time, had gotten cigarettes, marijuana and cash from him.

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The teen said Newgard then began asking him for pictures of his genitals and wanted to perform oral sex on the boy, according to charging documents. But the teen said no sexual contact had ever occurred.

Police then interviewed Newgard.

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“Newgard denied any physical contact between him and (the teen),” prosecutors said in an affidavit. “He confirmed that their communications took place on Facebook Messenger. He admitted that he asked for sex several times.”

A detective then showed Newgard printouts of the Facebook conversations.

“He confirmed that it was his account and he was the author of the messages,” the affidavit said. “He confirmed that the Messenger conversations were between him and (the teen) and admitted to giving marijuana joints to (him) approximately seven times.”

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Government and politics reporter

Mike Smith is a reporter at the Montana Standard with an emphasis on government and politics.

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