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Durango homeless man faces life in prison for sexually assaulting child

Johnathan Michael Wright labeled ‘sexually violent predator’

A 31-year-old man who was living homeless in Durango may spend the rest of his life in prison after being sentenced Wednesday for sexually assaulting a child.

Johnathan Michael Wright was found guilty in December of seven counts of sexual assault and sexual exploitation of a child for acts committed in November and December 2017.

On Wednesday, 6th Judicial District Court Judge Suzanne Carlson sentenced Wright to 28 years to life in prison. Because of Colorado’s indeterminate-to-life sentencing guidelines for high-level sexual assault crimes, it will ultimately be up to a parole board to decide if Wright is ever released.

After an evaluation, Wright was also labeled as a “sexually violent predator.”

“Frankly, the public needs to know this type of behavior will be punished seriously,” Carlson said. “The sentence needs to be long.”

Deputy District Attorney Sean Murray said Wright was living homeless in a tent in Durango, panhandling as his main source of income.

In 2017, Wright is believed to have started a sexual relationship with a high school girl who he convinced to drop out of school. He is also suspected of giving her marijuana and LSD, and forcing her to send him sexually explicit pictures.

Murray pointed to Wright’s past criminal history, which includes sexual crimes. Murray said Wright, after an evaluation, tested high as someone who would recommit sexual and violent crimes.

“This is a message to our community,” Murray said, “that people who have sex with children will go to jail for decades.”

Carlson agreed, saying: “I really believe if we let him out, he’d go do it again, and right away.”


Wright, speaking to Carlson, said “my past doesn’t technically define who I am. My integrity does.”

Wright told the judge he has made “irresponsible choices” in his life but has never denied them. He said he had a difficult upbringing, an addiction to methamphetamine and mental health issues.

He asked for a lesser sentence so that he would qualify for treatment sooner.

Carlson denied granting reduced prison time, but said the Department of Corrections is making strides in providing treatment to inmates.

“We want him to be safer for our community, but right now, he’s not a safe person for our community,” she said.

Wright’s public defender, Mary Pero, said she intends to appeal his conviction.