Judge reviews if teen sextortion suspect should be tried as juvenile

Feb. 9, 2024, 3 p.m. ·

Charges filed in State v Holum
The charges filed in State v Holum by the Hall County Attorney.

Listen To This Story

A Hall County District Court Judge will decide if a 17-year-old should stand trial as an adult for allegedly extorting sex and explicit photos from other teenagers in central Nebraska.

Details of the complex, disturbing case came to light during the Wednesday hearing to consider a motion to transfer the case to juvenile court.

Seventeen-year-old Cody Holum of Doniphan faces 13 charges of human trafficking and four charges of 1st degree sexual assault. At an earlier hearing, he pled not guilty to all the accusations.

Under questioning by Hall County Attorney Marty Klein, police investigators described evidence they believe implicates Holum in orchestrating a series of extortions in which he threatened to publicly release sexually explicit photos and videos while coercing some teenage victims into unwanted sexual contact.

At the hearing, Hall County Sheriff's Investigator Travis Sturgill testified that the case came to light after a mother notified an area high school principal that three male students received nude photos of her daughter.

Interviews with the daughter and a female friend revealed both had been independently contacted by an unknown party who allegedly manipulated them into supplying pictures and videos. One of the victims told the investigator that Holum eventually approached her in person to demand photos.

Police filed a series of search warrants requesting digital files and activity from Holum's cell service provider and major social media sites, including Instagram and Snapchat. Police hoped to confirm the origin of the text messages and potentially link him to phony social media accounts.

Holum_Charges Graphic.jpg
Two of the 17 charges filed by the Hall County Attorney against Holum.

Cyber investigator Cayla Larkins of the Grand Island Police Department reviewed the content collected from the warrants. She used special software designed for law enforcement to extract the digital files and organize the material.

She testified there appeared to be common links to a specific internet address and two cell phones in Holum's possession. After obtaining a warrant to seize his phones, a tablet, and a PlayStation console, police discovered Holum used eight different Google accounts and appeared to be conversing and collecting photos using dozens of fake social media accounts.

The digital material collected from the phones and social media warrants brought to light what investigators believed were at least 15 additional victims. Larkin said there were "thousands of photos." Many appeared to depict teenage females. The investigators were unable to establish an identity in hundreds of other photos.

Public Defender Vicky Kenney, serving as Holum's attorney, raised questions about whether the investigators could definitively link Holum to creating the accounts and the communications.

Most of the victims shared similar stories, according to Investigator Camela Jiskra with the Grand Island Police Department. She testified that in most cases, victims stated the person demanding the material remained anonymous.

Some victims interviewed by police said they were contacted through texts by someone claiming to be a customer service representative with the online forum Reddit, saying they had information about explicit photos of the individual on the site. The text and phone conversations led to the victims being coerced and threatened into providing additional explicit images. In some cases, victims were told they would have to have sex with Holum to keep the photos from being shared.

Holum, who was known to the victims, would allegedly tell the girl he was also the victim of blackmail and was not participating willingly.

Jiskra testified that evidence indicates Holum may have begun some deceptions when he was 12 years old.

Testimony at the hearing will assist in determining whether Holum will be tried as an adult.

While Holum pleads not guilty, in the event guilt is established, the teenager’s defense attorney would want him to have access to counseling and rehabilitation services available to a juvenile up to age 19.

County Attorney Klein told the court he doubts Holum could be helped in the short time available, considering the suspect's behavior has been extreme and escalating over four years.

District Court Judge Andrew Butler will decide whether to move the case to juvenile court after attorneys submit written summaries of their arguments.

Holum remains in the Hall County jail. His attorney requested the judge reduce the $500,000 bond, which requires a $50,000 deposit before being released to his parents' custody. The County Attorney said the amount is justified since Holum, in his opinion, remains a threat to community safety. Judge Butler will consider the request when determining if the case should remain in District Court.