Select your Top Menu from wp menus

Sheriff Judd: Teacher, Coach Facing 408 Child Porn Charges

LAKELAND, Fla. (AP) — A Florida high school teacher, soccer coach and church youth leader has been charged with 408 counts of child pornography possession, authorities said Saturday.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said at a news conference that 46-year-old Shawn Fitzgerald possessed hundreds of pornographic images on his cellphone. Investigators were led to Fitzgerald by a tip from the National Center on Missing and Exploited Children.

Judd said it didn’t appear that the images were locally produced or that Fitzgerald had harmed any children himself. But Judd also said more charges are likely.

The images depict children as young as 10 months old being sexually abused by adults and engaging in acts with other children, the sheriff said.

Fitzgerald teaches at Lakeland High School and has coached the boy’s soccer team there since 2014. He is also the youth director at First United Methodist Church in Bartow.

It wasn’t clear Saturday if Fitzgerald has a lawyer. He was being held in the Polk County Jail on $2 million bail.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said “We saw horrific acts and the horrific acts were everything from children as young as 10 months old that were engaged in some for of elicit horrible sexual conduct as a baby all the way up to the early teens.”

The Sheriff’s Office said information from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children is what led them to search Fitzgerald’s home. Investigators add that they found an app on his phone designed to look like a calculator but it hides saved images.

John Willmore is a former athlete at Lakeland High. He said he would see Fitzgerald often. 

He said he was shocked when he saw the news come up on his phone. “Local news and beyond and it showed me that and I was like wow that’s crazy. It’s very shocking especially knowing that it’s Lakeland, Lakeland High School one of the most popular schools here so it’s like dang, it’s like I don’t even know.”

The Sheriff’s Office say the investigation is still in its early stages and so far they haven’t seen any children in the videos that he may have been related to or taught at Lakeland High School.

Fitzgerald was also a youth director at First United Methodist Church in Bartow. Detectives are still going through evidence and they say more charges could be filed. 

Spectrum News Reporter Katya Guillaume contributed to this report.

About The Author

Related posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *