Polk County Teacher Accused of Possession of Hundreds of Images of Child Sexual Exploitation
According to Florida law, a person convicted of possessing just one image or video showing sexual exploitation of a minor can receive a sentence of up to five years in prison. The defendant must also register on the sex offender registry. In some cases, he or she might not be allowed to work in professions that involve being in contact with minors or in a position of authority; defendants have had to resign from professions ranging from teaching to law enforcement because of their convictions for possession of material showing child sexual abuse. Pursuant to the Amy, Vicky, and Andy Act of 2018, the defendant might also be required to pay restitution to the victims depicted in the images; the federal law is named after three victims whose abuse was shown in images widely circulated in the early days of the World Wide Web. In other words, if you have been accused of possessing even one sexually explicit image of a minor, it is imperative to contact an Orlando, Florida sex crimes defense lawyer.
Defendant’s Phone Allegedly Contains Enormous Collection of Exploitative Images
Shawn Fitzgerald perfectly fits the image of a respected member of the community. He has taught at several high schools, coached varsity soccer, and even served as youth minister at a church. In February 2020, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children alerted the Polk County Sheriff’s Office of a video of child sexual abuse uploaded on Kik Messenger. Like most content-sharing and messaging apps, Kik Messenger employs moderators whose job is to remove illegal and objectionable content; in the case of child exploitative images, the moderators must report the content to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The Sheriff’s Office began an investigation, and it eventually led them to Fitzgerald’s cell phone.
In November 2020, detectives searched Fitzgerald’s cell phone and took other devices from his home that may contain illegal images. When a detective asked Fitzgerald why his phone contained the app Calculator Vault, the purpose of which is to store hidden images, he said that he used the app to help him conceal an extramarital affair. When the detective opened the app, though, it contained 408 images and videos of children of both sexes in sexual situations. The child victims in the content found on Fitzgerald’s phone appeared to range in age from preteenagers to infants less than a year old.
Detectives say that they are still searching Fitzgerald’s devices and may find even more illegal images. It does not appear that Fitzgerald had a role in creating any of the illegal content. Like all defendants in criminal cases, he is innocent until proven guilty.
Let Us Help You Today
The punishments for sex-related offenses, including possession of child exploitative images, can be very harsh. Therefore, it is essential to work with a skilled Orlando criminal lawyer from as early as possible in your case. Contact the Baez Law Firm for a consultation on your case.