Florida Teacher Arrested on 408 Counts of Child Porn: Cops

Florida Teacher Arrested on 408 Counts of Child Porn: Cops
Polk County Sheriff's Office

A Florida teacher who is also the soccer coach and youth director at a local church was arrested Friday on 408 counts of child pornography, cops say.

Polk County Sheriff’s Office arrested Shawn Fitzgerald, 46, on November 20, after cops say they received a report from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that a video was uploaded to a social media platform showing child pornography on February 20. The 20-second video showed a young female who was allegedly under 13 years old, performing oral sex on an apparent adult male, according to Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

Detectives used a search warrant Thursday to search Fitzgeralnd’s home and they say they looked in his cell phone and found the Calculator Vault app, which is an app that is made to look like a calculator but is a way to hide photos.

Cops say Fitzgerald told a detective that he used the app to store images from an extramarital affair and couldn’t remember the password.

After cops used forensic tools to unlock the Calculator Vault app, they discovered that he had 408 images of child porn on his phone, they say.

“An arrest like this shakes the entire community. A man entrusted with the education and guidance of so many children, working closely with them, and betraying that trust in such a heinous way. Sadly, people who possess child pornography are out there, all over the world. But making these kinds of arrests are not rare in Polk County, due to the diligent work of the PCSO Computer Crimes Unit.” Sheriff Grady Judd said in a press release after the arrest Friday.

Cops said that the images showed both male and female children being sexually battered by adults and/or engaging in sexual acts with other children, with some of the victims appearing to be as young as 10-12 months old. Cops say the investigation is ongoing. Additional forensic searches of Fitzgerald’s cell phone and other electronic data storage devices will be performed, and additional charges are possible.

Fitzgerald, the varsity soccer coach at Lakeland High School and Youth Director at First United Methodist Church in Bartow, is reportedly in the process of being terminated from his job as a teacher.

Lakeland Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd gave a statement to Fox News 13 in Florida saying, “We are shocked and disgusted by these charges. As educators, we are entrusted with the well-being of our young people every day. It is our sacred duty to set the highest moral example in our schools and our communities. We are cooperating fully with the investigation to ensure justice is served, and we are in the process of terminating this employee.”

First United Methodist Church said in a statement to Fox News 13, "We are saddened to learn of the arrest of Shawn Fitzgerald, youth director at First UMC, Bartow. Upon notification of his arrest, he was placed on unpaid administrative leave. We have no knowledge of any inappropriate conduct by Mr. Fitzgerald with anyone associated with First UMC. We have a strict Child and Youth Protection Policy that we continue to enforce. It is our understanding that the police investigation is on-going. Our prayers are will with all involved in this situation."

Fitzgerald is being held on a more than $2 million bond. The sheriff says there may be additional charges filed.

He is currently being held in jail and has not entered a plea. His first court date is December 21 at 1 p.m.

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