The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Crime & Courts

March 6, 2013

Sarcoxie board member denied bail in porn case

A federal judge’s order denying bail for Sarcoxie School Board member John Lewis makes mention of evidence that Lewis was in alleged possession of nude photographs of local youths.

U.S. Magistrate Judge David Rush entered an order Tuesday in federal court in Springfield that Lewis continue being held without bail.

The 67-year-old former associate professor at Missouri Southern State University has been in federal custody since his arrest Feb. 21 following a long investigation by the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the Southwest Missouri Cyber Crimes Task Force. He is being held at the Christian County Jail in Ozark.

An initial complaint and supporting affidavit filed in federal court alleged that child pornography was found on computers taken from Lewis’ home by investigators in October. A federal grand jury indicted him Feb. 28 on one count of receiving child pornography and a second count of possessing such material.

In denying the defendant bail, the judge noted a potential danger Lewis poses to the community inherent in allegations that he exposed himself to two 16-year-old boys who worked on his farm and that he possessed photographs of “unclothed young men from the area, who may not have been above the age of consent at the time the photos were taken.”

The judge further noted a flight risk the defendant poses since he “is a seasoned world traveler, who has visited approximately 30 foreign countries.” Although Lewis currently holds a passport, he told an officer of the court that it had been stolen and then told the judge that it had been misplaced, the judge’s order notes.

“More tellingly, the defendant recently applied for a new passport,” the judge wrote.

The judge also cited the “substantial financial resources” of Lewis, with an estate worth about $2.2 million, a lack of family ties to the area since he was an only child and his parents are deceased, and the fact that he is retired and not currently employed.

The affidavit filed in support of the initial complaint had contained the uncharged allegation that Lewis exposed himself to two Sarcoxie High School students. The students told investigators the incident took place in late spring of last year while they were working for him on his farm.

The students disclosed that after swimming with them in a creek, Lewis stood up in an all-terrain vehicle and pulled down his underwear, exposing himself near a student seated in front of him. They told investigators that he had talked with them about masturbation and would touch them on their buttocks as they were working.

The affidavit stated that Lewis told investigators that he had downloaded images of children from a nudist website to a desktop computer. But the document made no mention of nude photos of “young men from the area.”

Phrasing

The judge’s phrasing of the order suggests that the ages of the subjects of the photos may be an investigative matter.

 

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