By Jeff Lehr
A Joplin police officer, who is facing a felony charge of possessing nude photos and videos of a 17-year-old girlfriend, remained on paid administrative leave Friday without any disciplinary action having been taken by the city.
Jonathan D. White, 23, was arrested March 20 after an initial administrative investigation by the internal-affairs division of the Joplin Police Department and a resulting criminal investigation by the Jasper County Sheriff’s Department.
He was charged with felony possession of child pornography after photos and videos of a 17-year-old girl allegedly were found on his cell phone and computer.
White was placed on paid administrative leave immediately following his arrest. His job status with the city had not changed by Friday, according to police Chief Lane Roberts.
“Jonathan White is being afforded the same procedural benefits as those offered to all employees,” Roberts told the Globe in a telephone interview Friday afternoon.
A fact-finding hearing was scheduled for the officer March 24 but did not take place, according to Roberts. The police chief declined to say why the hearing was not held.
Roberts said that both he and Reba Snavely, the city’s director of human resources, submitted recommendations this week to City Manager Mark Rohr regarding possible disciplinary measures with respect to White. The city manager had taken no action by Friday.
“He is reviewing it to assure whatever decision he makes is a just decision,” Roberts said.
Roberts declined to discuss any aspect of the internal-affairs investigation. A prior statement issued by the Joplin Police Department said the administrative investigation was prompted by a complaint received regarding the appropriateness of the officer’s relationship with the girl.
State and federal laws make possession of nude photographs or videos of anyone younger than 18 illegal. Missouri law, however, does not prohibit someone 21 or older from having consensual sexual relations with a 17-year-old. Statutory sex offenses apply to juveniles younger than 17. Roberts previously declined to comment on the apparent incongruity in the two laws.
A probable-cause affidavit filed in the pornography case suggests that the girl, who lives in Jasper County, told investigators that she had been in a relationship with White prior to turning 17 and that she had taken nude photos of herself at his request and sent them to him while she was underage.
Globe efforts to reach Capt. Derek Walrod with the Sheriff’s Department on Friday to inquire about the underage suggestion in the affidavit were unsuccessful.
Detective Ed Bailey of the Sheriff’s Department wrote in the affidavit that he interviewed White on March 20 and the officer admitted being in a relationship with the girl and exchanging nude photos and videos with her through their cell phones.
The affidavit states that While told Bailey that he possessed several nude photos of her on both his cell phone and personal computer, and that he also possessed several sexually explicit nude videos of her.
White provided written consent for investigators to examine his phone and computer, according to the affidavit. Bailey noted in the affidavit that four photos and five videos of the girl were found on the phone.
The Globe was unable to find a listed telephone number for White, who is free on a $25,000 surety bond posted in the case. Efforts to reach his attorney, Jared Stilley, late in the afternoon on Friday also were unsuccessful.
Joplin police Officer Jonathan White is charged with a Class B felony offense of possession of child pornography, which can carry from five to 15 years in prison for a conviction.
The level of offense and penalties for possession of child pornography increase under Missouri law with respect to the number of photos, films or videos a suspect possesses. Possession becomes a Class B felony if more than 20 photos or more than a single film or video are involved. A probable-cause affidavit alleges that White had at least four photos and five videos of a girl who is now 17.
By Jeff Lehr
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