Officials provide update on Monroe County teacher accused of sexual exploitation of children
Monroe County Sheriff Brad Freeman, Monroe County Schools Superintendent Dr. Mike Hickman and Towaliga Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jonathan Adams hosted a public forum Monday night.
FORSYTH, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – Mary Persons High School band director, teacher and coach Miles Benson posted $12,000 bail Friday after being arrested the day before and charged with two counts of sexual exploitation of children and sexual conduct by person with supervisory authority.
That’s according to Towaliga Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jonathan Adams, who said he requested as part of Benson’s bail that he not have any contact with children, not have any contact with his alleged victim and that he stay off school property.
Adams, Monroe County Sheriff Brad Freeman and Monroe County Schools Superintendent Dr. Mike Hickman held a public forum inside the Monroe County Schools Fine Arts Center Monday night to address the investigation and answer questions from parents.
Benson, who Hickman said had been employed by Monroe County Schools for four years—one year in middle school and three years at Mary Persons High School—was arrested Thursday following a preliminary investigation that started nine days prior when a mandated reporter contacted the sheriff’s office about images seen on an electronic device.
A cell phone and two laptops were seized from Benson’s home on December 21 and sent to a lab to be tested, according to Sheriff Brad Freeman.
“A lot of people think, ‘Hey once I hit delete on a laptop, a cell phone, that image is gone forever,'” Freeman said. “Well guess what? Some of these images on these devices are stored for a long time.”
Freeman said the investigation is ongoing.
The alleged communication, which Adams said took place mostly on the social media app Instagram, started about a year and a half ago between Benson and a then-ninth grade student.
Adams addressed the specific charges against Benson, explaining that while Georgia’s age of consent is 16, it’s not legal for an adult to “employ, use, persuade, induce, entice or coerce any minor to engage in or assist any other person to engage in any sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing any visual medium depicting such conduct.” (Georgia Code Title 16. Crimes and Offenses § 16-12-100). Freeman explained it’s also not legal for a school employee to engage in any type of sexual conduct with a student even if that student is no longer considered a minor. (Georgia Code Title 16. Crimes and Offenses § 16-6-5.1)
Hickman said Monroe County Schools placed Benson on administrative leave Thursday and that the district is now working to make sure there’s coverage for Benson’s classes. He said the district has two other band teachers to help with upcoming events and competitions.
When asked by a parent if there are plans to fill Benson’s role with a substitute for the rest of the school year, Hickman said he couldn’t speak to a particular time frame.
“But obviously we’ll be working as a district to resolve this matter as soon as possible,” he said.
Hickman added counseling will be available through the school district or sheriff’s office for any student who may need it.
Adams, who opened his comments by saying Benson is innocent until proven guilty, said he doesn’t expect to have the “full investigative packet” ready for a grand jury by February since it typically takes about 30 days for the lab to process items. Since the grand jury convenes once every three months, he expects the case to be indicted in May and said cases aren’t typically heard until 30 days after indictment.
He told parents a trial likely won’t begin until at least July.