Florida coach, church youth director faces 408 child porn charges

LAKELAND, Fla. — A Florida man who is a high school teacher, coach and church director is facing child pornography charges, authorities said.

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Shawn Fitzgerald, 46, was arrested Friday evening and charged with 408 counts of child pornography, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said Saturday.

According to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, illicit images of males and females were uncovered on Fitzgerald’s cellphone, The Ledger of Lakeland reported.

Fitzgerald is being held in the Polk County Jail, with bail set at more than $2 million, the newspaper reported.

“He is a bad turkey who is going to spend Thanksgiving in the county jail,” Judd told reporters at a news conference Saturday.

Fitzgerald teaches at Lakeland High School and has been the boys’ soccer coach at the school since 2014, the Tampa Bay Times reported. He also coaches tennis at the school and is the youth director at First United Methodist Church in Bartow, the newspaper reported.

“His whole world is around young children,” Judd said.

According to The Ledger, Fitzgerald has been a teacher in the Polk County school district since January 2004. Before teaching at Lakeland High, Fitzgerald also taught at another Lakeland school, George Jenkins High School, in 2010.

The sheriff’s office said it recently learned from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that on Feb. 20, a Kik messenger app was used to upload a 20-second video depicting a young girl engaged in pornographic acts, the Times reported. That led investigators to Fitzgerald, Judd said.

On Thursday, the sheriff’s office’s Computer Crimes Unit served a search warrant at Fitzgerald’s home, The Ledger reported.

An arrest like this shakes the entire community,” Judd said. “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.”


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