FORT MILL, S.C. (WBTV) — A former Fort Mill High School teacher is being held in jail until he goes on trial for allegedly sharing pornographic images of children.
Eric Hartley was arrested last week on a charge of conspiracy to distribute child pornography. A spokesperson with the Fort Mill School District confirmed Hartley was a teacher at Fort Mill High School but has resigned.
According to a criminal complaint filed in the Eastern District of Virginia, special agents with the Department of Homeland Security began investigating Hartley after he was linked to another man they were investigating in Virginia.
Jeramy Routh was also arrested for conspiracy to distribute child pornography. According to the criminal complaint, Routh and Hartley communicated in September and October of 2016 over the social media app Kik.
Investigators found thousands of sexually explicit pictures and videos of children on various electronics and accounts operated by Routh.
Some of the messages and pictures were being sent to Hartley. At the time, Hartley told Routh he was a teacher at Wando High School in Mt. Pleasant.
In addition to the pictures and images of underage boys between ages 12 and 15, Hartley also talked with Routh about working near children. Some comments are too explicit to share.
“2 boys at school yes! They try to sit by my desk n touch my arm and stuff but I get up n walk away and redirect Ah so tough,” one message allegedly sent by Hartley via Kik said.
“U n I find a boy to play with”. “Our secret”. “We could start a camp n the ones who want it will find us lol,” another message read.
A spokesperson with the Fort Mill School District says Hartley was hired at the start of the school year. He did not have any disciplinary infractions during his time at the school.
Fort Mill Schools Superintendent Dr. James Epps released a statement to parents which reads:
Hello Fort Mill Parents, More details have been reported in the news regarding the arrest of a former employee. I wanted to update you on all of the information the district has regarding this matter. According to this information the allegations stem from actions prior to being employed by the district and do not involve any of our students. I want to assure you that all district employees undergo a state and federal background check before being employed by our district.
As we have stated before, the district has not received any information regarding this arrest other than what has been reported by the news and we have not been contacted by law enforcement about these allegations. Investigators spoke with the employee in January but the context of the interview was not shared. At that time, investigators did confirm that the employee was cleared to return to the classroom.
We are shocked and saddened by these allegations and will continue to do everything in our power to safeguard our students.”
Hartley appeared in court Tuesday. A magistrate ordered him to remain in detention until his trial. Despite having no criminal record, the judge says he could be a danger to the public or himself.
Notes written by the magistrate read as follows:
“This is a tough case. Defendant has no prior criminal record and significant family and community support. However, government’s forecast of evidence in child porn case in the EDVA is strong. Evidence includes disturbing images and communications sent while Defendant was employed as a high school teacher. Defendant also has a mental health history and might be a danger to himself. Probation recommends detention in the PTS Report.”
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