published Friday, February 21st, 2014

Former youth pastor faces child porn charge

A former Shelbyville, Tenn., youth minister has admitted in a plea agreement to possessing "violent" and "sadistic" child pornography on his cellphone.

Former North Fork Baptist Church youth minister Joseph Todd Neill, 37, agreed to plead guilty to a charge of possession of child pornography on Feb. 13. The plea agreement was filed Thursday.

Neill faces up to 20 years in prison. There has not yet been a plea hearing scheduled.

The child porn images were discovered when Shelbyville police began investigating charges that Neill had seduced and had sexual contact at least twice with a 17-year-old female church member.

The 37-year-old man was first arrested and indicted in state court on charges of sexual exploitation of a minor and statutory rape by an authority figure.

On the more severe charge of exploitation Neill faces an eight- to 30-year sentence, if convicted in state court.

Police report that 72 images containing minors engaged in sexual activity were found on Neill's cellphone during the statutory rape investigation.

Among the images, 32 included children. One image was of a child under the age of 12. Seven images depicted violent child rape. One image depicted bondage and child rape. At least one child pictured was a known victim of molestation from age 5 until 9, according to police. Nine of the images were cartoons depicting minors in sexual activity, and 26 showed minors in minimal clothing or lingerie.

Neill has a hearing scheduled on the state charges Friday. He now is free on a $150,000 bond, having been released in September, according to the Bedford County Jail.

Contact staff writer Todd South at tsouth@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @tsouthCTFP.

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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