The owner of a Lookout Mountain farm specializing in equine therapy was arrested Monday on a sexual exploitation charge.
Jimmy J. George, 77, and a man with autism had a sexual relationship for about 1 1/2 years, Walker County Sheriff Steve Wilson said. He also said the man often visited George on his 30-acre property at Rock Bluff Stables, located at Hinkle and Rock Bluff roads.
Wilson said the man's parents and George had known each other for years. The man would visit the property "in connection with the horses and the stables," though Wilson is not sure if the man was there for therapy. Investigators believe the two began having sex around March 2015.
George's daughter, Georgianna Pollock, who oversaw the equine therapy offered at the stables, said the victim was never a client.
"While Mr. George was a partner in the barn company," Pollock said in the statement, "he never participated in therapy sessions with clients. Mr. George was never on property during therapy sessions, nor has had any interaction, ever, with clients. The accuser was considered a family friend and will be considered as such until this situation comes to a close.
"Everyone close to the family is devastated with these charges and requests privacy at this difficult time."
The accuser, who is now 21, could not legally give consent because of his developmental disability, Wilson said. The victim told his parents about the relationship in October, and the parents reported the case to the sheriff's office soon after Thanksgiving.
On Monday, the sheriff's office charged George with exploitation and intimidation of disabled adults. The charge carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison or a fine up to $50,000. George left the Walker County Jail after paying a $1,000 bond.
Investigating a case like this is difficult, Wilson said, because detectives primarily rely on the testimony of a victim with a disability.
"The interview was done somewhat differently," Wilson said. "I'm not sure the exact setting, but I believe it was done in a similar setting such as The GreenHouse [Children's Advocacy Center], pretty much a controlled environment for victims."
George has owned the property where Rock Bluff Stables operates since at least 1972, according to county appraisal records. He and his daughter board, breed and train horses for dressage, according to the Rock Bluff Stables' website. Workers also provide equine therapy there.
Wilson said detectives have interviewed George, but the sheriff declined to say what George told them.
Workers at Rock Bluff Stables were featured in a March 2013 Times Free Press article.
"[Equine therapy] is an experiential process," one worker said. "Participants learn about themselves and others by participating in activities with horses. [Afterward] they discuss their thoughts, beliefs, behaviors and patterns. It's effective because of the dynamic interplay between horses and humans that requires developing life skills such as non-verbal communication, assertiveness, creative thinking, problem-solving, leadership, responsibility, teamwork and attitude."