Former Oconee Co. teacher pleads guilty to federal child porn charge


By Joe Johnson

A former Oconee County teacher pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday to possessing child pornography.

Ira New III, 56, of Watkinsville pleaded guilty to one count of possession of child pornography in U.S. District Court in Athens before District Judge C. Ashley Royal.

The former Malcolm Bridge Middle School teacher faces a maximum twenty years of imprisonment to be followed by at least five years of supervised release and a maximum fine of $1,000,000.

“Possession of child pornography is not a victimless crime. Child victims are manipulated and harmed each time the images are viewed,” said acting U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia Peter D. Leary.

“I want to commend both GBI and Yahoo investigators who teamed up to quickly stop a child predator who, as a teacher, had easy access to children,” he said.

Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Vic Reynolds said, “The GBI will continue to work tirelessly to protect innocent victims. No child should be subject to online exploitation. As we work with internet service providers and other law enforcement agency partners, we are ensuring that predators like this defendant are held accountable.”

The GBI reportedly launched an investigation in August 2019 after receiving a cyber tip from Yahoo investigators regarding approximately 27 images of children at nudist colonies.

Yahoo determined that the account belonged to New, and the GBI subsequently learned that the suspect taught eighth grade at Malcolm Bridge Middle School in Watkinsville and had recently self-reported to the school administration for displaying an image of a topless female to his class, according to information released by Leary’s office.

New subsequently resigned from the Oconee County School District and consented to a state Professional Standards Commission sanction of reprimand regarding his teaching certificate, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

On Sept. 5, 2019 the GBI conducted a “knock-and-talk" at the teacher’s home. New consented to allow forensic agents to view his phone, and they found it contained child pornography, according to Leary’s office. A forensic review revealed the phone contained approximately 94 images of child pornography, including images of girls ranging in age from 12 to 14, according to Leary.

“When asked when he started to take an interest in children, New responded that it had been in the ‘past couple of years.’ New also stated that he never sent the photographs to anyone, but he emailed the photographs to himself," according to a release from Leary’s office.

A sentencing date was not immediately scheduled.

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