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Judge grants bond to man in child porn case
FBI agent says school bus driver confessed to having a sickness
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John Cooper Spinks

A Hall County school bus driver and part-time preacher arrested last week on child pornography charges confessed to an FBI agent, saying he had “a sickness,” the agent testified Monday.

A federal magistrate judge granted a $50,000 bond Monday for John Cooper Spinks, 41. Spinks must wear an electronic monitor and will only be allowed to leave his Oakwood home for a few hours twice a week, U.S. District Magistrate Susan Cole ordered. Spinks’ 7-year-old daughter will live elsewhere and Spinks can only see her during supervised visits.

Spinks will remain in federal custody until Wednesday.

Spinks was arrested by FBI agents Thursday at his home on Mountain View Road after agents seized several computers. He is charged with receipt, possession and distribution of child pornography.

FBI Special Agent Barry Witrick testified Monday that Spinks was first identified as a suspect in January 2009 after a New York police officer working undercover on a crimes against children task force communicated with someone on a chat room labeled “baby and toddler love.”

The officer was able to download several images of preteen girls in sexually explicit depictions using a file-sharing program, Witrick said. The owner of the files was later traced to an IP address assigned to the Spinks home.

More than a year later, authorities served a federal search warrant at the home.

When confronted about the images, Spinks initially denied having child pornography or using a file-sharing program, Witrick testified.

“He subsequently admitted that he did,” Witrick said. “He said he had been looking at child pornography for several years, had been in chat rooms for the past two years and had been trading child pornography for the past one to two years.

“He stated, ‘I have a sickness,’” the agent testified.

Witrick said Spinks also told another officer as he was being placed in a car, “I’m glad this is out in the open.”

Spinks has driven a school bus on the McEver Elementary and West Hall Middle and High school routes since 2006. He was placed on administrative leave at the time of his arrest. School officials say he had a spotless record with no complaints against him.

A fellow bus driver, Don Carder, testified Monday that video cameras record all actions inside school buses.
“If we touch one child, we’re automatically terminated,” Carder said.

Carder testified that he would feel comfortable having his grandchildren, ages 7, 6 and 2, around Spinks.

Spinks was also chaplain and vice president of Christian Men for America, which organized several “God and Country” rallies last year at area churches. Spinks was already suspected by the FBI of trading child pornography when he helped put on events where invited gubernatorial candidates Nathan Deal, John Oxendine and Eric Johnson spoke.

Spinks previously was a senior pastor with Center Grove Baptist Church in Pendergrass, where he preached from February 2008 until June 2009, according to his Web site, “Waiting For The Shout! Rev. John C. Spinks Evangelistic Ministries.”

Spinks, who has described himself as a “Patriot Preacher,” has since had the Web site taken down.

As condition of his pretrial release, the judge ordered that Spinks have no Internet access and not be employed in a job that puts him in close contact with children.

Spinks indicated through his lawyer, federal defender Cortney Lollar, that he would suspend his preaching activities.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jill Steinberg opposed Spinks’ pretrial release, noting he could pose a threat not only to the public but to himself.

The judge disagreed.

“I believe the defendant has rebutted the presumption that he would be a danger,” Cole said.

Spinks faces a minimum of five years in prison if convicted of the charges.

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