A Springfield man facing a federal child pornography charge allegedly sent “disturbing and inappropriate” texts about children in his care at the YMCA.
U.S. Magistrate Judge James England cited the text messages in his decision to keep Benjamin Goodwin in custody.
Goodwin, 28, was indicted in mid-August for allegedly sending and distributing images of child pornography over the internet.
He worked part-time for the Y from September 2007 until the time of his arrest and at Springfield Public Schools from January through May of this year. In both jobs, he was primarily stationed at Rountree Elementary.
There was a hearing Aug. 21 on the federal prosecutor’s motion to keep Goodwin in custody until trial. A jury trial has been scheduled for 9 a.m. Dec. 4
In a two-page order, the judge noted Goodwin’s iPhone was confiscated at the time of his arrest.
“The preliminary forensic examination of the phone revealed inappropriate text messages that appear to be focused on young people at the YMCA, defendant’s place of employment,” England wrote.
According to the judge’s order, Goodwin’s attorney argued that he had “strong ties to the community,” a stable home with his parents and no criminal history.
England opted to keep Goodwin behind bars, declaring there was “clear and convincing evidence that defendant is a danger to the community.”
“…No condition or combination of conditions will reasonably assure the safety of others and/or the community,” the judge wrote. “This is particularly true as defendant has been employed around young people and has sent disturbing and inappropriate texts about some of them.”
As an employee of the Y, Goodwin primarily worked in the child care program offered before and after the school day, mostly at Rountree. He worked for the school district for several months this year as a special education para-professional or teaching assistant at Rountree.
In late August, the News-Leader asked for examples of the work Goodwin performed as a para-professional.
Teresa Bledsoe, director of communication for the district, responded with the following examples: “Assisting the teacher, helping out with small group activities, accompanying students who need help transitioning to class or the cafeteria, and helping students who need assistance in the cafeteria.”
The day Goodwin was arrested, the Y notified members by email. At the time, and again Monday, the Y encouraged parents who believe “anything inappropriate may have occurred in connection with your child” to contact law enforcement.
Contacted Monday regarding the alleged text messages on Goodwin’s confiscated cell phone, Julie Eaton, director of marketing and communications for the Y, issued this statement:
“We continue to be very concerned by this situation. The safety of all YMCA participants, especially children, is our primary concern.
“The reported incident that led to his arrest did not occur at the Y, but the individual did work at the Y on a part-time basis in our school age services department.
“Our Y is taking this situation very seriously. After learning of the allegations, the Y immediately terminated his employment, and continues to cooperate with the investigation.
“While we want our programs to be fun and developmental for our kids, above all we want them safe.”
Eaton also listed the following steps taken by the Y, before and after the arrest:
Conducting criminal background checks and sex offender registry checks on all our staff prior to hiring and annually with employees that work directly with children;
Requiring all staff to complete training on recognizing and preventing child abuse;
Prohibiting staff from working in situations that require them to be alone with children, where they cannot be observed by other staff;
Requiring an understanding of our expected code of conduct and signed agreement to abide by same;
Requiring all staff report any suspicious of child abuse.