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Pirkle is released on bond

A former band director and Teacher of the Year in the McDuffie County School System has been released on $50,000 bail after his arrest on child pornography charges last week by state authorities.

Bradley Pirkle, 31, of the 400 block of Johns Road, Thomson, was charged with two counts of computer pornography and child exploitation, according to Gary Nicholson, special agent in charge of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Region 7 Office in Thomson. Both charges are felonies.

Mr. Pirkle, who was arrested at his home shortly before 1:30 p.m. last Wednesday, was taken into custody by GBI Special Agents Charles Kicklighter, Tony Williamson and Steve Foster along with the assistance of Officer Clay Hammond of the Thomson Police Department. Case Agent Kicklighter served Mr. Pirkle with two arrest warrants when he answered his door for authorities.

Later that day, Mr. Pirkle appeared before McDuffie County Chief Magistrate Judge William Bryant Swan Jr. in a hearing where he was advised of the charges him and informed of his rights.

Judge Swan also set bond in the amount of $50,000.

Mr.Pirkle's parents posted his bond about 6 p.m. last Wednesday, according to McDuffie County Sheriff's Department Capt. Chris Durden, one of the local jail officials.

He now faces grand jury proceedings later this year.

The popular band director resigned from the school after being called in for a meeting with Superintendent Jim LeBrun last July. Mr. Pirkle's resignation came after the superintendent learned Pirkle was the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation.

The former music educator, who had worked with the school system for nine years, had worked with music students at Thomson Middle and Thomson-McDuffie County Junior High schools. He also helped instruct band students with the Thomson High School Bulldog Brigade.

"We have had the full cooperation of the McDuffie County Board of Education since this probe began," Agent Nicholson said.

Additional criminal charges could be brought against Mr. Pirkle, since the investigation by the GBI is ongoing, Agent Nicholson said during a press conference that was held at the GBI office following Mr. Pirkle's arrest.

There also is a possibility that the case could be turned over to federal authorities, because the GBI works closely with the FBI regarding Internet child pornography cases, Agent Nicholson said. The charges against Mr. Pirkle are state charges.

Agent Nicholson said his office had consulted with Dennis Sanders' office before serving the warrants.

Mr. Sanders is the district attorney of the Toombs Judicial Circuit.

His office would be the one responsible for prosecuting the suspect, if a grand jury were to return a true bill of indictment against Mr. Pirkle.

GBI agents still are actively working the case.

"We've still got more investigation to do," he said, noting that he was not able to discuss details concerning the ongoing probe.

The charges against Mr. Pirkle are related to the Computer Pornography and Child Exploitation Act of 1999, he added.

Mr. Pirkle had been under investigation since July 2009 when GBI Agents Kicklighter and Foster seized a desktop computer, a laptop, disks and other information-storage mediums.

Certain items were seized by GBI agents when they served Mr. Pirkle a warrant to search his residence on July 20.

Agent Nicholson said experts at the GBI Crime Laboratory in Atlanta have been working to analyze several pieces of evidence.

The GBI became involved in the investigation of Mr. Pirkle after receiving information from the McDuffie County Sheriff's Department that the mother of a 14-year-old girl was concerned about communication between her daughter and a man she identified as Mr. Pirkle through the Internet.

"Those e-mails were of an inappropriate nature," Agent Nicholson said.

Web posted on Thursday, March 04, 2010

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