Ocala, Florida — A veteran Marion County sheriff’s deputy has resigned following the announcement of an internal affairs investigation.
On October 10, 2016, The National Center of Missing and Exploited Children electronically delivered 18 photographs to the Marion County Sheriff’s Office. The non-profit organization told MCSO investigators that the child erotica photographs of pre-teen females had been viewed by a cell phone number, which belonged to Master Sergeant Duane Denault.
MCSO investigators said they “took steps to determine if Denault had crossed the line from child erotica to child pornography.”
According to the State Attorney’s Office, viewing child erotica is not in violation of Florida Statutes.
What is the difference? Child pornography displays an underage male or female in some type of sexual contact or exhibition. Child erotica is when a child poses naked in a seductive manner. Legal experts say there is a fine line between the two.
According to reports, Denault recognized some of the photographs. He said he had viewed them on the Pinterest app.
Denault told investigators that he never downloaded any photos to his phone, but does view adult pornography. He said sometimes nudist colony pictures of children appeared, and he “may have clicked” on a few.
Denault denied specifically looking for photos of child pornography.
MCSO Sgt. Jerry Bevan examined Denault’s phone and found approximately 2,700 photographs. Of the 2,700, 38 of them were naked pre-teen females, mostly in a nudist camp environment.
Bevan reported that the timestamps on the photos showed that they were viewed before and after work hours.
The conclusion of the investigation states:
“MSgt. Duane Denault, using his personal cell phone, on numerous occasions, viewed female child erotica. The fact that he “hit” on the photographs, which were monitored by a Federal Agency, with the mission of protecting children, was not reported to the Marion County Sheriff’s Office due to him being employed there, but due to the fact that he was a citizen of Marion County. In light of this investigation, MSgt. Denault decided to retire from the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, however, his actions, having been brought forward has brought discredit upon the Agency, therefore, Violation of Operations Directive 1068.00(A) Code of Conduct is Substantiated.”
The internal affairs investigation was made known to Denault on December 2, 2016. Denault immediately tendered his resignation and retired.
The public was outraged and believes Denault got a free pass because of his position as a law enforcement officer.