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HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - A former Horry County teacher pleaded guilty on Tuesday before the Honorable Edward B. Cottingham to two counts of Sexual Exploitation of a Minor in the Third Degree and one count of Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor, according to a statement from the State Solicitor's office
Shane Allen Watson, 27, of Surfside Beach was booked into J. Reuben Long Detention Center in October 2012, and charged with communicating obscene messages and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
The arrest report states the victim, a 13-year-old boy, began receiving sexual text messages around October 13 of 2012 that were sent through a masking service known as "Textem". That system, the report details, allowed the sender to remain anonymous. The victim may have believed the anonymous suspect was a classmate, but the parent who filed the report believed the tone and content of the messages indicated the sender was an adult trying to engage the teen in "a sexually based conversation."
Watson posed as a female, according to the State Solicitor, and used this false identity to communicate with, and solicit sexually explicit photos from, several thirteen-to-fourteen-year-old boys. One of the boys' father noticed the texts looked suspicious. The investigation by Horry County Police found the messages came from two different IP addresses, both of which were registered to Shane Watson. A subsequent search of Watson's phone and computer uncovered several images known to be child pornography.
WMBF News was in the bond hearing for Shane Watson, where he said he had been suspended with pay from the Academy for the Arts, Science and Technology where he worked.
A judge issued a no contact order between Watson and the victim and placed him on a GPS monitor. Watson was not allowed to go to any school functions at all, regardless if it's on school property or not.
According to Watson's Linked-In social media page, he identified himself as a Social Studies teacher at the Academy for the Arts, Science and Technology or S.T.E.M. Watson also stated on the site that he obtained his Bachelors and Masters degrees from Coastal Carolina University.
In August 2013, Watson was back in prison, facing more charges. Solicitor Jimmy Richardson said his office continued to investigate Shane Watson after he was released on bail, and his most recent charges are a result of that same investigation.
Watson was scheduled for a bond hearing on Wednesday, August 7, and his bond was set at $12,000. If convicted on all these counts, he could be sentenced to a maximum of 123 years in prison, Solicitor Richardson said.
On October 15, 2013, Watson pleaded guilty to his charges. Judge Cottingham sentenced Watson to ten years on each Sexual Exploitation charge and three years on the Contributing to the Delinquency charge. These sentences will run concurrently with each other. Additionally, once released from incarceration, Watson will be required to register as a Sex Offender for the remainder of his natural life.
Horry County Schools spokeswoman Teal Britton said Shane Watson's first day of employment was on August 15, 2011 as a high school teacher in the STEM program at the Academy of the Arts, Science of Technology. That secondary program draws kids from across the county that are strong in science, engineering and math, and hope to excel in those careers.
Shane Watson was placed on administrative leave on October 24, 2012, the day after his first arrest, and the allegations and charges were reported to the State Department of Education, which is the protocol.
Watson resigned from his job on December 11, 2012.