A former teacher from Oconee County was sentenced to serve more than three years in federal prison this week after pleading guilty to having child pornography.

Ira New III, 56, of Watkinsville was an eighth grade teacher at Malcom Bridge Middle School until he self-reported having displayed an image of a topless female to his class.

At about the same time, in August 2019, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation received a tip from Yahoo investigators of about 27 images of children at nudist colonies on an account belonging to New.

After reporting his classroom incident, New resigned from his teaching position in the Oconee County district and consented to a reprimand by the state Professional Standards Commission.

On Sept. 5, 2019, the GBI conducted a “knock-and-talk” visit to New’s home. He allowed forensic agents to view his phone, and according to prosecutors they found child pornography images.

A supplemental review found about 94 such images, including images of 12-to-14-year-old girls — the same age as the students he taught.

New said he’d developed the interest in children in the “past couple of years” and said he never sent the images to anyone, but emailed them to himself.

“Every time an image of child pornography is viewed, the demented business of sexually exploiting innocent children only grows stronger,” acting U.S. Attorney Peter D. Leary said in a statement Monday.

District Judge C. Ashley Royal sentenced New to three years, one month, in prison followed by 10 years of supervised release. New will have to register for life as a sex offender upon his release from prison.

There is no parole in the federal system.

Newton man arrested on sex offense charges

The GBI and the sheriff’s offices of Newton and Oconee counties teamed up to arrest a 45-year-old Newton County man on numerous charges.

Derrick Crooms was arrested Friday and charged with two counts each of incest, aggravated sexual battery, aggravated child molestation and child molestation, and one count of enticing a child for indecent purposes.

The Oconee County Sheriff’s Office asked the GBI for help in December for investigating numerous claims of sex offenses against children by Crooms. These allegedly occurred in Newton County and other locations throughout the U.S.

During many of the offenses allegedly committed by Crooms, he was married to a woman who was a traveling nurse. It was determined she was aware of his alleged criminal acts and failed to report them.

She was charged with third-degree cruelty to children and failure to report as a mandated reporter.

The woman was arrested Feb. 23 in Wisconsin and extradited to Oconee County.

The U.S. Marshals Service helped find Crooms, and he was apprehended in Stone Mountain after a marshal got a tip.

Crooms was booked into the Newton County Jail on Friday morning. He is being held without bond.

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