(Mountain View) – An officer with the Missouri State Highway Patrol and a recent employee of the Mountain View-Birch Tree School District has been charged with four counts of exploitation of a minor and having sexual contact with a student in that district.
A warrant was issued Tuesday for 46-year-old Justin Watson of Mountain View. Bond was set at $50,000, according to online court records.
A probable cause statement used as the basis of the charges in the case says that Highway Patrol Sgt. Michael Bracker was assigned an investigation on September 14 after the Patrol received word that Watson had sexual contact with a then-16-year-old male student at Mountain View-Birch Tree High School.
The teenager, who was 17 at the time of the interview, confirmed the relationship to investigators with the Missouri State Highway Patrol, reportedly stating that they began speaking to each other in November 2016. However, the teen denied having physical relations with Watson prior to him turning 17, which is the age of consent in Missouri.
Investigators say they received consent to search the teen’s phone, and found four pornographic images that the teen had sent to Watson, including a picture of the two of them engaged in sexual acts. A forensics investigation into the photos revealed they were taken at Watson’s home in Mountain View, and were sent on August 23, 2017.
The report states that Watson is an umpire for the Mountain View-Birch Tree School District, and has been there since at least 2016. Previous news releases from the Missouri State Highway Patrol identified Watson as an officer with Troop G, which is based in Willow Springs.
Ozark Radio News has contacted the public information division of Highway Patrol Troop G for more information on Watson’s work as a trooper. Questions about Watson and the case were forwarded to the Public Information and Education Division of the Missouri State Highway Patrol in Jefferson City.
Captain John Hotz, the director of the Public Information and Education Division, tells Ozark Radio News that Watson is still a trooper with the Highway Patrol, and was recently placed on leave without pay.
By Ed Button of Ozark Radio News Network