Former youth pastor pleads to child porn charge

Joseph Todd Neill, former youth pastor at a Baptist church in Shelbyville, Tenn., was originally arrested on moral charges involving a 17-year-old girl. During investigation, police reportedly found child pornography on his cell phone, leading to federal charges.

By Bob Allen

A former Tennessee Baptist youth minister pleaded guilty Feb. 23 in federal court to possession of child pornography found on his cell phone during an investigation of his previous arrest on charges of statutory rape and sexual battery.

Joseph-Todd-NeillJoseph Todd Neill, 37, former youth director at North Fork Baptist Church in Shelbyville, Tenn., accepted a plea bargain. He faces up to 20 years in prison and fines up to $250,000, according to the Shelbyville Times-Gazette.

Neill was arrested on Jan. 3, 2013, on charges that he groomed a 17-year-old female member of his church youth group for several months before inappropriately touching her on two occasions.

In September a Bedford County grand jury indicted him for child pornography, after police reported that 72 images containing minors engaged in sexual activity were found on Neill’s cellphone during the statutory rape investigation. Thirty-two of the images included children, one of a child under the age of 12. Several depicted child rape.

Neill faces up to 30 years in prison in state court on charges of sexual exploitation of a minor and statutory rape by an authority figure. He is out of jail on $150,000 bond awaiting an upcoming court date in Bedford County.

North Fork Baptist Church is affiliated with New Duck River Baptist Association, the Tennessee Baptist Convention and the Southern Baptist Convention. Neill reportedly resigned from his job at the church before the accusations against him came out.

Previous story:

Youth pastor charged with sex crimes