published Thursday, August 29th, 2013

Pinterest post from Cowan, Tenn., man brings child porn charges

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    A screenshot of the Cowan Comments website shows Tom Wagner.

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A Cowan, Tenn., man was arrested after investigators say he posted a picture of naked children on Pinterest.

Thomas Joel Wagner, 70, of 213 Forgy St., allegedly put the picture on the photo-sharing social media website on July 23. The picture, posted by the username "johnitguy," according to an arrest affidavit, showed two girls who appeared to be about 11 years old and a boy about 8 years old. All of them were nude.

Soon after Wagner allegedly posted the photo, the Pinterest legal department identified the IP address of his computer. The department then alerted the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, which got in contact with the FBI's office in Knoxville.

On Aug. 21, according to the affidavit, the Cowan Police Department learned that the center had identified and targeted Wagner in the posting. The next day, officers searched his home and charged Wagner with possession, distribution and production of child pornography.

He is being held at the Franklin County Jail in lieu of a $150,000 bond. He is scheduled to appear in Criminal Court on Oct. 3.

Wagner has a long history of community involvement. He used to run a newsletter called Cowan Comments, though he was no longer publishing it. On the newsletter's website, Wagner wrote that, "time does not permit continuing the newsletter."

As part of the arrest, the police department conducted an intensive search of Wagner's home. In all, according to a police inventory, officers seized three laptops, an iPad, four iPods, two cellphones, a Playstation 3 and a Kodak projector.

In addition, police took 83 VHS tapes, 42 books, 450 projector slides, 29 USB drives, 23 CDs, 12 computer hard drives and 22 cassette tapes. They also seized a collection of photographs, some of them nudes -- though the inventory indicates those are of consenting adults.

Assistant police Chief Bruce Smith said Wednesday that all of the items seized are related to the charges of child pornography, but he did not elaborate about specific items that they took.

"I can't say too much because we're working with the FBI," he said.

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at tjett@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6476.

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