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Former Clay Co. coach arrested on child porn charges

By: Matthew Rand Email
By: Matthew Rand Email

LAKELAND, Fl. (WYMT) - He was a two time all state offensive lineman at Clay County High School and later coached the Tigers, but now James Shannon Arnett faces two counts of possession of child pornography.

Police arrested Arnett Wednesday. Arnett is a special education teacher and football coach at Lake Gibson High School in Lakeland, Florida.

A Clay County, Kentucky native, Arnett excelled on the football field in the 80s for the Tigers and coached at Clay County High School before taking the job in Florida.

"There's nowhere like home, and you know Clay County is where I'm from," Arnett said in a 2008 interview. "The old saying 'You can take a boy out of the mountains but you can't take the mountains out of a boy' is true."

An affidavit from the Polk County, Florida Sheriff's Office claims a student turned in a thumb drive Tuesday containing images of female Lake Gibson students between the ages of 13 and 17 that emphasized the girls' breasts and buttocks.

The drive also contained two sexually explicit pictures involving young children.

Most people we talked to in Manchester say Coach Arnett was basically a good guy, and they can't believe he was arrested.

"He would talk to us you know. He just seemed like a cool person but never anything the wrong way," said former Clay County High School student Shenoia Hill.

"I never heard anyone say anything bad about him. I thought he was always just a good guy around us," said Clay County Judge-Executive Joe Asher.

Deputies say more inappropriate pictures were found on Arnett's laptop. Investigators say he told them he is addicted to sex, and says he is glad "all this is out in the open now" and he "feels a big relief."

Polk County, Florida school officials issued a statement Thursday.

They said "Mr. Arnett has been placed on paid administrative leave, and the district will cooperate fully with law enforcement officials. The matter is also being investigated internally. Crisis counselors will be on site at Lake Gibson High School tomorrow."

Arnett has already made his first appearance in a Florida courtroom. Thursday afternoon, a judge set his bond at $20,000 for both counts.

His attorney argued that the bond should be lowered.


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