Former Bus Driver Pleads Guilty To Sexual Assault, Child Pornography

Johnny Carter, 72, pleaded guilty Monday (Oct. 14) in a Sebastian County Circuit Court to first degree sexual assault and possession of child pornography.

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Alison Houston said Carter was sentenced to the maximum of 30 years in prison for the sexual assault charge, and he received a ten-year suspended sentence for the child pornography charge. Carter will be required to register as a sex offender.

Carter, a former bus driver and volunteer pole-vaulting coach at Union Christian Academy in Fort Smith, was arrested last year after allegedly sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl. Carter made bond and was told to not have any contact with his victim.

While awaiting trial, the prosecutor’s office received an anonymous call that Carter was still in contact with the girl, according to Houston.

“Had we not gotten a phone call to this office about him violating the bond conditions, we would’ve never known,” said Houston.

A warrant was issued for Carter’s arrest. In September, investigators were conducting surveillance of a potential planned meeting between Carter and the girl at the Greenwood Walmart, when Carter fled the area to avoid being arrested, Fort Smith police said.

A manhunt followed involving multiple law enforcement agencies and leading to the lock down of a Greenwood elementary school. Carter was caught and arrested the same day.

At the time of Carter’s second arrest, Houston said officers obtained a search warrant for his cellphone where they discovered pornographic pictures of the underage girl.

Carter was denied bond following his second arrest and was held at the Sebastian County Detention Center.

Authorities said Carter is required to serve seven years in prison before he is eligible for parole.

Corporal Jeff Taylor with the Fort Smith Police Department, who was the lead investigator on the case, said many of his cases begin with anonymous tips.

“Most people, when they say they don’t want to be involved, one of the biggest problems is they don’t want to believe these things are happening, and unfortunately they do,” said Taylor.

Taylor encourages people who suspect crimes are being committed against children to call the tip line even if they don’t have all the facts or believe it may just be rumor.

“Call it in,” said Taylor. “I would rather investigate, and we would much rather investigate, claims that aren’t true than ones that are.”

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