Barry Gebhart, a former Fayetteville athletic director, pleaded not guilty to a felony charge of internet stalking of a child Tuesday (Feb. 18) in Benton County.
His next court date is set for April 7. Gebhart’s attorney Drew Miller said during the next “discovery hearing” they’ll be able to review the state’s evidence in this case.
Authorities said Gebhart was trying to meet up with who he thought was a 14-year old girl he met online but it was actually a Benton County Sheriff’s deputy.
Miller said his client only faces one charge.
“There was a suggestion, at least by the Benton County Sheriff’s Office that maybe there were other crimes but that doesn’t appear to be accurate,” Miller said. “Again we’re happy, not surprised, but extremely happy that we’re dealing with the one count that’s real and we’ll deal with that in court.”
Gebhart sent his resignation letter to Fayetteville School District administrators three days after being arrested in Rogers. Vicki Thomas, district superintendent, accepted the athletic director’s resignation letter immediately.
The School Board voted unanimously Nov. 21 to accept Gebhart’s resignation letter, which he turned in to the school district Oct. 25. The item passed 7-0.
Gebhart was driving a sport utility vehicle owned by the Fayetteville School District on Oct. 22 when detectives arrested him in the sex sting operation set up at Pinnacle Hills Promenade mall night, authorities said. Alan Wilbourn, school district spokesman, said the vehicle was given to Gebhart to allow him to travel to sports events around the area.
The arrest involved a month-long investigation by the special cyber crimes task force.
Deputies carried out the sting at outside a Dillard’s store at the mall, investigators said. Gebhart circled the area several times in the SUV, stopping to look through the store windows, before halting the vehicle at a place where he believed he was set to meet with a 14-year-old girl, authorities said. According to investigators, Gebhart connected with the girl through a social media site called Whisper and sent her at least one inappropriate image of himself.
The Benton County Sheriff’s Office Cyber Crimes Unit had set up an account pretending to be a teen as part of its efforts to catch local sexual predators, said Keshia Guyll, Benton County Sheriff’s Office public information officer.
When Gebhart stopped his vehicle to get out, deputies surrounded him and arrested him, according to a probable cause report filed in Benton County Circuit Court. Gebhart bonded out of jail the same day on $75,000 bond.
Gebhart had been the athletic director since 2009. He served as head boys’ basketball coach at Fayetteville High for almost 18 years, from July 1992 to March 2010, according to his LinkedIn profile.