Thursday, April 26, 2018
Public safety

Clearwater drug arrest leads to additional charges for child pornography

CLEARWATER — A Clearwater man accused last week of selling crack cocaine now faces additional charges that he created child pornography depicting himself and a 12-year-old girl, police said.

Jermaine Bennett, 40, has been charged with three counts of production of child pornography and three counts of lewd and lascivious battery on a victim under the age of 16, according to Clearwater police.

He has already been charged with 13 drug-related offenses, including possession and sale of crack cocaine, plus a charge of being a convicted felon in possession of gun ammunition. He was in custody at the Pinellas County jail on Thursday.

Bennett was arrested following an investigation by Clearwater narcotics detectives. On April 25, a search of his house at 221 N Saturn Ave. and another search of an associate's house at 502 N Mars Ave. turned up drugs including methamphetamine, crack cocaine, powder cocaine, heroin, fentanyl patches, liquid lidocaine and Xanax pills, according to police.

Bennett's associate, Desmond Rodriguez, 44, was arrested on one count of possessing and one count of selling heroin.

An analysis of a stolen computer recovered at 221 N Saturn Ave. revealed the images of child pornography, police said. According to arrest reports filed at the county jail, Bennett recorded the activity on a "surveillance system."

Detectives tracked down the 12-year-old girl in the images, who "confirmed that Bennett coerced her into having sexual intercourse and recorded the encounters," according to Clearwater police.

Arrest reports further state that Bennett "coerced the child victim by offering money for the victim's cooperation."

Peter Jamison can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4157.

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