Tag Archives: #ShernonNJames

2009 Aug 23: James had been denied Big Brother access yet approved by PIE

Naples Daily News | By Elysa Delcorto |  Posted August 23, 2009 at 8:03 p.m.

COLLIER COUNTY — Sometimes safeguards to protect kids do work.

Just ask the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Florida.

They did an extensive background check on Shernon James, a Golden Gate Estates man recently accused of molesting an exchange student, and denied him access to the organization in April.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Florida CEO Michele Guptill called James’ claims that he was “a Big Brother to many,” just plain false.

However, Guptill said James’ case raises some serious questions.

“I wonder how many of these (foreign exchange) agencies are using this level of background checks,” Guptill said.

With the fallout surrounding the arrest of James for lewd and lascivious battery on a minor between 12 to 15 and distributing obscene material to a minor in Osceola County, state and local nonprofits want to reassure parents that with the right procedure, predators can be stopped in their tracks before they even get close to a child.

“We have one of the most stringent background checks around,” said Guptill.

Guptill said she could not go into particulars about why James was not accepted to the program. However, there are media reports showing that James had been arrested in 2005 on a child porn charge. He was acquitted a year later and the record was expunged.

As of Friday, James remained in the Osceola County Jail on a $25,000 bond.

Due to the expunged record, no flags were raised when James applied to volunteer as a basketball coach at the Greater Naples Branch of the YMCA.

“His background check didn’t find anything,” said YMCA spokeswoman Robin Siewers.

Siewers went on to say that the YMCA has two different background check procedures for staff and volunteers.

All staff gets a national criminal background check and that those applying to work in the YMCA’s on-site childcare program must also submit their fingerprints, which are run through the FBI and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Volunteers, however, only have to pass a local background check.

Regardless, Siewers said that at no point were any of the kids coached by James in danger.

“All of our programs we structured so they (volunteers) are still supervised by staff,” said Siewers. “No one is allowed to be alone with kids one-on-one.”

She added that no one is allowed to have practices outside of the YMCA either.

“The safety and well being of the children in our care has been and always will be our main priority,” said Siewers, who acknowledged that the YMCA was dismayed by the news and that they’re taking the case very seriously. “We contacted all the parents to let them know. We wanted to make sure that they knew and addressed any concerns that they had.”

According to Guptill, to join Big brothers Big Sisters the first things prospective volunteers have to do is meet with an intake specialist.

Guptill said the specialists are trained to detect pedophiles, do background checks and interviews.

“They are trained in asking the deeper questions,” said Guptill.

After an initial meeting with the specialist, the applicants then still have to fill a lengthy application and obtain five letters of reference.

In addition, they have to provide the nonprofit with a copy of their driver license and insurance cards.

Then once they’ve completed all that, they still have to go through an eight-page intake assessment with the specialist.

“We have had people come into our lobby, hear that it’s the next step and they will walk out,” said Guptill, who called the process intense.

Only when they get the go ahead from the specialist, Guptill said prospective volunteers are then sent to the Collier Sheriff’s Office to be fingerprinted.

The prints are then sent to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, where a nationwide background check — going as far back as the 1940s — is done. Guptill said fingerprinting is the best way to protect children.

During the time it takes for the prints to be run, the intake specialist is talking to references.

“Our No. 1 priority is child safety,” said Guptill.

But that’s not even the last part of the application process.

“Once they pass all that, the specialist checks for local info,” Guptill said. “They get Googled three times over.”

If a person comes back with any history of violence they are automatically rejected from the program. The same goes for bad driving records or questionable histories.

Sometimes even if the kids don’t have that much direct contact, some nonprofits require that volunteers still undergo stringent application procedures.

That’s the case with Florida’s Guardian Ad Litem Program, said spokeswoman Deborah Moore.

“Our volunteers don’t actually physically care for the kids, they represent them as advocates (in court),” said Moore. “They insure the child is being well taken care of.”

Moore said the Guardian Ad Litem program has extensively trained its staff, which interviews all of the Guardian applicants.

“This is a very important responsibility that our advocates have,” she said.

Moore said that in addition to doing a criminal background check and having their fingerprints vetted through FDLE, applicants are individually screened and interviewed.

“They complete a volunteer application,” said Moore. “But it’s very important that we meet with each individual.”

And although there are always some bad seeds, Guptill said there are still groups out there with the well-being of kids in mind.

“There are a lot of good agencies out there doing great work,” she said.

© 2009 Naples Daily News.


Shernon James

2009 Aug 12: James previous arrest on child porn charge

By TRACY X. MIGUEL-NAVARRO, AISLING SWIFT Posted August 12, 2009 at 7:01 a.m.

NAPLES — His former boss knew it was just a matter of time before Shernon James would get arrested again.

So Kevin Smith, who owns a local talent agency, wasn’t shocked to hear James, who was sponsoring a Ukranian foreign exchange student, has been charged with molesting the 15-year-old boy during a visit to Kissimmee.

“I’m surprised that it has taken him this long,” Smith said Wednesday, adding that James knows all the ways to work the system to his advantage. “But eventually, he would get caught.”

James, 27, of 2818 Inlet Cove Lane W., was arrested late Monday after the student complained his host had fondled him while they slept in the same bed at the Omni Hotel at Champions Gate, according to an Osceola County Sheriff’s Office report. He was charged with felony counts of lewd and lascivious molestation and distributing obscene material to a minor.

In March 2006, James was acquitted of 10 counts of possessing child porn after a Collier Circuit jury heard testimony that four other employees of a local talent agency, which fired him, had access to his computer, not just him. Collier Sheriff’s detectives testified he admitted downloading the porn — obscene photos of young boys — but because it wasn’t a taped confession, he denied that and jurors found him not guilty. His criminal record was then expunged.

“I feel very bad for the Ukranian family. … He is sick,” Smith said of James, adding that he’d heard James volunteers as a youth coach and Big Brother.

According to his Web site, shernonjames.com, James works as a disc jockey, a computer professional, owns several businesses, and is a “big brother (to many).”

Michele Guptill, chief executive officer of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Florida, said James was currently not a Big Brother, but had applied to volunteer. She couldn’t confirm whether he had been accepted.

James’ Web site says he owns icyhost.com, and smartguysIT.com, both computer businesses, as well as skytopevents.com. Only Sky Top Events and Productions, a party planning company, has a state business license, according to the Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation.

James is a 2001 graduate of Carbon Career & Technical Institute in Jim Thorpe, Pa. and grew up in Pennsylvania.

The exchange student, who planned to live with James’ family this school year, told investigators James took nude pictures of him with a cell phone and showed him the photos, according to his arrest report, which says he also was shown photos of other nude men on the cell phone. The report says the teen arrived in Florida on Aug. 6. The report did not state what agency set up the exchange or what Collier County school the student will be attending.

On both nights at the hotel, the report says, the teen told deputies he and James slept in the same bed wearing only their underwear. The first night, the report says, James touched the boy inappropriately and the next night, James tried to pull the boy’s underwear down but the boy pulled away.

When deputies arrived, they discovered the nude photos on James’ cell phone. Based on that evidence and the boy’s statements, James was arrested and booked into the Osceola County jail. Records show he remained held on $25,000 bond Wednesday. If convicted of the top charge in Osceola Circuit Court, he faces a maximum of 10 years in a state prison.

© 2009 Naples Daily News.

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Shernon N James:

2006 Mar 08: Collier man acquitted of child porn charges

By AISLING SWIFT

Wednesday, March 8, 2006

A Collier County man was acquitted Tuesday of charges that he possessed obscene photos of young boys after jurors heard testimony that other employees had access to his office computer and that three images were downloaded at times he didn’t work there.

The six-person jury deliberated about one hour before finding Shernon N. James, 23, of 4174 Green Blvd., No. 4, Golden Gate, not guilty of 10 counts of possessing obscene photos of sex acts performed by a child. As the clerk read the verdict, James clasped his hands, looked up and began wiping away tears.

“Rob did a very good trial and I think the evidence spoke for itself,” defense attorney James Moon said of Assistant State Attorney Robert Crown. He declined further comment and said James had no comment.

Crown praised the Collier County Sheriff’s Office for its investigation and noted that two witnesses — Sgt. Dan McDonald and Investigator Sotiere Nicholson — both testified that James admitted downloading the images onto the office computer.

“Because that admission wasn’t tape-recorded, the jurors didn’t believe the officers,” Crown said. “I respect their decision, but I don’t agree with it.”

James was arrested on March 25, 2005, 20 days after he was fired from his job at Florida Talent Consultants at because the owner, Kevin Smith, learned he and another employee planned to start their own talent agency; James had worked there about two years. Smith told deputies he had asked another man to examine the computer James had been using to make sure nothing was missing, when the photos were found.

During the two-day trial before Collier County Circuit Judge Lawrence D. Martin, jurors heard from six prosecution witnesses and two defense witnesses, including James.

On Tuesday, jurors heard a tape of an interview between McDonald and James, who denied downloading any images of child porn or seeing them before. On the tape, James also told McDonald that the five computers at the office didn’t require passwords and that the four or five other employees could access them.

During questioning by Crown, McDonald testified he went to the home James shared with another woman and found porn on a computer James and the woman used, but not on a computer belonging to the woman’s children. McDonald testified he examined a computer James used at a friend’s home and found nothing.

McDonald said when he interviewed James again, he admitted downloading the images at the office, but not at his home. McDonald testified he didn’t tape that interview because he only intended to ask James one or two questions. “I didn’t believe he would deviate from his original statement,” McDonald testified.

During cross-examination, Moon elicited testimony from McDonald showing that the porn at James’ home involved adults, not children. Moon also showed that McDonald never asked whether others had keys to the talent agency, and showed that two photos were dated before James worked at the talent agency and one was dated a day after he was fired, and all had time stamps after 5 p.m., a time when James and the other employees had left for the day.

Other testimony showed:

James didn’t have a key to the office, except during a six-week period that didn’t coincide with dates on the photos. The computer James used originally came from Smith’s office.

James, who operated a computer consulting business and built Web sites, had extensive computer knowledge. However, the pornographic images were never deleted, hidden or encrypted, but were in the computer’s recycling bin. And Smith and James e-mailed each other repeatedly, threatening what they’d do to each other’s businesses.