A former Central High School English teacher pleaded guilty Thursday to a charge of sexual exploitation of a child.
Carlos Dwight Arnold, 30, was ordered to serve from 300 to 365 days in a detention center, serve 10 years on probation as a sex offender and pay a $1,000 fine.
The charge against Arnold stemmed from a May 12, 2007, incident at Macon Mall. A boy, then 9 years old, told his mother that a man, later identified as Arnold, had placed a camera under his stall in a mall restroom and taken photos.
During the Superior Court hearing Thursday, the boy’s mother wept as she spoke of the episode.
“I was right there when it happened,” she said.
Prosecutor Dorothy Hull said the mother stood outside the public restroom as her son went in. She spoke with him at least twice while he was inside, once asking if he was OK.
“He said, ‘I’m OK mom. I’ll be out in just a minute,’ ” the mother recounted for Judge Martha Christian.
Seconds later, the boy ran out, his pants undone, and told his mother a man had taken his picture, Hull said.
Security officers detained Arnold at the mall. Police later found the camera in a trash can outside the restroom. Hull entered a photo into evidence from the camera that depicted the boy in the restroom.
The boy’s father said his son, now 12 years old, is scared to go to the restroom by himself.
“It’s taken a toll on my child,” he said, showing the judge a wallet-sized photo of the boy. He didn’t attend Thursday’s hearing.
The boy’s voice was “high pitched,” and Arnold should have known he was a child, the father said.
The mother said she now has to be sure no one else is in a public restroom before her son goes in, and that she stands guard. Special provisions are in place at his school.
“He has taken my child’s innocence away from him,” she said.
Arnold apologized for his actions and said he’s taken steps to correct his behavior.
“I am truly sorry for what I did, for the pain it has caused,” he said. “I’ve lived with this every single day.”
Arnold assured the judge that he has no sexual interest in children.
“The thought of it makes me physically weak,” he said.
Arnold’s lawyer, Franklin J. Hogue, said tests have determined that Arnold is not a pedophile, but he has an interest in voyeurism.
Arnold’s parents and sister stood behind him during the sentencing portion of the hearing.
More than two dozen people sat on the defense side of the courtroom. Arnold’s parents, sister and three others showing support asked the judge for leniency.
The boy’s parents and grandmother asked that Arnold be issued a harsh sentence. The judge sentenced Arnold based on a joint recommendation from the prosecution and the defense that differed only in that the defense asked that Arnold be sentenced to probation without any time in the detention center.
Hull said the district attorney’s office didn’t want to force the case to go to trial because the victim would have to testify.
Waiting for the case to go to court has been tough for the boy’s family, she said.
Allowing Arnold to plead with a joint recommendation for sentencing prevented further delays in the case going to trial.
Information from The Telegraph’s archives was included in this report.
To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.