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Florida youth pastor arrested for transmitting harmful material to minors

PLANT CITY, Fla. (BP) – A former youth pastor was arrested last month on nine counts of transmission of harmful material to a minor.

David Tilman Robinson, 35, had been youth pastor at Shiloh Baptist Church in Plant City, Fla., since 2019 and volunteered at Christian schools in eastern Hillsborough County. The church asked him to resign in June after it was discovered he had sent inappropriate text messages to at least one girl in the youth group. The girl’s family later decided to press charges, and he was arrested in early September.

Shiloh Baptist Pastor Joe Bowles told Baptist Press he was fully supportive of the family’s decision to go to law enforcement. Early on, those looking into the matter were told that the text messages, while strange and even troubling, were not criminal in nature. But Bowles said once law enforcement got fully involved, investigators found additional messages as well as additional recipients of similar messages. In all, investigators found nine messages that fit the criteria of “harmful material.”

“I commend the young lady, her parents, our youth leaders and law enforcement for taking care of this situation,” Bowles said in a statement to Baptist Press. “I do have regrets that law enforcement did not announce that at the time of his arrest, Robinson had not been employed by our church for over three months. They also failed to disclose that the parents, youth leaders and I took a proactive position based on the information that we had.”

Bowles told Baptist Press that when Robinson was confronted, he told church leaders the texts, which contained questions about sexual activity and other suggestive content, were an attempt at discipleship. Bowles said his immediate reaction upon seeing them was that they were “disturbing” and “creepy.” Robinson was a trusted leader, and it was hard for church leaders to believe what they were seeing.

“Before Robinson was employed, we did a criminal check, a credit check, we called all his references, and we researched him on the internet and on social media, and found nothing negative,” Bowles said. “I want to encourage all churches to do the same, but to also be vigilant even after employment, observing and following up on any behavior that may seem suspicious.”

Bowles also told Baptist Press that prior to his employment at the church, Robinson and his wife had been foster parents and even adopted six children.

Transmission of harmful material to a minor is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in jail and up to $5,000.