JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A former sheriff’s deputy in Clay County pleaded guilty on Wednesday to two counts of producing and possessing images of sexual abuse involving a child.
Travis Ryan Pritchard, 37, pleaded guilty to a charge of producing an image of a child being sexually abused and a count of possessing an image of a prepubescent child being sexually abused.
At the time of his arrest last May, Pritchard was working with the DUI unit in the Clay County Sheriff’s Office. He faces a mandatory sentence of 15 years. Those charges could push his sentence to as many as 50 years in federal prison.
According to the plea agreement, Pritchard began communicating with a 15-year-old last December after meeting her after school in Green Cove Springs. The two began communicating through an online chat application and the relationship turned physical, according to prosecutors. In the initial complaint, Pritchard was said to sneak into the girl’s house late at night to have sexual relations with her.
After the girl’s family contacted police, detectives with the Green Cove Springs Police Department assumed the girl’s identity and communicated frequently with Pritchard through the messaging app.
On May 1, Pritchard encouraged the girl to sneak out of her house to meet him for a “quickie.” Hours later, he arrived in his patrol vehicle near her home and texted that he was nearby. Pritchard was arrested shortly afterward.
A review of Pritchard’s cell phone uncovered numerous conversations between the two. An encrypted folder on the device was found to hold multiple depictions of child sexual abuse, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida.
While working with the Clay County Sheriff’s Office, Pritchard had been disciplined twice for unbecoming, immoral conduct. In a 2013 incident, Pritchard was seen kissing an employee at the Hess Express Mart gas station on U.S. 17 in Green Cove Springs while he was in uniform and on duty.
The person who filed the complaint said the employee went into the store with Pritchard’s patrol baton and could be seen playing with it before she put the baton in her pants.