SPRINGFIELD, Ga. — Mark Butler, the man charged with transmitting sexually-explicit images via the Internet from his then-home in Gardendale, was released by the Effingham County, Ga. jail late Thursday on $13,400 bond.
Butler previously lived in Gardendale with his wife; a spokesman for the sheriff's office said he moved to Vidalia earlier this week. His parents live in the south Georgia city.
Investigators allege Butler exposed himself on a webcam in an Internet chat room, while he was conversing with someone posing as a 13-year-old girl. She was, in fact, an undercover investigator with the Georgia Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC), according to the sheriff's spokesman.
The ICAC is a consortium of numerous law enforcement agencies in Georgia which investigates and prosecutes sexual predators who use the Internet. Spokesman David Ehsanipoor said that two members of the Effingham County Sheriff's Office work with the task force; it was one of them who had engaged Butler — who used the screen name "sir butler" — in the chat-room dialogue that led to what investigators describe as a sexually-explicit image.
At the time, the task force did not have Butler's name or location; they only had an image of his face. The sheriff's office sent out a press release to news media, which included Savannah television station WTOC, which is owned by Raycom Media. That release was also picked up by WTOC's sister Raycom station in Birmingham, WBRC/Fox-6, where viewers identified Butler. [Ed. note: Raycom and CNHI, the parent company of The North Jefferson News, are both majority-owned by Retirement Systems of Alabama, but operated independently of each other.]
The sheriff's office then swore out a warrant against Butler and contacted law-enforcement agencies in Gardendale and Jefferson County, but by that time Butler is believed to have left the area for Georgia.
Butler turned himself in at the sheriff's Springfield office Thursday morning.
Ehsanipoor said that the investigation is continuing, and that additional charges could be made. Additionally, because the incident allegedly took place across state lines, federal charges could also be brought against Butler.
Butler's wife, Megan, is a teacher at Mortimer Jordan High School, where she coaches the varsity volleyball and girls' basketball teams. Mark Butler was a common sight alongside his wife at their games, but principal Barbara Snider said that he had no official capacity with the school. Megan Butler has been cooperating fully with the investigation ever since she found out about the allegations on Wednesday night, Ehsanipoor said.