Former fire chief pleads guilty to sexual exploitation of minor met through FD program

The ex-chief admitted to sexually explicit conduct with an underage girl he supervised through a volunteer program and taking photos of her at his workplace


Traci Miller
The Herald Bulletin, Anderson, Ind.

INDIANAPOLIS — A former Ingalls fire chief, accused of sexual exploitation of a child, has accepted a plea agreement with a minimum 15-year federal imprisonment.

Brian Cushman’s sentencing is scheduled for 10:15 a.m. Jan. 28 in Room 216 at the United States Courthouse in Indianapolis.

Cushman submitted a guilty plea to one count of sexual exploitation to avoid multiple charges for each actual occasion that involved a 17-year-old girl, according to federal court records. The charges were made following an FBI and Indiana State Police investigation.

In September, Cushman, a former firefighter and chief of the Ingalls Volunteer Fire Department, admitted to engaging in sexually explicit conduct on multiple occasions with a minor from Jan. 1, 2018, to June 9, 2018.

The victim was 16 and 17 at the time and in a volunteer program at the Ingalls Fire Department where Cushman, then 28, supervised her.

A federal investigation was launched after a 14-year-old girl was found passed out on a sofa in Cushman’s home and a 17-year-old girl was found in his driveway by her father on June 9, 2018. Both teenagers admitted to authorities they had been drinking at the home.

The 14-year-old girl said she lost track of the amount of alcohol she consumed while at Cushman’s home, but at some point her bra was removed. She said it was her understanding that while she was passed out, Cushman and the 17-year-old removed her bra “in case they needed to do CPR,” according to court records.

In his plea agreement, Cushman admitted to creating visual depictions of the 17-year-old engaged in sexually explicit conduct, according to court records. He took pictures of her, including photos of himself with her, at his home and his place of employment.

Cushman said he used Snapchat to solicit sexually explicit images of the girl and sent her photos through the online messaging service. He then stored the images and videos on an online cloud storage hosting site.

Federal prosecutors have agreed to recommend a 25-year sentence through the plea agreement and Cushman understands he cannot receive a sentence less than 15 years of imprisonment, according to court records. He can also be fined $250,000 and have a lifetime of supervised release after he serves his sentence.

Cushman has also agreed to pay actual damages to the victim to obtain counseling, support, treatment or other assistance related to her victimization. He also understands he could face potential civil commitment as a sexually dangerous person after his imprisonment.

He will also be required to register as a sex offender.

The court may impose a sentence higher or lower than recommended in the plea agreement or it can impose a sentence outside of the advisory sentencing for any reason, but Cushman cannot withdraw his guilty plea for that reason, according to court documents.

Cushman, who was on home detention prior to the plea agreement, was granted modifications of his pretrial release in December to attend prenatal appointments with his wife and granted permission to be present for his child’s birth, according to court records.

His request to continue his plea and sentencing hearing so he could be present for the birth of his child was denied on Jan. 3. U.S. District Court Southern District of Indiana Judge Sarah Evans Barker denied his request saying he can request a stay of execution following his sentencing for a period not to exceed March 23.

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©2020 The Herald Bulletin (Anderson, Ind.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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