INGALLS, Ind. – The former fire chief of a small central Indiana town faces federal child exploitation charges.
Brian Cushman, 29, is charged with sexual exploitation of a child. He had his initial appearance in federal court last week and was released on GPS monitoring today.
Last month, a relative showed up at Cushman’s home and found a 17-year-old outside and a 14-year-old girl passed out inside. The relative told investigators the younger teen had an oxygen mask on her face and there were a handful of used oxygen tanks near her.
“They were drinking. Apparently, they had been consuming alcohol to the point where they lost consciousness and he was trying to resuscitate them,” said Madison County Prosecutor Rodney Cummings.
At the time of the incident, Cushman was the fire chief of the Ingalls Fire Department.
Investigators tell FOX59 that a volunteer firefighter showed up at Cushman’s home with another oxygen tank and the 14-year-old was revived. The volunteer firefighter has been suspended over the incident.
A couple weeks later Cushman was terminated as fire chief.
Law enforcement officials determined that Cushman provided alcohol to the teens, and he had sexual contact with one of the girls.
A federal criminal complaint claims prosecutors searched Cushman’s phone which, “Contained images of minor victim 1- the 17-year-old- and Cushman engaged in sexually explicit conduct on numerous occasions.
“He created sexually explicit images of her over a period of months during a time he was in a position of trust over her and he stored those images on his phone,” said assistant United States Attorney Kristina Korobov.
Prosecutors claim the 17-year-old victim told investigators, “She thought of Cushman as a father figure,” but admitted she and Cushman had engaged in sexually explicit conduct and exchanged sexual images.
“There is no tolerance for sex offending with children you are in a position of trust with,” said Korobov.
“The thoughts of the minors involved have to be on the forefront here, so our thoughts are with them during this time,” said Ingalls town manager Tim Millikan.
The Ingalls town manager says the city has worked hard to improve the fire department and called the criminal charges against the former chief disappointing and disturbing.
An Ingalls police officer who responded to the Cushman’s home and failed to file a report about the alleged underage drinking also resigned last month.
“We want to continue to make improvements to the town and to our department and things happen along the way and this is obviously a horrible event,” said Millikan. “Justice will be served.”
“Whether it is state law or federal protecting our children, we’ve sent a message that this conduct is not tolerated,” said Korobov.
“The sexual victimization of a child is a heinous crime,” said Indiana State Police Superintendent Doug Carter. “And in this particular case, it’s even worse the crime is alleged to have been committed by a public safety official that we encourage our youth to seek out when they need help.”
According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Kristina M. Korobov, Cushman could face up to 30 years in prison if convicted.