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School principal among 14 men arrested in child sex sting

3/7/2014, 6 a.m.

A Douglas County elementary school principal and 13 other men who hunted children for sex in DeKalb County were arrested in a Georgia Bureau of Investigation undercover sting.

John Harris McGill, 56, was released from the DeKalb County Jail on March 5 on $50,000 bond.

An arrest warrant obtained by CrossRoadsNews said McGill “responded to an ad on craigslist.org in reference to a mother who was seeking someone for her teenage daughter.”

The ad was actually placed by an undercover police officer posing as the mother in phone calls and emails with McGill.

The warrant said McGill responded to the ad sometime overnight on March 1 and told her “he has taught other girls and he would go slow.”

McGill, who is principal of Mount Carmel Elementary in Douglasville, and the other 13 men, ages 21 to 64, were caught in “Operation Broken Heart,” a four-day sting to nab child predators. The GBI, the Georgia Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, and nearly 40 other state and federal law enforcement agencies participated in the Feb. 26-to-March 1 sting.

Agents charged McGill and the other suspects under Georgia’s Computer or Electronic Pornography and Child Exploitation Prevention Act of 2007. The felony carries a prison term of up to 20 years and a fine of up to $10,000.

The other suspects include Benjamin Hopson, 21, of Lithonia; Kahsi Butler, 31, of Conyers; and Choon Hong David Tan of Johns Creek. Their occupations include engineer, laborer, salesman, business owner, software developer, and a musician.

GBI spokeswoman Sherry Lang said Operation Broken Heart went after people who communicate with children online and then travel to meet them for the purpose of having sex.

“Online child predators visit chat rooms and Web sites on the Internet, find children, begin conversations with them, introduce sexual content and arrange a meeting with the children for the purpose of having sex,” she said in a March 3 news release.

Lang called Operation Broken Heart an ongoing “proactive” attempt to head off child exploitation and not in reaction to a particular incident.

“This is a pressing issue in the state,” she said. “It’s a priority for the GBI to address crimes against children.”

Investigators say the suspects traveled from all parts of Northern Georgia to an undisclosed location in DeKalb intending to meet a child for sex.

McGill’s online bio posted for the 2011-2012 school year said he has been a public school administrator for 18 years, including 14 as a principal.

McGill, who is married with six children and three grandchildren, has a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Samford University in Birmingham and degrees from Troy State University and Alabama State University.

Douglas County School System spokeswoman Karen Stroud said he has been suspended pending the law enforcement investigation.

“The system is cooperating fully with law enforcement,” she wrote in an emailed statement.

At a School Board meeting Monday night, retired Douglas County administrator Sandra Williams was named interim principal at Mount Carmel Elementary.