Pastor Busted in Online Sex Sting

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CLEVELAND - It wasn't the television debut for which most Evangelists hope.

43-year old Rodney Stewart appeared on a big screen in a Cuyahoga County courtroom for his first appearance before a judge on three charges of importuning, possession of criminal tools and disseminating materials harmful to a juvenile.

Sheriff's deputies from Franklin County, working undercover as part of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force say the married father of four took the bait when they went on line posing as a 15 year old girl and her 36-year old mother.

"He's having sexual, very sexual conversations sometimes with the mother, what he believes to be the mother, sometimes the daughter, sometimes with both of them," said Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason, who also chairs the statewide task force. Mason says Stewart used a webcam to send the 15 year old girl a picture of his private parts.

Stewart was arrested after Broadview Heights police and a Franklin County deputy searched the home he shares with his family .

"I've been doing this for ten years myself and this one really startles me more then any just because he's a minister, he's a preacher," said Mason.

He says Stewart archived every chat he had with the mother daughter team, evidence that will be used against him in court.

"We're very sorry to learn of the things we've learned of," said Pastor Don Barth from the Broadview Heights Baptist Church, who told Fox8's Lorrie Taylor that Stewart ran a ministry out of the church. "And going to do our best to help restore the best we can."

Barth said Stewart traveled the country as an evangelist and representative of his church. "It's difficult with anybody as pastor, you love everyone," he said when asked his reaction to Stewart's arrest.

Barth says he will stand by Stewart as he would any troubled soul. Assistant County Prosecutor Frankie Goldberg wasn't as charitable. She asked the judge to impose a $25,000 bond and order Stewart not to leave the county.

The judge granted the prosecution's request, ending Stewart's first appearance on the big screen.

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