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Ex-Ingalls fire chief charged with sexual exploitation of teen

July 27, 2018

The former Ingalls fire chief is facing a federal sex abuse charge and up to 30 years in prison after law enforcement officers found sexually explicit photos on his smartphone indicating he was engaged in a sexual relationship with a teenage girl in his charge.

Brian Cushman, the former fire chief in Ingalls, was charged last week with sexual exploitation of a minor in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. Cushman, 29, was arrested after the FBI and Indiana State Police began an investigation at the request of the Madison County Prosecutor’s Office, which reported allegations of underage alcohol consumption and sexual misconduct at Cushman’s home.

According to a probable cause affidavit signed by an FBI task force officer, ISP received a request to investigate the allegations against Cushman on June 13. The investigation revealed two minor victims, one of whom, known as Minor Victim 1, was a cadet with the Ingalls Fire Department. Ingalls is about 27 miles northeast of Indianapolis.

According to two witnesses, the two minor victims were consuming alcohol at Cushman’s home on June 9 when Minor Victim 2 lost consciousness. Cushman did not call an ambulance, but instead gave her oxygen through an inhaler to revive her. Minor Victim 2’s bra was also removed, and Cushman said he did so in case he had to perform CPR.

Minor Victim 2 gave a similar account of the events of June 9, telling law enforcement that Cushman complied when she and the other victim asked him to buy alcohol for them. The second victim also claimed she had no recollection of passing out or of the events that occurred between when she passed out and when one of the witnesses woke her up. She also told law enforcement she believed her bra had been removed in case CPR was necessary.

Minor Victim 1, however, offered a different narrative of the night. She claimed Cushman was outside while she and the second victim were drinking, then yelled at them and made them stop when he discovered their conduct. Minor Victim 1 said the other victim was passed out for roughly 15 to 20 minutes, and during that time Cushman called another firefighter to bring additional oxygen to his home. She also claimed she, not Cushman, removed Minor Victim 2’s bra.

Law enforcement officials then obtained search warrants for Cushman and Minor Victim 1’s smartphones and discovered several images of the couple engaged in sexually explicit conduct. Among the photos were shots of Cushman with his penis exposed and Minor Victim 1 either partially or fully nude. Some of the photos dated as far back as January 2018.

Additionally, law enforcement also discovered Snapchat screenshots containing text that indicated the two were involved in a romantic relationship, despite Minor Victim 1’s assertion that she viewed Cushman only as a “father figure.”

The affidavit, which was signed by Magistrate Judge Debra McVicker Lynch, prompted Cushman’s arrest on July 20. His initial appearance was held before Lynch the same day, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Friday that Cushman had been released on GPS monitoring.

“The sexual victimization of a child is a heinous crime,” Indiana State Police Superintendent Doug Carter said in a Friday statement. “And in this particular case, it’s even worse (because) 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.”

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kristina M. Korobov, who said Cushman could face up to 30 years in prison if convicted of a violation of 18 United States Code section 2251(a). Gwendolyn M. Beitz, an attorney with Indiana Federal Community Defenders who is representing Cushman, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the charges.

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