South Carolina Pastor and Wife Charged With Having Child Porn

Grady Bernard Ponds (Source: WRDW)

Grady  Bernard Ponds

Rhonda Ponds (Source: Bamberg County Sheriff's Office)

Rhonda Ponds



Mt. Carmel United Methodist Church

Mt. Carmel United Methodist Church

By Jack Kuenzie
July 29, 2010


A South Carolina pastor and his wife have been charged with having child pornography on their computer.

The case against Rev. Grady Ponds and his wife, Rhonda Jean Ponds, began with a search of the couple's home in Bamberg last December.

The state attorney general's office says that search turned up at least one computer containing images of child pornography. This week, the Ponds were booked in Bamberg and released on $10,000 personal recognizance bonds.
Each has been charged with one count of third degree sexual exploitation of a minor.

Columbia defense attorney Jack Swerling says it's possible the Ponds had no idea their computer contained illegal material. "There are all sorts of issues about how photographs can get on, you know on a computer," said Swerling. "I once had an FBI expert tell me once that a lot of people, many people would have no idea that they may have something like that on their computer."

The charges are a touchy subject for members of the Mount Carmel United Methodist Church in Bamberg, where Rev. Ponds, 41, serves as pastor. Several church members refused to talk about the accusations.

Rev. Ponds was home Friday afternoon, but no one responded when we knocked on both front and rear doors. "He's very popular, and of course he's very upset," said Swerling. "But I think that the community is supporting him, the Bamberg community and his church. And they're hoping that support continues and that people just don't jump to conclusions."

The couple has four children. A spokesman for the United Methodist Church says it will conduct its own investigation into the allegations.

In a statement to the Orangeburg Times & Democrat, Rev. Ponds said he and his wife are "innocent of the things we are alleged to have done." Ponds says he and his wife consider themselves "assets in the community and hope that folks still feel the same."
A conviction on the charge could lead to a prison sentence of up to 10 years.