The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.
In 2022, John “Jay” Brownlow, formerly a youth pastor at St. Patrick Presbyterian Church in Collierville, Tennessee, and an administrator at Westminster Academy in Memphis, Tennessee, was accused of grooming a Westminster student.
A former Mid-South church leader and Christian school administrator is accused of persuading a high school student to engage in sexual activity online, and then recorded that activity without the victim’s knowledge.
John “Jay” Brownlow, 32, allegedly groomed the teen, a Westminster Academy student, at the peak of the pandemic, and installed cameras in the boy’s bedroom without him knowing.
The Action News 5 Investigators have been watching Brownlow’s case move through a Shelby County courtroom since September when he pleaded not guilty to seven felonies and one misdemeanor.
The Investigators were tipped off about the arrest, and have since been corresponding with the teen’s family.
According to a nine-page indictment, Brownlow also stalked and spied on the victim.
A now-deleted online post states that Brownlow was a bookkeeper at Westminster Academy and was promoted to Chief Financial Officer in September 2021. According to the post, Brownlow enjoyed “playing board games and tackling tech projects.”
At the same time, Brownlow was allegedly using technology to “expose a minor to material containing sexual activity” and to “directly induce” that minor to engage in sexual activity that Brownlow recorded.
The defendant’s attorney, Leslie Ballin, wouldn’t let us speak with Brownlow, but did sit down with the Action News 5 Investigators to talk about the case.
“You pleaded not guilty on his behalf in court. Is your client innocent?” The Investigators asked Ballin.
“The allegations are indeed shocking,” he said. “Does it mean it’s accurate and true? Not for me to decide.”
It will be for a jury of Brownlow’s peers to decide, if the case goes to trial, or a judge to decide, if there is a bench trial. Prosecutors could also possibly reach a plea deal with the defendant before either.
Ballin says he has seen the prosecution’s evidence, and while he wouldn’t go into details, said the “not guilty” plea stands. He does say the evidence he saw lines up with the contents of the criminal indictment.
According to the indictment, the alleged crimes occurred between June 2020 and January 2022. That’s when Brownlow was an employee at the Christian K-12 school Westminster Academy on Ridgeway Road.
Westminster’s Headmaster wrote in an email that they learned about the allegations when the crimes were reported in January 2022, and that they contacted police, fired Brownlow and banned him from their campus.
The Action News 5 Investigators corresponded with the alleged victim’s parents, and with other parents aware of the allegations against Brownlow. They said they trusted Brownlow around their children and are concerned there may be more alleged victims who were groomed by Brownlow who have not yet come forward.
In October 2023, Brownlow was sentenced to six years in prison for aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor.
A former administrator at a Christian school in Memphis has been sentenced to six years in prison for attempted especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor, according to Shelby County court records.
Former school administrator at Westminster Academy John Brownlow, 32, was arrested in July of 2022 and charged with especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor, soliciting sexual exploitation of a minor, aggravated burglary, aggravated unlawful photographing of a minor, sexual exploitation of a minor, soliciting sexual exploit of a minor, aggravated stalking and observation without consent.
On Monday, October 2, 2023, Brownlow entered a plea agreement and pled guilty to the lesser charge of attempted especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor and was sentenced to six years in prison. As part of that plea agreement, the other charges against Brownlee were dismissed.
Court documents at the time of Brownlow’s arrest stated that the 32-year-old entered a person’s home with the intent to spy and obtain unlawful images of a minor and that the former school administrator stalked a teen and used technology to “expose a minor to material containing sexual activity.”
Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.
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