SARASOTA -- A Sarasota County firefighter was charged Monday with convincing a 17-year-old girl to send him naked and explicit photos of herself, according to the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office.
Aaron Bryant Key, 43, directed the victim to send multiple explicit photos, including times when he was on duty at the fire department.
Key met the victim at the Applebee's at 3255 University Parkway on Dec. 27, according to the arrest report. He put his number into her phone and told her to call him so they could "hang out." The girl later texted and called Key to ensure he was OK, as he appeared to be intoxicated while at the restaurant.
The texting continued and Key asked her how old she was on Dec. 29, according to the report. She told him she was 17 and that she was "so young" and he later texts her, "Please tell me you are 18." She replied, "im (sic) not I told you im (sic) 17."
Texts between the two then started to get more sexually explicit due to prompting from Key, deputies said. Key continuously tried to arrange for them to meet at the fire station where he worked and talked about having sex with the victim.
"you drive me crazy! I know you're to (sic) young! You are the most BEAUTIFUL woman I have ever seen!" Key sent on Jan. 1. The victim responded, "like im (sic) not going to be illegal forever."
According to the report, on Jan. 3 Key sent the victim a message saying he thought about her every day but "it is good thoughts." The victim began sending naked photos under Key's direction that same day, deputies said, and sent multiple explicit photos to Key over the following days. Key continued to ask for more photos and sent back text messages describing sexual acts.
The messages eventually started to taper off and the last one was sent on Jan. 16.
Investigators interviewed the victim, who said she did send Key naked photos at his request. The victim's mother also allowed deputies to examine the victim's phone.
Investigators then contacted Key on March 9 and told him his name came up in an ongoing criminal investigation. Key agreed to speak with them and he confirmed he met the victim at an Applebee's and said she told him she was 18. When detectives read him the text logs he changed his story and said he believed she was 17, according to the report.
Key said in an interview with detectives that he had told the victim to send him sexually explicit photos and that she did under his direction.
Key was charged with cruelty toward a child: directing/promoting sexual performance by a child. He was released the next day on $50,000 bond.
Sarasota County spokesman Jason Bartolone said Key is currently on paid administrative leave pending the ongoing investigation.
"We take these types of allegations seriously, as they do not reflect the standards set by Sarasota County for its employees," a release issued from the county states. "As stewards of the public trust, we expect our firefighters and all county employees to act ethically, with both integrity and accountability. These alleged actions, if true, directly violate those standards and do not represent the hard work and positive impact that Sarasota County firefighters have on the community."
Amaris Castillo, law enforcement/island reporter, contributed to this report.
Kate Irby, Herald online/political reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7055 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter@kateirby.