Senior Jacob Ardrey was arrested April 24 and charged with 30 counts of distributing and possessing or viewing matter depicting sexually explicit conduct involving a child.
An investigation by the Arkansas State Police Cyber Crimes Unit led to Ardrey’s arrest. Special agent Mike McNeil said in an affidavit that a tip to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children documented 64 files of possible child pornography being uploaded on Nov. 11, 2017, and the files were received by Ardrey’s university email address. Ardrey was charged with the maximum number of charges, 30, in accordance with state law.
Ardrey was released from jail after posting $20,000 bond. He pleaded not guilty to the charges, and pre-trial is scheduled for June 6 with jury trial scheduled for July 10.
According to Jana Rucker, vice president of university communications and enrollment, the university took action upon learning about Ardrey’s arrest.
“The University takes this type of misconduct very seriously,” Rucker said. “When University officials first learned of this situation shortly after the arrest, administrators immediately began an investigation into violations of the University’s code of conduct and followed its established procedures.”
Ardrey is not listed in the spring commencement line of march documents on the Harding website; however, his name is still listed on the commencement program, which was completed several weeks prior, according to Rucker. When The Bison asked to verify Ardrey’s graduation status, Rucker said the university could not disclose or discuss confidential student matters due to privacy laws.
Ardrey was a member of men’s social club Beta Omega Chi and was a beau for women’s social club Delta Nu. The two social clubs held separate meetings on May 1 to address Ardrey’s arrest. Club sponsors were present at both meetings to field questions and concerns, and counselors were also present at the Delta Nu meeting.
The affidavit stated that McNeil conducted an interview with Ardrey on Feb. 1 where Ardrey told the agent he had been struggling with pornography addiction since he was 12, and in the past two years, his addiction had progressed to child pornography.
Rucker said the university encourages students to reach out to the Office of Student Life and Counseling Center for help in processing the situation.
“Our prayers go out to everyone affected as the Harding community deals with this news,” Rucker said. “University officials, support staff and counselors continue to respond to anyone struggling to process this situation.”