Former high school teacher accused of soliciting child appears in court

POSTED: 9:07 PM Dec 24 2013   UPDATED: 3:24 PM Dec 20 2013
John Tobias Sweeney

A former Onslow County high school teacher charged with trying to solicit sex from a child appeared in court Friday morning.

John Tobias Sweeney, 36, was working as an English teacher and soccer coach at Southwest High School near Jacksonville, school officials said. But he turned in his resignation following his arrest Thursday morning by Onslow County deputies and the FBI.

According to an arrest warrant from the Onslow County Sheriff's Office, Sweeney used the social networking site, MeetMe, and text messaging to attempt to arrange a meeting with the 13-year-old victim in order to engage in sexual activity. The solicitation happened from June to September, the warrant stated.

Deputies said the 13-year-old victim is a female student who lives out of state. Sweeney, of Jacksonville, has been charged with solicitation of a child by a computer or other electronic device to commit an unlawful sex act.

Investigators did not release any other details on the case.

Sweeney was issued a $10,000 secure bond and posted bail. His next court hearing is scheduled for Jan. 9.

NewsChannel 12 tried to reach out to Sweeney to get his side of the story, but those at his home declined to speak.

Nina Ridgeway, who graduated from Southwest High School this past year, shared her thoughts about the allegations against Sweeney.

"Pretty surprised actually, because I've only heard good things about him and I wouldn't have expected this," said Ridgeway. "Honestly, you wouldn't expect that from a teacher."

According to Onslow County Schools, Sweeney had been teaching English at Southwest High School since 2006. He had also taught at New Bridge Middle School and had been with the school district for 14 years.