Jan 13, 2012 6:46 PM by Melissa Hawkes

Former Lafayette Youth Minister Being Detained Until Trial

A former Acadiana youth minister facing child pornography charges heads to federal court today. Eric Manuel is accused of sexually exploiting at least four Acadiana teenagers.

A federal judge ruled Manuel will remain in jail until his case heads to trial. It was Manuel's decision not to fight it.

US Attorney, Stephanie Finley, said, "I'm not surprised that he waived a detention. These are some very serious charges and this is usually the norm in cases like this."

Manuel volunteered with youth ministries at St. Thomas More Catholic High in Lafayette and at Notre Dame High in Crowley. He shot video at high school football games and youth retreats, but officials say he also spent much of his time on Facebook and his cell phone sexually exploiting young boys.

"No one wants to think in this great community we live in that there are people exploiting children, but it's just the world we live in today," she said.

Investigators said Manuel posed as a 14 year-old female named Emily Brant and used Facebook to pursue teenage males. According to court documents, he exchanged phone numbers with at least four Acadiana teenage boys. He posed as Emily, sending them naked pictures of a young girl and encouraging them to return the favor. He threatened to call police if they refused. Finley said it went even farther than that.

"Having sex with children, that's as bluntly as I can put it," she said.

After searching Manuel's cell phone State Police found more than 1,000 sexually explicit pictures of juveniles. This is an ongoing federal investigation and Finley said there could be more victims.

"That's a strong possibility," she explained. "I don't want to comment on any of the specifics, but this is a very disturbing case and these types of cases, they tend to grow."

Manuel's family was sitting in the court room today, they didn't have any comment, nor did his defense attorney.

State Police are encouraging anyone who had contact with Manuel or Emily Brant to contact officials.



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