State trooper arrested, charged with sexual exploitation involving a student

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WEST PLAINS, Mo. - A Missouri State Highway Patrol trooper has been placed on unpaid leave, after being charged with four felony counts of sexual exploitation of a minor.

Justin Watson, 46, also umpires high school baseball games for the Mountain View-Birch Tree School District. He faces an additional felony charge of sexual contact with a student. Police arrested him Wednesday night.

According to the probable cause statement used to charge Watson, a Highway Patrol trooper was assigned to investigate accusations that Watson was in a sexual relationship with a male high school student from Mountain View. The trooper says the student told him sexual contact with Watson began after he was 17-years-old. The victim says Watson used the boy's phone to take pornographic images, then sent them to his own phone. Court documents say that a forensic examination found the pictures were taken at Watson's home in Mountain View.

A spokesman for the Missouri Highway Patrol in Jefferson City confirms that Watson is a trooper with Troop G based in Willow Springs. He did not immediately know how long Watson had been with the Patrol.

Online court records say a warrant has a been issued for Watson's arrest.