LAWRENCEVILLE - Praise from high places - including a letter from the mayor of a Jackson County city - apparently fared well Wednesday for a man accused of trailing a Buford school bus and exposing himself to children.
A Gwinnett Magistrate Court judge granted Jason Pressley, 28, of Nicholson, a $10,000 bond after hearing praise about the suspect's solid character.
A 10-year-old Buford girl told police a man fitting Pressley's description masturbated in front of her from the driver's seat of his car last month. He was arrested Thursday on a felony charge of child molestation.
Pressley, who works as a security guard in the Buford area, is a member of the Army Reserves based in North Georgia. His supervisor, Lt. John Taylor, testified that Pressley is an exemplary soldier and husband incapable of threatening children.
"I consider Mr. Pressley one of my right hand men in my unit," Taylor said. "No questions asked."
Pressley's defense attorney, Denorris Heard, submitted a letter from Nicholson Mayor Ronnie Maxwell that extolled the suspect's good character.
Magistrate Judge Gene Cantrell granted the bond during a probable cause hearing with the special condition that Pressley keep away from the girl's home in the Duncan Lake subdivision. The judge bound the felony charge against him to Superior Court.
Pressley told police he was driving around the area "out looking at houses" when the alleged victim noted his tag number Aug. 22, Gwinnett police Detective B. McCollough testified Wednesday.
Police said Pressley first approached the Ivy Creek Elementary student a day prior, after she had stepped off her bus and was walking up her driveway. The girl told police Pressley pulled up next to her in his blue, 1996 Chevrolet Lumina, driving shirtless and with his pants around his ankles, and asked her where "Jack" lives.
The following day, students on the same bus route reported seeing Pressley in his vehicle in the parking lot of a Korean church near the subdivision, police said.
McCollough said he was led to Pressley's trailer in Nicholson by the tag number provided by the alleged victim. The girl described Pressley and his vehicle vividly, down to the green, striped baby seat in the back of the car, McCollough said.
Heard, the attorney, chided the girl's description as "bland."
Pressley, wearing short, reddish-blond hair and a green jumpsuit, avoided eye contact for most of the hearing with an audience that included his immediate family and two pastors. When Cantrell granted bond, Pressley's father cried, triggering tears from the suspect himself.
One family member shouted, "Love you, Jason," as Pressley was led from the courtroom.
Pressley had been held at the Gwinnett County Jail without bond since last Thursday. Jail records show he had yet to be released late Wednesday afternoon.