(SNews) – A campaign aide who volunteered for Flint, Michigan’s Democrat Mayor Sheldon Neeley has been arrested for raping a child, according to reports.
The aide, 55-year-old John Cole, is a convicted felon with HIV.
According to police, Cole was charged with grooming and raping a child with the intent to spread his potentially deadly infection.
Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson announced the arrest in a video posted to social media.
Swanson revealed that the Genesee Human Oppression Strike Team (GHOST) arrested Cole on a dozen charges of sexual crimes.
Cole “was known as a member of the community who, like many others, occasionally showed up to volunteer for the mayoral campaign,” the mayor’s office said in a statement.
The mayor claims that the dangerous pedophile was “never employed by the city of Flint or the Neeley campaign.”
Until recently, Cole went by the name John Peters.
Cole was previously convicted of intentionally infecting sexual partners with HIV by hiding the fact that he has the virus before engaging in sex.
He served seven years in prison, according to Swanson.
The convicted felon has now been charged with 12 counts, including one count of child sexually abusive activity and three counts of accosting a child for immoral purposes, ABC 12 reported.
Swanson called Cole a “groomer” and a “predator,” accusing the Flint man of using cunning tactics to befriend a minor at a community event in December 2022.
After grooming the child, he later allegedly sexually assaulted the victim.
Cole allegedly connected with the minor because they shared a birthday.
“Predators are always looking for some type of connection,” Swanson said.
“That’s their grooming tactic.
“So they use that in order to get into where they can perform their sexual acts and take away the innocence of these individuals, and in this case, infect them with a fatal disease in many cases.”
In February, Cole allegedly picked up the victim to go watch a high school basketball game.
However, on their way to the game, Cole “diverted” to a business in Flint and “aggressively started to sexually assault the young victim,” the sheriff said.
Then in March, Cole allegedly assaulted the minor victim again at a bowling alley.
Swanson said his department was made aware of Cole’s alleged sexual assaults last month when the family of the victim came forward with the allegations.
“As soon as we heard the name Johnny Peters trying to be camouflaged with another innocent name of John Cole, we knew exactly the intent,” the sheriff said.
Swanson then showed screenshots of text messages allegedly sent by Cole to the victim.
One message shows Cole telling the victim, “Listen, don’t even worry about that.
“I’ll give you money. You buy your own games.
“You should’ve called me I’m trying to take care of you.
“I’m not playing any games.
“I give you the money,” he reiterated.
“You [buy] your own Playstation, whatever you want but you gotta do your part.”
In another message, Cole allegedly sent pictures of hundreds of dollars in cash to the victim with the message “Call me.”
Swanson called Cole “one of the most vile” groomers he’s arrested in his nearly 40 years of being in law enforcement.
“This is going on 35 years and he’s still doing what he does,” Swanson said.
Cole strongly supported Flint’s Democrat Mayor Neeley and had volunteered for his campaign in the past.
Photos posted online showed Cole at Neeley’s election night party and posing for a picture with the mayor.
“Political antagonists may try to embellish this association and make it more than it is,” Neeley’s office said.
“Cole seems to have presented himself as a close associate of the mayor in order to ingratiate himself to other community members, but in reality, he was an incidental acquaintance,” the statement added.
“We are focused on supporting the victims and raising awareness about how to protect the most vulnerable members of our community from these types of abuses.”
The Democrat mayor has refused to reveal whether he knew about Cole’s previous conviction and imprisonment for sex crimes before allowing him to volunteer for his campaign.
Sheriff Swanson ended his video by asking for anyone who either had consensual sex with Cole or was victimized by his alleged grooming to come forward.
“We want to help you,” Swanson said.
“We want to protect you.
“We want to help get your message out, get your voice protected, but also hold him accountable.”