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Mich. Mayor Nabbed on Sex Charges

April 7, 1999

PORT HURON, Mich. (AP) _ A mayor who used his struggle with drug and alcohol addiction to inspire young people to turn their lives around was charged Wednesday with taking nude photos of young girls.

Mayor Gerald ``Ajax″ Ackerman, 42, was charged with 14 counts of sexual misconduct involving children. He is accused of taking pornographic photos of four girls, ages 9, 14 and two who are 11, police Capt. Brian Moeller said.

Ackerman appears with the girls in some of the photos, allegedly taken between August of last year and March, Moeller said.

The typically flamboyant and outspoken Ackerman _ known for his chest-length beard, ponytail and two earrings in his left ear _ stood silent during his arraignment.

A judge entered an innocent plea on Ackerman’s behalf and held him on $25,000 bond.

News of Ackerman’s arrest stunned this close-knit community about an hour north of Detroit. About 50 people packed into the small courtroom for the arraignment.

``I feel he kind of let his community down,″ said Donna Stranyak, 36, a waitress at a local cafe.

Randy Arnott, 47, a laborer and longtime resident, doesn’t believe the charges.

``I just can’t see him do that,″ he said. ``They don’t know if he did it ... it could be some kind of hoax.″

Ackerman, honored five years ago by the National Association of Social Workers, became mayor of the conservative city of 37,000 along Lake Huron in 1997.

He has been considered a role model for kids, motivating others trying to break free of their addictions. Ackerman has done various volunteer work and even opened his a facility, Clear Choices, where young people and adults can go to get off the street and talk to someone.

He goes by his nickname, after the warrior Ajax in a movie about street gangs, and still prefers to ride his Harley-Davidson and wear leather biker duds.

Ackerman was charged with six counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, five counts of criminal sexual conduct, two counts of production of child abusive material and one count of indecent exposure.

If convicted, he could face life in prison.

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