April 24, 2019

Couple faces federal charges in abuse case

A Cortland City couple accused under state law of sexually abusing a girl for nearly two years now faces federal charges alleging they took photos of the abuse and distributed them over the internet.

Christopher M. Perry, 35, of 89 Bartlett Ave., Cortland, and Sarah R. Gates, 38, of 3 Kingsley Ave., Cortland, were charged with sexual exploitation of a child Thursday, U.S. Attorney Grant C. Jaquith announced in a news release.

The federal criminal complaint filed in federal court in the Northern District of New York stated that in 2017, Perry and Gates engaged in “sexually explicit conduct” with the girl starting when she was 3 “for the purpose of producing visual depictions of the conduct,” according to the release.

Perry and Gates appeared Thursday in Syracuse before U.S. Magistrate Andrew T. Baxter, who ordered they be detained in federal custody pending a resolution of their case.

City police charged the couple on April 4 with several sex crimes after city police worked with the state police Computer Crime Unit to look into the dissemination of child pornography, Lt. Michael Strangeway said. Cortland police said the abuse took place for 1 1/2 to two years at a residence on Hyatt Street in Cortland.

Police searched Perry’s residence and found photos on his cellphone, according to a news release.

Strangeway said Perry disseminated at least one image or video on the internet, which was then sent to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The center sent it to police. Perry also possessed other child pornographic images and videos not related to the other sexual abuse allegations, Strangeway said.

The federal charge against Perry and Gates has a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years and a maximum of 30 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000 and at least five years post-release supervision. They would also have to register as sex offenders.

Perry is charged in Cortland City Court with 10 felonies: predatory sexual assault against a child, first-degree criminal sexual act, first-degree rape, first-degree sexual abuse, use of a child in a sexual performance, possessing a sexual performance by a child, promoting a sexual performance by a child, possessing an obscene sexual performance by a child, promoting an obscene sexual performance by a child and another first-degree sex felony. He is also charged with endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor, and unlawful possession of marijuana, a violation.

Gates is charged with six felonies: predatory sexual assault against a child, first-degree criminal sexual act, first-degree sexual abuse, use of a child in a sexual performance, promoting an obscene sexual performance by a child and a third-degree sex felony.

She is also charged with endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor.

Cortland County Assistant District Attorney Christopher Simser said the first set of charges are still being held in city court because the cases were not moved to Cortland County Court yet.

More information on that case will be announced next week by District Attorney Patrick Perfetti and Assistant District Attorney Christine Ferraro.

The investigation is ongoing and city police said anyone with information can contact them at 607-758-8303.

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