October 22, 2021

Cortland man pleads guilty in child porn case

A Cortland man pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court in Syracuse to conspiring to produce child pornography using a child under 5, the U.S. Attorney General’s Office and Homeland Security Investigations announced.

Christopher M. Perry, 36, admitted that in 2017, he and Sarah R. Gates performed sexual acts on the child while taking photographs of the abuse using cell phones, announced U.S. Attorney Grant C. Jaquith and Kevin M. Kelly, the special agent in charge of the Homeland Security Investigations’ Buffalo field office.

Perry pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual exploitation of a child and one count of conspiracy to commit sexual exploitation of a child, Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Southwick said.

Senior United States District Judge Thomas J. McAvoy will sentence Perry on Aug. 18. Each of the three crimes to which Christopher M. Perry pleaded guilty carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years, and a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, and at least five years of post-release supervision.

He will also be required to register as a sex offender.

Gates faces the same charges.

Cortland police initially charged the couple in April 2019 after city police worked with the state police Computer Crime Unit to look into the dissemination of child pornography, Lt. Michael Strangeway said then. Cortland police said the abuse took place for 1 1/2 to two years at a residence on Hyatt Street in Cortland and involved a girl who was 3 when the abuse started.

Police searched Perry’s residence and found photos on his cellphone. 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, which in turn sent it to police.

Perry also possessed other child pornographic images and videos not related to the other sexual abuse allegations, Strangeway said.

He was initially charged 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 was also charged with endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor, and unlawful possession of marijuana, a violation.

Gates was 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 was also charged with endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor.

However, those charges were dropped when the Attorney General’s Office filed its charges to prevent double jeopardy.