Two Cortland residents charged in child sex abuse investigation

A Cortland couple were arrested Thursday for sexually assaulting a four-year-old girl over the course of 18 months and photographing the assaults to create child pornography, according to city police.

Christopher M. Perry, 35, of 89 Bartlett Ave., and Sarah R. Gates, 38, of 3 Kingsley Ave., were each charged with predatory sexual assault against a child, first-degree criminal sex act, first-degree incest and first-degree sexual abuse, along with other felonies. Both Perry and Gates could face up to 25 years to life in state prison if convicted, according to state law.

City and state police officers searched Perry and a Hyatt Street residence as part of an investigation regarding the dissemination of child pornography by a city resident, said Lt. Michael Strangeway.

“They (state police) came to us and they had a search warrant for a residence on Hyatt Street and for the person of Christopher Perry,” Strangeway said. During the search, officers discovered child pornography Perry and Gates created, as well as other child pornography. “He (Perry) had a couple of different cell phones and at least one phone contained graphic images and videos of he and Sarah Gates engaged in various sex acts with a child less than 11 years old.”

The four-year-old girl was subjected to rape and oral sex in the photographs and videos, Strangeway said. Police determined the abuse began between one-and-a-half to two years ago and all the attacks occurred at a Hyatt Street residence, he said.

Perry also had other child pornography, Strangeway said. It is unknown who the other children in that pornography are or who created the other images, he said.  

There is no indication Perry and Gates were selling the child pornography, he said.

Police were alerted to Perry after he shared at least one photo of child pornography depicting one of the unknown children with another person online, Strangeway said.

“Internet sites — Google, social media sites — are required to monitor their sites for incidents of child pornigraphy,” Strangeway said. “When they discover something they report it to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.”

The center – a private, non-profit organization founded by John and Reve Walsh after the kidnapping and murder of their son, Adam Walsh, in 1984 in South Florida – then pass the information on to the national Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. State police are members of the ICAC and act on reports and tips with local law enforcement.

Perry and Gates are both facing six felonies: predatory sexual assault against a child, first-degree criminal sexual act, first-degree incest, first-degree sexual abuse, use of a child in a sexual performance and promoting an obscene sexual performance by a child. Perry is also facing four additional felony charges: first-degree rape, possessing a sexual performance by a child, promoting a sexual performance by a child and possessing an obscene sexual performance by a child. Both were also charged with misdemeanor endangering the welfare of a child and Perry faces the additional violation of unlawful possession of marijuana.

Perry and Gates were both remanded to jail without bail Friday in an arraignment in City Court.

Incidents of child pornography, child sex trafficking and online enticement of child, as well as other child sex crimes, can be reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s at report.cybertip.org.

The tip line received more than 42.9 million reports as of November 2018, according to the center. The Child Victim Identification Program, a branch of the center, has reviewed more than 267 million images in an effort to rescue and aid the children depicted. Less than 16,000 children have been identified, according to the center.

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