Federal prosecutors target Cortland couple in child sex abuse case

Christopher M. Perry, 35, and Sarah R. Gates, 38, were charged Thursday with the federal crime of sexual exploitation of a child (Photo provided)

A Cortland couple accused of sexually abusing a four-year-old girl and creating child pornography are now facing federal prosecution, according to the Department of Justice.

Christopher M. Perry, 35, and Sarah R. Gates, 38, were charged Thursday with the federal crime of sexual exploitation of a child, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s office and the Office of Homeland Security Investigations.

A federal criminal complaint states Perry and Gates engaged in sexually explicit activities with a child since 2017 in order to create images of the abuse, according to the release. The child was born in 2014, according to United States Attorney Grant C. Jaquith and Kevin M. Kelly, Special Agent in Charge of the Buffalo Field Office of Homeland Security Investigations.

Perry and Gates each face a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in federal prison if convicted, the release notes. The pair could each spend as long as 30 years in prison and be fined $250,000 each should they be found guilty.

The couple appeared Thursday before Judge Andrew T. Baxter in federal court in Syracuse, according to the release. Baxter ordered Perry and Gates be confined without bail in federal prison until their cases are resolved.

Perry and Gates had been sent to jail without bail after their arrest Thursday on several felonies—including predatory sexual assault against a child, first-degree incest and first-degree sexual abuse—stemming from a city police and state police investigation into the dissemination of child pornography by a city resident, according to city police.

After officers used a warrant to search Perry and a Hyatt Street residence, they discovered Perry had a couple of cell phones and at least one contained graphic images of Perry and Gates subjecting a four-year-old girl to various sex acts, said Lt. Michael Strangeway last week. The girl was raped and exposed to oral sex in the photographs and videos, Strangeway said. The attacks began between one-and-a-half to two years ago and all the attacks occurred at a Hyatt Street residence, he said.

The police investigation continues and police urge anyone with information to call the city police station at 607-758-8303.

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