Cortland woman charged in child pornography case lays blame on boyfriend

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

A city woman accused of creating child pornography with her boyfriend and their four-year-old relative told police her boyfriend forced her to participate — a claim city police have no evidence to support, according to city court documents and police.

The documents also reveal the couple not only sexually abused the girl, but forced the child to perform sex acts on the boyfriend.

Christopher M. Perry, 35, of 89 Bartlett Ave., and Sarah R. Gates, 38, of 3 Kingsley Ave., face the federal charge of sexual exploitation of a child — as well as several state felonies, including predatory sexual assault against a child, first-degree incest and first-degree sexual abuse — following a police investigation into the dissemination of child pornography by a city resident, according to city police. Perry and Gates appeared before a federal judge Thursday in Syracuse for arraignment.

The Cortland County District Attorney’s office may continue to prosecute charges in local courts, alongside the federal charges levied against the couple. “The office is still considering if it will move forward with the state charges,” said Assistant District Attorney Christine Ferraro.

Gates told police Perry “manipulated” her into creating the child pornography with him and the four-year-old girl, according to her sworn statement.

“I know it was wrong but I was scared of him,” Gates said. “I was afraid that Chris would leave me if I did not do these things.”

Gates went on to say the pair sexually assaulted the girl four times over the last year-and-a-half, but the events were only sexually gratifying to Perry, not Gates.

“He made me do all of this. I knew I should have left him,” Gates said. “He kept telling me that he would never talk to me again if I did not do this.”

The police investigation has revealed no evidence Perry forced Gates to participate in creating the child pornography and she never called city police to report what was going on, said Lt. Michael Strangeway.

“There’s no evidence of that,” Strangeway said. “She never came and made a complaint that she was being coerced or intimidated into these things.”

Investigators also have not corroborated the attacks only took place four times over the last year-and-a-half, he said.

In addition to raping the girl, Perry also forced the four-year-old to perform oral sex on him, according to felony complaints included in the court documents. Both Perry and Gates engaged in oral sex with the child, according to the police complaints.

The couple also took photographs and videos of the attacks, which Perry saved on his phone, according to the court documents. All the attacks occurred at a Hyatt Street residence, according to city police.

Perry also had a piece of child pornography depicting an unknown, naked prepubescent girl with another unknown, unclothed child on a bed that he uploaded to his Facebook page, according to the documents.

City and state police officers discovered the evidence after searching Perry and a Hyatt Street residence as part of an investigation regarding the dissemination of child pornography by a city resident, according to city police. Police were alerted to Perry after he shared a piece of child pornography depicting an unknown victim online, the department noted.

Perry and Gates were charged with six felonies under state law: 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 was also charged with 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 also face a misdemeanor charge of endangering the welfare of a child, while Perry was additionally charged with the violation of unlawful possession of marijuana.

If convicted, Perry and Gates could spend the rest of their lives in federal and state prisons. Each face a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison if convicted on the federal charge and could spend as long as 30 years in prison, according to federal prosecutors. The couple would also be fined $250,000 each should they be found guilty. In addition, both Perry and Gates could be sentenced to 25 years to life in state prison if convicted, according to state law.

Should they be found guilty in both federal and county court and sentenced to the maximum sentences running consecutively, each could spend the next 60 years to life in prison.

Perry and Gates were remanded to jail without bail after their federal and city court appearances.

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.

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