Second Cortland couple in U.S. Court for child exploitation

Lawrence C. Berry, 25, and his wife, Brittany Berry, 23, of Cortland (City of Cortland Police Department)

A second Cortland couple accused of creating child pornography was arraigned Wednesday in federal court in Syracuse, less than a week after the first couple’s arraignment.

Brittany E. Berry, 23, of 44 Rickard St. and her husband, Lawrence C. Berry, 25, were arraigned on the federal charge of conspiracy to sexually exploit a child before Judge Andrew Baxter, according to the magistrate’s court clerk. The Berrys were remanded Wednesday in federal court; Brittany Berry and Lawrence Berry were previously remanded to jail on charges out of City Court.

The Berrys were initially arrested in September for creating child pornography with a boy relative under the age of five, according to city police. The federal complaint the couple was arraigned on Wednesday states between August and September 2018, the Berrys conspired together to sexually exploit the child who was born in 2015, according to a Department of Justice press release from this morning.

On Thursday, another Cortland couple accused of creating child pornography with their four-year-old, female relative — Christopher M. Perry, 35, and Sarah R. Gates, 38 — was also arraigned in federal court. Perry and Gates were also charged with sexual exploitation of a child, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s office and the Office of Homeland Security Investigations.

Brittany Berry was arrested Sept. 3 for sexually assaulting the boy, filming the attack and sending the pornography to her husband, according to city police. Lawrence Berry conspired with his wife to create the child pornography and was arrested Sept. 13, police said.

The Berrys could each face at least 15 years in federal prison and up to 30 years in federal prison if convicted, according to federal law. Perry and Gates would face the same potential sentence if found guilty, according to a press release. However, a federal judge makes the final determination on the sentence based on a continuum of factors, including prior criminal history, according to federal law.

City police charged Brittany Berry with seven felonies — felony charges of predatory sexual assault against a child, conspiracy, criminal sex, incest, sexual abuse, promoting a sexual performance by a child, and possessing a sexual performance by a child — and a misdemeanor charge of endangering the welfare of a child. Lawrence Berry was charged with six felonies — second-degree conspiracy, use of a child in a sexual performance, promoting an obscene sexual performance, promoting a sexual performance by a child, possessing a sexual performance by a child, possessing an obscene sexual performance by a child — as well as endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor.

Brittany Berry could face 25 years to life in state prison if convicted on her charges in Cortland County Court, while Lawrence Berry could face up to 25 years in prison if found guilty, according to state penal law.

In addition to their potential prison sentences, the Berrys, Perry and Gates could each be fined up to $250,000 if convicted, according to federal press releases. Should they be convicted, and eventually released, each could also be required to submit to post-imprisonment supervision for the rest of their lives, according to releases.

The Federal Bureau of Investigations is working with Cortland police in the Berry investigation, according to the federal release.