City man with 307 child porn videos set to get probation

 

A city man arrested for possessing 307 child pornography videos is set to be sentenced to 10 years of probation after he pled guilty to one felony count on Tuesday in County Court, according to court transcripts.

Benjamin W. Barrett, 35, pled guilty to possessing an obscene sexual performance by a child less than 16 years old and must register as a sex offender, under the terms of the plea agreement. Barrett is also required to “enter and successfully complete sex offender treatment as applicable and appropriate.”

Barrett’s defense attorney is free to argue for a lighter sentence at his sentencing, and if Barrett is rearrested or fails to appear at sentencing he can receive the maximum sentence of one-and-a-third to four years in prison, according to the transcripts.

Barrett admitted to the Cortland Police Department to “having videos of young girls between the ages of 4-14 involved in various sexual acts,” according to the plea agreement, filed with the County Clerk at 3:22 p.m. Thursday. He also told city police he downloaded images and videos from an online chat room where he used the username “pervtrader”, wrote Assistant District Attorney Jessica Weynant in the agreement. When the state police Computer Crime Unit forensically analyzed Barrett’s phone, investigators discovered 160 images of child pornography and 86 videos of child pornography, stated Weynant.

State forensic investigators also discovered seven text messages informing Barrett that police had a search warrant for his phone, according to the agreement. “The defendant’s wife apparently tipped the defendant off that the cops had a search warrant for his phone,” Weynant stated, “and told him to reset it to factory settings.” Barrett’s wife was not named in the documents and she was not arrested in connection with this case.

Also found on Barrett’s phone were an email addrees entitled “[email protected]” and notes that stated “IWNT8GRL,” according to the plea deal.

Probation was selected in the Barrett case plea deal after considering his lack of criminal record and the potential that he could be prosecuted federally at a later date, said District Attorney Patrick Perfetti in a recorded interview on Saturday. 

“It was largely an issue that he had no prior criminal record,” Perfetti said. “And there may also be federal prosecution that can take place afterward, so those are things that we take into account.”

At the time of Barrett’s Jan. 7, 2020 arrest, the Cortland Police Department contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation, said Lt. Michael Strangeway in 2020. However, federal investigators and attorneys have so far not pursued the case. The US Attorney’s Office declined to comment about the case Monday afternoon.

“We have no comment about this case at this time,” said Assistant US Attorney Richard Southwick in a phone interview.

Whether or not federal prosecutors choose to pursue a case depends on their own criteria and the details of the case, said Perfetti on Saturday.

“Whether a case will become federal or not is usually a choice, it’s a choice between both offices,” he said. “If they tell me they’re not going to take a case, I don’t have any mechanism forcing them to take a case. There are cases that I do suggest to them that they decide that they don’t want to prosecute.”

The federal government does have the right to prosecute almost all child pornography cases — even a case with only one sexual abuse image — if the internet is used to download the picture, according to Justice Department fact sheet. It can also prosecute cases where a computer, phone or other device was used to store the image and that device was manufactured overseas or shipped across state lines, according to the document.

The ongoing Project Safe Childhood initiative that combines efforts between local and federal law enforcement agencies has led to more prosecutions of sex offenders for crimes against children, including possession of child pornography, according to the Justice Department.

“In fiscal year 2014, USAOs obtained 3,248 indictments against 3,422 defendants for offenses involving the sexual exploitation of minors,” according to a Justice Department fact sheet.  “This represents a 31 percent increase in the number of indictments over fiscal year 2010.”

Under the terms of the plea agreement, Barrett must register as a sex offender and “must refrain from kowingly entering into or upon any school grounds,” according to the court transcripts. Barrett is currently employed at the 7-Eleven on North Main Street, located 400 feet from St. Mary’s Catholic School, confirmed store employees Monday afternoon.

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