Union County Man Convicted at Trial of Distributing Child Pornography on Internet Using File-Sharing Software – He was arrested by AG's Office & ICE Homeland Security Investigations in Operation Predator Alert

TRENTON –Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced that a Union County man was convicted at trial today of using a file-sharing network to share child pornography over the internet from his laptop computer, which contained more than 1,400 images and videos of child pornography. He was arrested in 2014 in Operation Predator Alert, a multi-agency child pornography sweep.

Jerrel D. Harris, 32, of Elizabeth, N.J., was found guilty by a Union County jury of second-degree distribution of child pornography, second-degree offering child pornography (storing or maintaining child pornography using a file-sharing program), and third-degree possession of child pornography. The verdict followed a two-week trial before Superior Court Judge Daniel R. Lindemann in Elizabeth. Second-degree crimes carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison. Harris will be subject to registration as a sex offender under Megan’s Law and parole supervision for life. He is scheduled to be sentenced on March 16.

Deputy Attorneys General Anthony Torntore and Alyssa Bloom tried Harris for the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau, assisted by Detective James Gallo and Analysts Terri Drumm and Nathalie Kurzawa. Detective Abraham Aquino and retired Sgt. Thomas Turley were lead investigators for the Division of Criminal Justice, working with a special agent of ICE Homeland Security Investigations. Harris was one of 28 defendants charged in Operation Predator Alert, a joint operation by the Division of Criminal Justice and ICE Homeland Security Investigations that targeted offenders in New Jersey who used a file-sharing network to distribute child pornography online.

“Offenders like Harris who share child pornography online perpetuate the victimization of the children who are sexually assaulted to produce these vile materials, and they further motivate those who commit these horrific assaults,” said Attorney General Grewal. “Protecting children is our highest priority, and we will continue to collaborate across all levels of law enforcement to send these offenders to prison. I commend our attorneys and trial team, as well as all of the investigators who helped secure this verdict.”

“We want those who share this filth on the internet to know they are sharing evidence of their crimes with law enforcement,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We have the technology to locate them, and when we do, we will arrest them and convict them of serious crimes.”

“Predators like this need to know that interagency cooperation ensures that such heinous activities like this are being monitored 24 x 7,” said Michael McCarthy, Acting Special Agent in Charge for HSI, Newark. “The expert investigative skills that HSI brings to the forefront helped close the loop on this individual, bringing him to much deserved justice.”

During Operation Predator Alert, detectives of the Division of Criminal Justice and special agents of ICE Homeland Security Investigations monitored an online file-sharing network that is popular with offenders who download and distribute child pornography. Using advanced technology, investigators searched for digital “fingerprints” of known child pornography and search terms used by such offenders. Through these and other methods, they identified New Jersey residents who were downloading child pornography and making it available to others in “shared folders” on their computers.

A detective who was monitoring the file-sharing network downloaded a video of a girl, believed to be 2 to 4 years of age, being raped by an adult male. The video was in a shared folder at an IP address that was traced to Harris. On July 14, 2014, detectives of the Division of Criminal Justice, assisted by the New Jersey State Police, Elizabeth Police and other law enforcement agencies, executed a search warrant at Harris’ residence in Elizabeth. Investigators seized a laptop computer that was found to contain child pornography. A full forensic examination of the laptop by ICE Homeland Security Investigations revealed more than 1,400 images and videos of child pornography.

The file-sharing networks used by offenders to distribute child pornography operate in the same manner as websites used for privately sharing music or movies. Those in possession of the illegal images can make them available on computers that they control for others to download. Because many of these videos and photos of child pornography keep recirculating, they result in the perpetual re-victimization of the children who were sexually assaulted or abused to produce them.

Attorney General Grewal commended the attorneys, detectives and special agents of the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau and ICE Homeland Security Investigations who tried and investigated this case, as well as the many other law enforcement agencies that participated in Operation Predator Alert. Former Deputy Attorney General Naju Lathia presented the Harris indictment to the state grand jury.

Attorney General Grewal and Director Honig urged anyone with information about the distribution of child pornography on the internet – or about suspected improper contact by unknown persons communicating with children via the internet or possible exploitation or sexual abuse of children – to please contact the New Jersey Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Tipline at 888-648-6007.

Defense Attorney:
Cedric Ashley, Esq., Cedric Ashley Law Firm, Princeton, N.J.

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