|TRENTON - Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced that a Middlesex County man pleaded guilty to distributing child pornography on the Internet. He was among 27 defendants arrested last year as a result of “Operation Watchdog,” a multi-agency investigation led by the New Jersey State Police and the Division of Criminal Justice that targeted offenders who distributed known images and videos of child pornography on the Internet.
Robert W. Knapp, 49, of Old Bridge, pleaded guilty yesterday to a charge of second-degree distribution of child pornography before Superior Court Judge Bradley J. Ferencz in Middlesex County. Under the plea agreement, the state will recommend that Knapp be sentenced to five years in state prison. He will be required to register as a sex offender under Megan’s Law. Deputy Attorney General Anand Shah prosecuted Knapp and took the guilty plea for the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau. Judge Ferencz scheduled sentencing for Knapp for July 7.
In pleading guilty, Knapp admitted that prior to his arrest April 12, 2012, he knowingly used Internet file sharing software to make one or more files containing child pornography readily available for any other user to download from a designated “shared folder” on his computer. A search warrant executed by the New Jersey State Police at Knapp’s apartment revealed approximately 18 files containing child pornography, including video clips and photographic images, on Knapp’s laptop computer.
“Child pornography is a horrific crime that results in the exploitation and torture of innocent children. All of the offenders linked to the vile network of sexual predators and perverts who create, view and share child pornography online deserve the harshest of punishments,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “We will continue to work tirelessly with our law enforcement partners to obtain justice for the victims of these crimes.”
“Our message to the predators who share child pornography online is simple: the same technology you use to victimize and re-victimize vulnerable children will be used by law enforcement to put you behind bars,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We will continue to conduct investigations and child pornography sweeps of the type that snared this defendant.”
Knapp was charged in Operation Watchdog, a multi-agency investigation in which one woman and 26 men were arrested in March and April of 2012 on charges of distribution and possession of child pornography. The Digital Technology Investigation Unit of the New Jersey State Police coordinated the investigation, which also involved the Division of Criminal Justice and 19 other law enforcement agencies.
Detectives linked all of the defendants to alleged use of the Internet to download and distribute images of child pornography. Peer to Peer, or P2P, file sharing networks play a major role in the distribution of child pornography. There is a large library of images and videos known to law enforcement, and these electronic files can be traced in various ways on the Internet. Detectives involved in Operation Watchdog tracked transferred files to their origin and destination locations.
All of the New Jersey agencies that partnered in Operation Watchdog are members of the New Jersey Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC). Additionally, agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and the FBI assisted with the investigation and execution of warrants. Acting Attorney General Hoffman also thanked members of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office for their valuable assistance.
The ICAC Task Force in New Jersey works with out-of-state partners to share information on distributors and users of child pornography. A major partner is the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Washington, D.C. They maintain a national, toll-free tip line for the public to report crimes against children: 1-800-THE-LOST, or 1-800-843-5678. The tip line brings hundreds of leads to the New Jersey ICAC Task Force on sexual crimes against children.