TRENTON – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced that a Union County man was sentenced to prison today as a result of his trial conviction for using file-sharing software to share child pornography from his computer devices, which contained approximately 2,900 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 sentenced to eight years in state prison, including five years of parole ineligibility, by Superior Court Judge Daniel R. Lindemann in Union County. Harris was found guilty on Jan. 24 in a jury trial 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. Harris must register as a sex offender under Megan’s Law and will be subject to parole supervision for life.
Deputy Attorneys General Anthony Torntore and Alyssa Bloom tried Harris and handled the sentencing for the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau. They were assisted at trial by Detective James Gallo and Analysts Terri Drumm and Nathalie Kurzawa. Detective Abraham Aquino and retired Sgt. Thomas Turley were lead detectives 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 New Jersey offenders who used a file-sharing network to distribute child pornography online.
“By sharing child pornography online, this defendant made himself part of a distribution network that promotes and perpetuates the brutal sexual exploitation of children,” said Attorney General Grewal. “Our multi-agency efforts to patrol the internet and put these offenders in prison are all about protecting children and ensuring justice for those who have been victimized.”
“Through child pornography sweeps like Operation Predator Alert, we have delivered an unmistakable message that those who share child pornography online are sharing evidence of their crimes with law enforcement, and they will be aggressively prosecuted,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We’re doing everything in our power to disrupt this online market.”
“Predators like this need to know that interagency cooperation ensures that such heinous activities like this are being constantly monitored,” said Brian Michael, Acting Special Agent in Charge for HSI, Newark. “HSI’s diverse investigative skills helped capture 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 by ICE Homeland Security Investigations of the laptop and other seized devices revealed approximately 2,900 images and videos of child pornography. He had approximately 1,400 files of child pornography in a shared folder on his computer where other users could download them.
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.
Cedric Ashley, Esq., Cedric Ashley Law Firm, Princeton, N.J.
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