TRENTON – A Middlesex County man was indicted today on charges that he distributed child pornography on the Internet, Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced.
Robert W. Knapp, 48, of Old Bridge 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 allegedly distributed known images and videos of child pornography on the Internet.
Knapp was indicted by a state grand jury on charges of second-degree distribution of child pornography, second-degree offering child pornography, and fourth-degree possession of child pornography. The indictment alleges that between Jan. 9, 2012 and the date of his arrest, April 12, 2012, Knapp 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, according to authorities.
“Offenders who view and share child pornography create the demand that directly drives this tragic abuse and exploitation of children,” said Hoffman. “The victims in these cases are re-victimized every day on the Internet, and we are determined to seek justice for them.”
“Let those who spread these vile images on the Internet spread word of this: we are online with you and we are ready to download the evidence that will put you behind bars,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “Prosecuting predators who exploit children will remain a top priority for law enforcement in New Jersey.”
Deputy Attorney General Anand R. Shah presented the case to the state grand jury for the Division of Criminal Justice Computer Analysis & Technology Unit. 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.
Second-degree crimes carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a $150,000 fine, while fourth-degree crimes carry a maximum sentence of 18 months in prison and a $10,000 fine. The indictment is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The indictment was handed up to Superior Court Judge Mary C. Jacobson in Mercer County, who assigned the case to Middlesex County, where Knapp will be ordered to appear at a later date for arraignment.
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.
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