By Joe Beck
A Winchester man pleaded guilty Monday in U.S. District Court in Harrisonburg to several charges linked to possession of child pornography and sexual abuse of a child.
James Cobler, 27, of Winchester entered pleas to three counts of sexually exploiting a 4-year-old boy with the intention of producing child pornography, one count of transporting child pornography and one count of possessing child pornography.
A task force composed of law enforcement officials from the sheriff's offices of Page and Frederick counties and the Northern Virginia-D.C. Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force conducted the investigation into Cobler's activities in April and May.
Cobler came to the attention of a law enforcement agent who was monitoring a peer-to-peer computer file-sharing network for signs of child pornography downloads, according to court documents.
The agent identified some sexually explicit files that he traced back to a computer at a home in Winchester. Law enforcement officials executing a search warrant at the home in May found Cobler and his grandparents living there. His grandparents were not charged in the case.
Cobler admitted to investigators that he downloaded child pornography files and had also molested a 4-year-old boy on several occasions when he was babysitting the boy. He also confessed to taking pictures and a video of the sexual abuse.
Cobler faces at least 15 years in prison and a maximum of 120 years at his sentencing hearing.
In a written statement, U.S. Attorney Timothy Heaphy called the case "a demonstration of our ongoing commitment to vigorously prosecute predators like Mr. Cobler. It should also serve as a further warning that parents must be vigilant in protecting children from the dangers posed by those who seek to exploit them in insidious and varied ways."
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or firstname.lastname@example.org