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Child Exploitation
10/07/2010

Former Jacksonville middle school guidance counselor found guilty of production, receipt and possession of child pornography

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A federal jury found Robert Allan Cowan, 48, of Jacksonville, guilty on Thursday of two counts of using a minor to produce images of child pornography, as well as three counts of receiving child pornography and two counts of possessing child pornography, following an investigation by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the U.S. Secret Service, Florida Department of Children and Families, and the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.

Cowan faces up to 30 years in prison for each child pornography production count, up to 20 years for each receipt count, and up to 10 years in prison for each possession count. His sentencing hearing has not yet been scheduled.

According to evidence introduced during trial, the investigation of this case revealed that Cowan, who was a middle school guidance counselor in Jacksonville and had been employed in Duval and Nassau county public schools since 1993, had produced images of a 4-year-old child engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

Cowan was arrested on Aug. 18, 2009, after Jacksonville Sheriff's Office detectives obtained computer media containing child pornography from his residence in north Jacksonville, from his office at Ft. Caroline Middle School, and from a storage shed in Jacksonville. Cowan has been in custody since his Aug.18, 2009 state arrest.

Forensic analysis by ICE HSI and U.S. Secret Service agents revealed that Cowan's computers, smart phone, external hard drives, and other media contained hundreds of images and videos of child pornography, including those which he himself had produced.
Many of these images and videos were downloaded by Cowan from the Internet and stored on his computer media since July 2008, and many depicted very young children being raped and sexually abused.

"Working in conjunction with our state, local and federal law enforcement partners, we will continue aggressively pursuing predators who think that they can hide behind the anonymity of cyberspace," said Susan McCormick, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Tampa. "One of the most important responsibilities ICE has is identifying and investigating those who victimize children -- especially those who hold positions of public trust."

The investigation was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide ICE initiative to identify, investigate and arrest those who prey on children, including human traffickers, international sex tourists, Internet pornographers, and foreign-national predators whose crimes make them deportable. Launched in July 2003, ICE agents have arrested more than 12,000 individuals through Operation Predator.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by U.S. Attorneys' offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.