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Child Exploitation

Jury convicts Bay Area man tied to international child pornography probe

SAN JOSE, Calif. – A Bay Area man identified as part of a global child pornography probe spearheaded by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) was convicted Wednesday following a weeklong trial in state court.

James Joseph Carothers, 54, of Campbell, faces up to three years in state prison after a jury found him guilty of possession of child pornography. Carothers’ sentencing is set for Nov. 8. The case was prosecuted by the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office.

Carothers originally fell under suspicion after HSI special agents uncovered numerous email communications between him and Shawn McCormack, a convicted child pornographer identified during an international child pornography investigation known as Operation Holitna. On McCormack’s computers, investigators found evidence the two had traded illegal images of children and that Carothers had given McCormack tips on how to molest children. The men also discussed Carothers’ sexual fetish involving his collection of used baby diapers from garbage dumpsters. They also made plans to meet in Las Vegas to share stories, photos, videos, and, in the emailed words of Carothers, to "carry out [their] ultimate actions."

"The fight against child pornography is not about images on a computer screen, but the real-life sexual abuse of helpless children," said Michel Amaral, Santa Clara County deputy district attorney. "This case is a credit to the cooperation between federal and local law enforcement and our office, all of us banded together to try to stop this horrific and destructive trade."

On Dec. 15, 2011, HSI special agents executed a search warrant at Carothers’ home and seized two computers, which were subsequently found to contain more than 250 images of child erotica and pornography. Investigators also noted that while Carothers lived with another single man, there were numerous children’s toys and girls’ hair clips found in his bedroom.

"Every time an image of child pornography is downloaded and viewed, that child is victimized again," said Joseph Vincent, assistant special agent in charge for HSI San Jose. "The people who produce and trade child pornography over the Internet mistakenly believe they’re protected by the anonymity of cyberspace. Together with the public’s help we can prove they’re wrong and gain justice for these innocent victims."

Operation Holitna is an ongoing HSI-led investigation that originated in Boston in 2010. Forensic analysis of a suspect’s computer led investigators to the Netherlands where a Dutch national was arrested and charged with production, distribution and possession of child pornography, as well as the sexual abuse of 87 minors. Since the launch of the operation, more than 160 children have been rescued and 50 perpetrators arrested worldwide. The operation was named after the Holitna River in Alaska which splits into many tributaries, because each time the investigation results in an arrest, several new victims and leads are uncovered.

HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-347-2423 or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-843-5678.

HSI is a founding member and current chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.