A former Cooperstown teacher will spend almost 17 years in prison in connection with child pornography charges, according to federal officials.
Justin Hobbie, 42, of Springfield Center, was sentenced Wednesday to 200 months in prison for persuading three girls between the ages of 14 and 17 to engage in sexual activity and transmit live depictions of that activity to him, according to a media release.
Hobbie was arrested on Dec. 6, 2018 at his home.
The announcement was made by United States Attorney Grant C. Jaquith and Kevin Kelly, special agent in charge of the Buffalo Field Office of Homeland Security Investigations.
Hobbie was a gym and health teacher in Cooperstown. In pleading guilty, he admitted that from 2015 to 2018, he persuaded three girls to engage in sexually explicit conduct and live-stream that conduct to him over the internet. Hobbie recorded the acts and images so that he could look at them again, the release said.
“While working as a teacher, Justin Hobbie preyed on teenage girls he met online by pretending to be a teenage boy and pressuring victims to make and send him sexually explicit video,” Jaquith said. “Hobbie has now been held accountable for egregiously exploiting those children over a three year period.”
Kelly said, “Child exploitation is an egregious crime especially when children are victimized by a teacher, or anyone in a position of trust. Today's sentencing hopefully begins the healing process and marks a final chapter in a painful period for those affected.”
Hobbie also admitted to amassing a large collection of child pornography using peer-to-peer file sharing software. The collection included videos depicting the rape of toddlers, officials said.
Senior United States District Judge Thomas J. McAvoy also imposed a 15-year term of supervised release, to begin after Hobbie is released from prison, and restitution in the amount of $9,999.99. Hobbie will also be required to register as a sex offender upon his release from prison.
After Hobbie's arrest, nearly 100 parents attended a meeting in the school auditorium discuss the situation with school and law enforcement officials.
Several students who spoke to The Daily Star after the arrest said Hobbie had at times shown inappropriate behavior, including making overly personal comments or using excuses to touch them, such as saying he was fixing a tag on the back of their shirt or snapping a bra strap.
Students who wished to remain anonymous also said Hobbie was known to watch girls changing in the locker room through the reflection on a trophy case.
“A lot of girls are extremely uncomfortable with finding that out, the fact that people knew about it and acting like it was a thing that was just known, and feel very unsafe now,” said one junior girl.
“Also a few students, he was way too touchy with," she said. "One student in particular would run up to him and jump into his arms, and wrap her legs around him, and it’s just completely inappropriate for a teacher-student relationship. A lot of students witnessed it, and it made everyone uncomfortable, and as a teacher he should not have let that happen.”