Former teacher pleads guilty to child porn charges

Hobbie

A former Cooperstown teacher has pleaded guilty to child pornography charges.

United States Attorney Grant C. Jaquith and Kevin Kelly, special agent in charge of the Buffalo Field Office of Homeland Security Investigations, announced Thursday, Aug. 22, that Justin Hobbie, 41, of Springfield Center, pleaded guilty to three counts of sexual exploitation of a child.

Hobbie was a gym and health teacher in Cooperstown until his arrest in December 2018. His resignation from his positions at the school was accepted in May, according to minutes of the school’s board of education.

In pleading guilty, Hobbie admitted that from 2015 to 2018, he “persuaded, induced, enticed and coerced” three girls under the age of 16 to masturbate and show him their genitalia by transmitting live depictions of the sexually explicit activity to him.

In response to Hobbie’s instructions to do so, the three children took lewd and lascivious pictures of their genitalia for him, and at his request sent those pictures to him using the Kik and Snapchat phone messaging applications. the release said.

Hobbie allegedly recorded the acts so that he could look at them again.

Senior United States District Judge Thomas J. McAvoy will sentence Hobbie on December 19. Hobbie faces at least 15 years in prison on each count, with a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison per count. The term of imprisonment for each count can run concurrent or consecutive to the term of imprisonment for other counts, at the discretion of the court. Hobbie will be required to serve a term of supervised release of at least five years and up to life, following his term of imprisonment. A defendant’s sentence is imposed by a judge based on the particular statute the defendant is charged with violating, the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, and other factors, the release said.

Hobbie will also be required to register as a sex offender.

In an interview with investigators last December, Hobbie maintained he did not know how the child pornography had turned up on his computer, according to a law enforcement affidavit. Of the files that he allegedly distributed, he contended they were downloaded onto his computer after he typed in the word “teen” in a search in a file-sharing program he installed several years ago.

Officials said in December that the probe was launched in June 2018 after a covert law enforcement computer detected child pornography being shared by a computer with an IP address later linked to Hobbie’s home.

Hobbie’s wife, who was not named in the complaint, also advised in an interview with investigators at the State Police barracks in Richfield Springs that her husband was the only person who used the Alienware computer that was seized from the couple’s home in December.

Investigators also noted that an interview with Hobbie’s wife determined she had found child pornography on one of his computers 13 years ago. She said he agreed to delete the objectionable files at that time.

Several students told The Daily Star in December they suspected Hobbie of spying on them changing in the locker rooms. They said he was known for being overly personal with students and he had a Snapchat account he may have shared with certain students.

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,” one junior girl said.

“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.”

Keith Barlow, a 2018 CCS graduate who played football, said Hobbie would also do things that made boys feel uncomfortable in the locker room, such as staring at them when they changed clothes. Hobbie would ignore them when they told him to leave them alone, Barlow said.

Other students discussed inappropriate touching, such as snapping girls’ bra straps or letting his hands linger on peoples’ backs.

However, as the community processed the news, many people pointed out good things about Hobbie, including his work as a volunteer EMT — he is credited with helping save several lives in that role — as a Planning Board member for the town of Springfield and the positive relationship some students had with him.

Hobbie previously worked for Pathfinder Village and Otsego Northern Catskills BOCES, and holds master’s and bachelor’s degrees in physical education from SUNY Cortland.

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