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Man Charged With Threatening Teen To Create Pornography

By Bob Vosseller,

(Photo courtesy of Jason Rojas/Flickr)

TRENTON – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced that a Keansburg man was indicted on charges that he used social media to manipulate and threaten a 14-year-old girl outside of New Jersey.

The charges allege that his actions involved forcing the teen to send images of herself performing sexual acts. The Division of Criminal Justice Financial and Cyber Crimes Bureau obtained a state grand jury indictment charging Jason Berry, 41, with first degree aggravated assault, manufacturing child sexual abuse material also in the first degree and first degree aggravated sexual assault.

Berry was also charged with second degree extortion, second degree distribution of child sexual abuse material and distribution of child sexual abuse material in the second degree. He is also facing charges of possession of child sexual abuse material, which is a third-degree offense.

Other charges include a third-degree offense of promoting obscene material to a person under the age of 18 years old, third degree of impairing/debauching the morals of a child.

First-degree charges carry a sentence of 10 to 20 years in state prison and a fine of up to $200,000. Second-degree crimes carry a sentence of five to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000, while third-degree crimes carry a sentence of three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000. Fourth-degree crimes carry a sentence of up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Each of the charges stem from an investigation by the New Jersey State Police Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Unit, the Division of Criminal Justice, and partnering law enforcement agencies in the home state of the victim. That state is not being identified in order to protect the victim.

Berry allegedly initially befriended the victim on social media, and threatened to harm her and her family if she did not comply with his demands.

He allegedly demanded that the girl photograph herself engaging in acts of sexual penetration and also allegedly sent her sexually explicit photos and videos of himself. He allegedly coerced the girl into carving his initials into her leg and above her breast with a razor blade. He allegedly later sent nude photos of the victim to the victim’s mother.

Berry was arrested on June 18, 2020, as part of “Operation Screen Capture,” a collaborative operation launched in response to a dramatic increase in reports of potential threats to children from online predators during the COVID pandemic. The operation resulted in 21 defendants being charged with predatory behavior against children or possession and/or distribution of child sexual abuse materials. Berry is being detained in the Monmouth County Jail pending trial.

“This case starkly illustrates the dangers of social media and the need for parents to warn their children about these dangers,” Attorney General Grewal said.

Grewal added, “the victim in this case thought Berry was another teenager seeking a friend. However, we allege that his friendly advances quickly turned into intimidation and extortion. I commend the New Jersey State Police, the Division of Criminal Justice, and our out-of-state partners for this investigation. We will continue to make child protection a top priority and aggressively investigate online predators.”

“Every parent should be aware of the horrific details of these allegations, because it demonstrates how powerful online predators can be, although they may be hundreds of miles away, by using threats and manipulation to assault their victims both mentally and physically,” Colonel Patrick J. Callahan, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police said.

“While we will continue initiatives like ‘Operation Screen Capture’ to root out these depraved criminals, we need parents to join us in the fight by closely monitoring the online activity of their children and educating them about the dangers of online predators,” Colonel Callahan added.

Grewal encouraged anyone with information about the distribution of child sexual abuse material on the internet – or about suspected improper contact by unknown persons communicating with children via the internet or possible exploitation or sexual abuse of children – to please contact the New Jersey Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Tipline at 888-648-6007.

Charges are merely accusations until proven in a court of law.

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