Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., announced Tuesday afternoon that his office had filed charges against 26 individuals related to the possession of images or videos showing the sexual abuse of children.
"These images are not pornography or pictures of erotica intended for sexual excitement," Vance said at a press conference, "These are babies, these are toddlers, and children being brutally raped, sexually assaulted and exploited by adults on camera."
The New York Times reports that "the charges were a result of a five-month investigation conducted by the district attorney’s office and the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement office, part of the Department of Homeland Security. Most of the defendants were charged with promoting a sexual performance by a child and possessing a sexual performance by a child, both felonies."
According to The New York Daily News, the defendants, ages ranging from 18 to 63, included Steven Roman, who worked in a children's shoe store-- Miguel Caraballo, who was once a dishwasher at Manhattan's Alice's Tea Cup - a Lewis Carroll-themed teahouse catering to kids-- substitute teacher Joshua Ruiz-- and Moshe Gerstein, a corporate attorney.
"The 26 defendants in these cases traded videos and still images of child sexual assault the way other traded baseball cards," Vance stated,"using peer to peer technology. they acted as curators of their collections."
According to the Times, officials from the district attorney’s office said they would hand over the images collected as part of the investigation to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, an organization in Virginia that keeps a database of seized material as part of its Child Victim Identification Program.