Jeral Steven Cooley, 30, of Anza, was sentenced to four years in state prison for possession of child pornography (Penal code 311.11(B)). Riverside County prosecutor Cynthia Brewer attempted to invalidate the original plea agreement with Cooley and sought a much stiffer sentence. Although Judge Kelly L. Hansen rejected Brewer’s motion, he issued the higher limit of four years in prison.
“By his [Cooley’s] own admission, it was a matter of time before he touched a child,” she said. This is Cooley’s second conviction for the same charge in the past four years. On Aug. 24, he pleaded guilty and sentencing was set for Wednesday, Sept. 7.
Prior to the sentencing hearing, prosecutor Brewer filed a motion with the court regarding its power to reject a plea agreement. Because the District Attorney’s Indio office initially filed the case, Brewer had thought there were about 90 pornographic images on his computer. But before the sentencing date, an investigator delivered a copy of Cooley’s hard drive to her. Brewer soon discovered more than a thousand images and many, in her words, were very disturbing.
“I felt morally and ethically bound to challenge the agreement,” she explained. “I’ve been doing this for 23 years and this is the worst I’ve ever seen.”
Although Cooley had two prior convictions for possession of child pornography, he had no prior prison time. Brewer said the courts often choose the lower limit when it is the first time for prison. For Cooley, this would have been two years.
Besides the jail time, the judge ordered Cooley’s computer be seized and the images be destroyed and also that he be prohibited from possessing a computer in the future.
Cooley was arrested on Aug. 15. Investigators and officers with Riverside County’s multi-agency Sexual Assault Felony Enforcement (SAFE) Task Force found child pornography in Cooley’s possession. Cooley was arrested on felony charges of possession of child pornography and for violating the terms and conditions of his parole.
He had been jailed at the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department Southwest Detention Center in Murrieta without bail.
In 2007, Cooley was arrested on a similar charge, to which he pleaded guilty.
The SAFE Task Force is a collaboration of multi-disciplined law enforcement agencies focused on reducing incidents of sexual assault countywide by means of comprehensive registered sex offender monitoring and enforcement.