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Man gets 55 years, Hillsborough's longest sentence ever for child porn

TAMPA — Rita Peters, the chief sex crimes prosecutor in Hillsborough County, had never before asked a judge to watch the images she reviews in child pornography cases.

But on Wednesday, she felt the need.

Carl Cocking, 37, had just pleaded guilty to possessing thousands of images. He had admitted to chatting with an undercover detective he believed was the father of a mentally challenged 12-year-old girl in an attempt to get consent for sex.

He said he'd always fantasized about being with a child who was "slow," and made arrangements to meet her.

Cocking was arrested on June 10, 2008, when he showed up for the date.

The deal Cocking made with prosecutors for his guilty plea came with a maximum sentence of 55 years. But Hillsborough Circuit Judge Chet A. Tharpe could have given him as little as probation.

On Wednesday, the judge stuck with the maximum. Peters said it was the longest sentence anyone has ever received in Hillsborough County for the possession and transmission of child pornography.

The decision came after Tharpe sat through a sample of the images, watching them on a screen angled away from the audience. Throughout the presentation, he shook his head, covered his mouth and had to turn away at times.

Cocking's attorneys said he cooperated with law enforcement and has since undergone psychiatric treatment. In his defense, lawyer Norman Cannella said the file-sharing sites Cocking used automatically downloaded more images than he asked for.

Peters rebutted that, saying Cocking used search terms to find images. She said he traded them with thousands of child molesters across the world.

The judge had to pause to collect himself before speaking to the defendant.

"I was very close to telling the state, 'I don't want to see any more pictures. I've seen enough,' " Tharpe said. "You did this hundreds of times. You talked in a chat about going to parks and about how children stay close to their homes. … Mr. Cocking, you are a tremendous danger to the children in our community and every other community.

"Thank God the detectives caught you before you acted out."

Alexandra Zayas can be reached at azayas@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3354.

Man gets 55 years, Hillsborough's longest sentence ever for child porn 04/21/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 21, 2010 11:11pm]
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