Johnsonburg man pleads guilty to felony child sex abuse charges

A Johnsonburg man pleaded guilty to 13 counts of sexual abuse of children, a third-degree felony, in Elk County Court on Friday. The charges against Robert Gene Fitzgerald, 55, of Johnsonburg, stemmed from his dissemination of child pornography via peer-to-peer file-sharing websites. In his affidavit, investigating officer David Cuneo of the Johnsonburg Police said Fitzgerald had been the subject of a 2011 Pa. State Police undercover investigation. In the course of the investigation, Trooper David Powell identified Fitzgerald as using the website Gnutella, a large peer-to-peer network, to acquire and exchange child pornography images and video.A search warrant of Fitzgerald's home yielded numerous photographic images and video files of child rape, sodomy and exposure with various stages of undress. Photos and videos were labeled with the sexual act and age of both young boys and girls engaging with adults, the range in ages including a baby boy and a four-year-old girl. In the affidavit, Cuneo said he also discovered Fitzgerald had used an "evidence eliminator program" soon after Cuneo initially made contact with him.Pick up a copy of the Saturday, June 2, 2012 edition of The Ridgway Record for more.