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UW Professor To Plead Guilty To Child Pornography Charge

University of Wyoming
University of Wyoming

A University of Wyoming assistant professor of mechanical engineering will plead guilty to one count of possession of child pornography, according to federal court records.

Jian Cai, through his Laramie attorney Thomas Fleener, has asked U.S. District Court to set a date for a change of plea hearing, according to the notice of intent filed Friday.

The document filed Friday did not indicate what the terms of a plea might be. A judge is not obligated to accept a plea proposed by defense and prosecuting attorneys.

Chief U.S. District Judge Nancy Freudenthal was assigned to the case.

If convicted at trial, Cai could have faced up to 20 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines.

He pleaded not guilty in June, and the trial was scheduled to begin Oct. 2.

However, the trial was delayed when the defense filed a motion and hired additional counsel fluent in Chinese.

The case began on Feb. 14 when a Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation agent began investigating Cai and his possible receiving child pornography sharing on a peer-to-peer, or P2P, file-sharing network, according to the criminal complaint filed April 4.

The agent identified the Internet Protocol, or IP address, of a particular computer as a potential download source for several files. The agent was able to connect and download a file of child pornography from a computer using that IP address.

Authorities conducted a domain name system check on the IP address, found it was registered to Charter Communications, and obtained a search warrant for the Internet Service Provider subscriber

The search determined the computer with the IP addressed belonged to Cai.

On March 18, the agent connected to Cai’s computer and downloaded a file containing 36 images of child pornography picturing two female children.

The agent submitted images from two separate downloads to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children for analysis to determine if the images were of known child victims. Thirty-five of the 37 images were determined to picture a child previously identified by law enforcement.

Authorities executed a search warrant of Cai’s home, which turned up the laptop in question. Cai told officers there where several hundred files of child pornography on an external hard drive in his possession, according to court records.

Cai also told officers he had used his laptops to connect to the internet via the UW network, according to court records.

Court records say the analysis of the hard drives seized from Cai’s residence revealed about a thousand images and video files.

UW spokesman Chad Baldwin said last month that Cai is still on administrative leave without pay. Cai also is no longer listed on the staff webpage of the UW mechanical and energy systems engineering department.

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