A former Orange County Public Schools teacher will spend 20 years behind bars after being found guilty of possession of child pornography.
Robert Jeffrey Kobman, 33, a former Locust Grove Middle School technology education teacher, was found guilty in February of 54 felony counts of possession of child pornography, charges issued as the result of a May 2013 police investigation initiated on the part of his wife.
During a two-day trial in December, Kobman’s attorney August McCarthy argued that the files the charges were based on were “bits of data” and not images with victims. That statement was reiterated during sentencing Friday afternoon.
Fifteen witnesses, including friends, family and members of Kobman’s church were present in court to show their support for the defendant with several testifying to his intelligence, trustworthiness, honesty, and religiousness. They said the world would be better with Kobman in it, rather than with him locked away. A stack of letters stating support was also submitted as evidence to the court.
McCarthy argued that Kobman should be given a short sentence to allow him to get back into the community of friends and family who love and support him. McCarthy said the 54 counts represent evidence on a hard drive with no evidence showing what conduct the images amount to. He said, as a witness testified during trial, that there was no way to know if Kobman viewed the images or downloaded them intentionally. He said the 54 counts do not mean there were 54 acts.
“The images are abhorrent,” McCarthy said, “but it’s important that they are data on a hard drive.”
He added that there was no way to connect the images with Kobman’s conduct.
Orange County Commonwealth’s Attorney Diana Wheeler disagreed, saying the charges do not represent a victimless crime. She acknowledged the support Kobman has, but said it wasn’t surprising that those closest to him “wouldn’t know [his] deep, dark secrets.” She said Kobman did a disservice to the community by using a school computer for some of the crimes represented by the charges and recalled that he was a teacher, someone in a supervisory role who was in a position to influence the young minds of the children he interacted with. She also recalled Kobman’s previous six-month jail sentence which he received for “as he described it, hugging a student.”
Wheeler said while Kobman’s supporters were all fine people, they don’t represent the Orange County community which she said she believes would want Kobman “incarcerated for a long time.” Wheeler asked that Kobman be given a lengthy sentence of five years with all but six months suspended for each charge, amounting to 27 years in prison.
Orange County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Bouton agreed, though he sentenced Kobman to a lesser term of confinement. Bouton said Kobman has an excellent set of qualities and good work ethic, but the nature of the offenses couldn’t be ignored.
“The ones not in the courtroom are the children depicted in these images,” Bouton said. He said there were not able to balance out Kobman’s supporters and speak about the impact the images in the case have on their lives.
“When [these images are] possessed or accessed, you are contributing directly to what’s done to these children,” Bouton said.
He sentenced Kobman to five years in prison with three years suspended on each of the first 10 charges and five years with all five suspended on each of the remaining 44 for a total of 20 years in prison. Upon release, Kobman will be on supervised probation for 5 years during which time he must pay court costs, be evaluated for sexual deviancy and follow all counseling guidelines. He will also waive his fourth amendment rights during that time and be subject to warrantless searches. He also must register as a sex offender and submit his DNA. Following supervised probation, he must keep the peace and be of good behavior for 20 years.
Kobman has been incarcerated since his May 2013 arrest. According to McCarthy, Kobman’s teaching license was also revoked.
McCarthy acknowledged that the defense anticipates filing an appeal. Also, an indigence hearing has been set for June 16 at 9:30 a.m.