U.S. Attorney's Office
District of Alaska
(907) 271-5071
November 25, 2014

Palmer Man Sentenced to 50 Years’ Imprisonment for Sexually Exploiting Children

ANCHORAGE, AK—U.S. Attorney Karen L. Loeffler announced today that a Palmer, Alaska man was sentenced in Federal Court in Anchorage on six counts of child sexual exploitation crimes. Robert Cunningham, 49, was convicted of producing child pornography, using two children under his control. Cunningham’s victimization of the children occurred between September 5, 2002 and May 8, 2003, in Palmer.

Cunningham was sentenced today by U.S. District Court Judge Sharon L. Gleason, to the maximum sentences allowable on each of the charges: 600 months (50 years) in prison on two of the convictions, and 360 months (30 years) on four of the convictions. Those sentences were to run concurrently to each other, and Cunningham’s 88 year sentence in Alaska State Court. If Cunningham is ever released from prison, Judge Gleason ordered that he be on supervised release for the rest of his life.

According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Audrey J. Renschen, the two children were approximately eight and 12 years old when the child pornography was produced. Cunningham coerced the children by his physical presence—6’5” tall and over 300 pounds—when he pressed the children up against the ceiling and the wall to impress upon them that they were powerless against him. He also used nitrous oxide to make them compliant with his sexual abuse. A 56 gallon tank of nitrous oxide was found in Cunningham’s home, and exhibited in court during the sentencing, along with the mask that Cunningham placed over the children’s noses and mouths.

Cunningham, who was previously convicted in Federal Court of Possession of Child Pornography in 2001, was also recently convicted in State Court for sexually abusing the children. In imposing the 50 year sentence on Cunningham, Judge Gleason commented that the most important factor she considered in imposing the sentence was the need to protect the public: if Cunningham were ever to be released from prison, children would be at risk of sexual exploitation. Judge Gleason further noted that, “There is no feasible way to protect the public at whatever age [Cunningham] might be.” Judge Gleason noted that Cunningham’s use of nitrous oxide on the children bordered on torture, and required life-long incarceration.

U.S. Attorney Loeffler stated, “The lengthy sentence in this case reflects the horrendous victimization perpetrated on innocent victims by Cunningham. Working with our law enforcement partners to protect children is a top priority and a constant mission.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Renschen was careful throughout the sentencing to avoid using the children’s names, initials, or their relationship to Cunningham, so that the public would not try to seek out their identities, or use their victimization to cause them further pain or embarrassment. The media is thus encouraged in this press release to continue to protect the identity of the child victims who are now adults, and trying to move forward with their lives. Ms. Loeffler commends the FBI and Alaska State Troopers for the investigation of this case.

This prosecution is part of the Department of Justice’s ongoing Project Safe Childhood (PSC) initiative which was launched to increase federal prosecutions of sexual predators of children, and to reduce the number of Internet crimes against children including child pornography trafficking. As a part of PSC, the United States Attorney’s Office has teamed with state and local agencies and organizations to increase law enforcement presence on the Internet, and to educate the public about safe Internet use, thereby reducing the risk that children might fall prey to online sexual predators. For additional information on the PSC initiative, please go to www.projectsafechildhood.gov or call the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Alaska.

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