SAN JOSE -- Dozens of people in the Bay Area are convicted every year on charges of possessing child pornography, but the trial of a Campbell man this week exposed a whole new level of depravity.
James Joseph Carothers' sexual fetish? Collecting children's dirty diapers from dumpsters, as well as perusing 259 pornographic images on his computer of babies and toddlers.
"When I got this case, I was just shocked,'' said Santa Clara County prosecutor Michel Amaral. "We think people like that are just in movies, but they are out there for sure.''
After a six day trial, it only took a jury one day to find Carothers, 54, guilty Wednesday of one felony count of possession of child pornography. He now faces a maximum of three years in jail and must register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. Amaral said Carothers' only visible means of support is some form of Social Security. However, Carothers was able to hire a private attorney.
Federal investigators from the Department of Homeland Security learned about Carothers after uncovering emails between him and convicted child pornographer Shawn McCormack. Carothers apparently provided tips on how to molest children and in chat rooms discussed his diaper fetish.
He and McCormack exchanged illegal images and also made plans to meet in Las Vegas to share photos, stories and videos, and, in Carothers' words, to "carry out [their] ultimate actions.''
The federal investigation was dubbed Operation Holitna after the Alaskan river because like the body of water, the case branched out in so many directions, including the Santa Clara County District Attorney's criminal case against Carothers.
The government investigation began in Boston and ranged to the Netherlands where a man was charged with molesting 87 minors. Since the operation was launched in 2010, 160 children have been rescued and 50 perpetrators have been caught.
Amaral said he is hopeful that Judge Michele McKay McCoy will consider imposing the maximum sentence on Carothers because of his sexual interest in children, including their diapers.
"He's obviously a dangerous person,'' Amaral said. "It's good to get this guy off the street.''
Contact Tracey Kaplan at 408-278-3482. Twitter.com/tkaplanreport.