I-TEAM: Ex-DOJ staffer kept child porn & brought loaded gun to work

Former IT worker at federal courthouse in Jacksonville faces 20 years in prison

By Vic Micolucci - I-TEAM reporter, anchor

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A former federal employee who worked for the Department of Justice in Jacksonville is set to be sentenced for possession of child pornography.

Robert Darenberg, 34, was employed up until recently as an information technology specialist for the U.S. Attorney’s Office at the federal courthouse in downtown Jacksonville.

Darenberg, a 15-year employee of the agency, was indicted after federal agents found approximately 1630 images of child pornography, 270 of those were videos.

Homeland Security Investigations agents noted they found the content on Robert Darenberg’s personal laptop computer. 

The News4Jax I-TEAM obtained the documents Tuesday. The complaint, indictment and plea deal were publicly visible in federal court records but never announced until the I-TEAM found them.

The investigation started in November 2018 when investigators said Darenberg’s girlfriend “discovered file names…that were indicative of child pornography.” She took screenshots to document what she found but later noticed “Darenberg had deleted the screenshots from her phone.”

Documents show one of the files included sex acts by an adult male on an 8-year-old girl. 

The girlfriend, identified as T.P., notified the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, which passed the case to federal agents. After conducting surveillance, HSI arrested Darenberg outside the federal courthouse as he was leaving work. They found he had a concealed, loaded pistol on him. Surveillance video from the courthouse showed he had it inside the courthouse without checking it in, which is a crime.

Investigators used a search warrant to canvas his pickup truck and “recovered a loaded Sig Sauer 9 millimeter pistol; a plastic cup filled with marijuana, the HP laptop, and Apple iPad mini, six thumb drives, and multiple SD cards.”

Even though Darenberg worked for the Middle District US Attorney’s Office Jacksonville district, local prosecutors recused themselves from the case, asking the assistant U.S. Attorneys at the Northern District in Tallahassee to take over the case.

The case is still being handled in federal court in Jacksonville by a judge in Florida's Middle District.

In March, Darenberg pleaded guilty to knowing possession of child pornography. That carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and $250,000 fine. He will be required to register as a sex offender, but will avoid further charges as part of the plea agreement. The firearm charge was dropped.

Darenberg is scheduled to be sentenced on August 26.

“I never heard anything about it,” said Curtis Fallgatter, a former federal prosecutor who now works as a defense attorney. “So this was handled fairly quietly.”

Fallgatter, who is not involved, reviewed the case at the request of News4Jax. He noted the evidence appears to be stacked against Darenberg, which could explain why he pleaded guilty instead of going to trial.

“It’s very difficult to defend those,” Fallgatter said. “If it’s on there, and you possess it, that’s the crime. They’re very difficult to defend which means they almost always result in a plea agreement.”

Attempts on Wednesday to reach Matthew Kachergus, who represents Darenberg, were unsuccessful.

In response to a request from the I-TEAM, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney's Office acknowledged Darenberg was employed from October 2003 through May 2019, but said the agency had no comment.

Often the U.S. Attorney’s Office sends out a news release to media when someone is indicted for a crime like possession of child pornography. That did not appear to happen in this case. It’s unclear why.

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