A Florida man has been charged with 1,200 counts of sexual assault and incest involving a minor.
Prosecutors charged Robert Cota, 31, of Pensacola, with 600 counts of sexual assault on a victim between the ages of 12 and 18, and more than 600 counts of incest that allegedly occurred over the last six years.
According to WEAR-TV, Mr Cota was arrested after a local pastor tipped deputies off to his unusual behavior. The pastor claims that Mr Cota approached him on Sunday and complained about “one of the beliefs” in the church’s book of guidelines. Mr Cota allegedly pointed to the word “incest”.
The pastor told the news station he continued speaking with Mr Cota, eventually recommending he turn himself into the police. According to the pastor, he told Mr Cota “what he was doing is not right and that he needs to report himself to the authorities”.
After the conversation, the pastor gave Mr Cota’s information to the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office. The church photographs all prospective members and collects their contact information. The pastor provided those details to the police.
According to police records, investigators spoke with the victim, who told them she had been having sexual encounters with Mr Cota since she was seven-years-old, and that the encounters had been happening for about three years. The girl told police that Mr Cota had justified the acts by saying it was how people showed affection.
The girl’s age has been redacted from the arrest reports.
Mr Cota’s allegedly abusive relationship with the victim has landed him in trouble before. In September 2020, Mr Cota was arrested for aggravated assault and domestic violence after he pointed a gun at the victim. The threat was a response to the victim’s mother, who had confronted Mr Cota about the sex abuse. After the incident, police began investigating Mr Cota’s alleged incestuous relationship with the victim.
Police said that both Mr Cota and the victim spoke about the sexual relationship to the mother, but later recanted their statements. Mr Cota did tell deputies, however, that he was “not surprised” that he had been accused of incest.
Mr Cota was booked into the Escambia County Jail on Sunday night, and his bond has been set at $3m.