Dad Allegedly Abused 5-Year-Old Daughter, Filmed the Abuse for Pornography

Dakota County Attorney: Mom knew of abuse and failed to stop it.


Editor's note: The following story, taken from a Dakota County Attorney's Office news release, contains information of a disturbing nature. 

Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom announced today that parents Mark Matthew Cortes and Amanda Lee Hughes, both 24 years old, have been charged with multiple crimes associated with the abuse, endangerment and neglect of their daughter.

Specifically, the following charges have been filed:

Matthew Mark Cortes

  • Count I: Criminal Sexual Conduct in the First Degree (a felony)
  • Count II: Use of a Minor in a Sexual Performance or Pornographic Work (a felony)
  • Count III: Possession of a Pornographic Work Involving Minors (a felony)

Amanda Lee Hughes

  • Count I: Possession of a Pornographic Work Involving Minors (a felony)
  • Count II: Endangerment of a Child (a felony)
  • Count III: Endangerment of a Child (a gross misdemeanor)
  • Count IV: Neglect of a Child (a felony)
  • Count V: Neglect of a Child (a gross misdemeanor)

According to the charges, Mark Cortes sexually abused his daughter and filmed the abuse, then distributing the images to others. Additionally, both Cortes and Hughes are alleged to have been in possession of this pornography, and other materials involving children.  

It is also alleged that Hughes was aware of the abuse occurring to her daughter and failed to protect her.

In addition to the state charges filed today, a federal investigation is continuing into this matter as it relates to the production and distribution of child pornography.

Cortes and Hughes made their first appearance in court today. Bail was set for Cortes in the amount of $250,000 with conditions and bail was set for Hughes in the amount of $15,000 with conditions by Dakota County District Court Judge Edward Lynch.  

Their next court appearance is set for 9 a.m. Nov. 20, in Hastings.

The crimes are alleged to have occurred from Nov. 1, 2011 through Oct. 24, 2012. Cortes and Hughes, the parents of a 5-year-old girl, lived in Cottage Grove in Washington County in November of 2011 and moved to Hastings in Dakota County in January of 2012.  

Under Minnesota law, all charges involving the abuse of a minor, including any which may have occurred in another county, may be charged by the county attorney where the child victim currently resides.


FBI, Dakota County, Hastings Police cooperated in inquiry

Backstrom commented: “The sexual abuse of any child and the production of pornographic work involving children is always extremely disturbing. The sexual abuse of a child in this manner can cause long lasting physical and emotional trauma.”

Backstrom said the investigation began with an FBI probe concerning the distribution of child pornography over the Internet. The investigation uncovered evidence that someone at the residence where Cortes and Hughes resided was using email to send images containing child pornography to an email account in another country.  

Hastings police were contacted and they joined the FBI in executing a search warrant at this residence and arresting these individuals. Backstrom noted that child protection proceedings have been commenced to protect the welfare of the child involved in this matter and she is currently in the custody of Dakota County Child Protection.  

Backstrom thanked the FBI, the Hastings Police Department and Dakota County Child Protection for their work in this case.

Joshua October 30, 2012 at 04:05 PM
Five years old? It saddens my heart deeply to think about what the poor girl must be going through now. I can only hope that someone she trusts is still in her life, such as a grandparent or anyone else in her family.
Long November 03, 2012 at 11:58 AM
I am still in shock that Mark would do such things to his own little girl. I am working with him, he seems to be a real nice person... We are all in shock hearing about the his crimes. I guess everyone has his/her own evil side...
tc mcclure November 19, 2012 at 10:27 PM
Jail??Bail??Like Hell!! Biol Them both
Jon Haugland January 12, 2013 at 07:41 AM
I know both Mark and his fianceé/best friend Amanda Hughes, who moved to Minnesota from TX in Spring 2002. His path of becoming a soldier in the MN Army Nat'l Guard (we both were stationed at Holman Field in St. Paul) was to better himself as a son, a brother and eventually a father/husband. In the unit he was an outstanding soldier doing network admin work for unit operations and forward/future operation base(s), working with diligence and precision. Outside the unit he worked the railroad as a dispatch operator full time and Amanda (known since junior high school) was a student. As soon as he became a father 5+ years ago his perspective as a soldier and a family man refined to be the best father he could ever be, giving his wife-to-be and especially his pride and joy Emily the world and even his own life if necessary, especially with nearing deployment to Kuwait. Knowing and understanding his demeanor and overall dedication to his country and his family gives me every reason to give him a chance to plead his case and ultimately prove his and Amanda's innocence. Seeing the timeline of the investigation and his living situation (mother+boyfriend's residence in Hastings), also seeing that there is no definitive knowledge of the person creating and uploading the files, it is currently inconclusive if the true perpetrator has been pinned. There needs to be more suspects for the case as this is not "open and shut". Personally I think the boyfriend of his mother is possible...
jer January 12, 2013 at 02:57 PM
Does anyone know the status of this case? Where is the child ? Where are the parents? When is the trial ?


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