An assistant professor at the University of Wyoming pleaded not guilty to possession of child pornography in U.S. District Court Monday, June 5.

Jian Cai, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at UW, is accused of possessing digital images depicting prepubescent minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

If convicted of the charge, he faces up to 20 years in prison and $250,000 in fines.

According to the complaint, the investigation into Cai began on Feb. 14 in connection to a peer-to-peer, or P2P file sharing network. Agents with the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigations were able to determine that an Internet Protocol, or IP address of a computer belonging to Cai had downloaded pornographic images depicting children.

Agents executed a search warrant of Cai’s home, which turned up the laptop in question. Cai told officers there where several hundred files of child pornography on an external hard drive in his possession, federal documents state.

Cai also told officers that he was an assistant professor at UW and he had used his laptops to connect to the internet via the UW network, federal documents state.

Cai is currently out on bond. His trial is set for July 17 in U.S. District Court before U.S. District Judge Nancy Freudenthal.

UW Communications Director Chad Baldwin said Cai has been placed on administrative leave without pay.

Tom Morton assisted in reporting this story.