The Associated Press reported on September 13 that a 66-year-old Roman Catholic priest is facing child pornography charges after a friend found a file labeled with a reference to nude boys while working on the priest’s computer. According to the Morning Call, Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin said at a news conference announcing charges that the alleged offender “searched for and downloaded the images of child pornography and did so for his own sexual gratification.”
A woman who answered the phone at the church where the alleged offender was a pastor told Lehigh Valley Live that the alleged offender was in the hospital and had health problems. The diocese told the AP that it had removed the priest from ministry, and Martin said the man now lives at a home for retired priests.
Lehigh Valley Live reported that the pastor asked a parishioner to help him update his two laptop computers, and authorities said that images the parishioner found in the priest’s files and online search history made him feel “uncomfortable.” According to the AP, the parishioner then contacted the Diocese of Allentown, which notified the District Attorney’s office before authorities seized the priest’s computers and found he had downloaded child pornography.
An arrest warrant charged the alleged offender with child pornography, criminal use of a phone and selling obscene/sexual materials, according to Lehigh Valley Live.
Child Pornography Crimes in West Chester, PA
Child pornography is a criminal offense that draws immediate public scorn even before alleged offenders have set foot in a courtroom. People who are accused of these kinds of crimes may simply be guilty of nothing more than accidentally or unknowingly downloading illegal material.
One day before the AP reported the news of the criminal charges against the Pennsylvania priest, CBS Philly reported that police officers “jolted a couple out of bed” in their Camden County home in New Jersey while seeking the person responsible for downloading and sharing tens of thousands of images of child pornography. As it turned out, investigators said that a 55-year-old neighbor “used a wireless router to connect to his neighbors’ unsecured Wi-Fi to download and distribute the more than 700 pornographic videos and 33,000 images found on his laptop.”
Pennsylvania Statute Title 18 § 6312(d) defines child pornography offenses as an alleged offender intentionally viewing or knowingly possessing or controlling any book, magazine, pamphlet, slide, photograph, film, videotape, computer depiction or other material depicting a child under the age of 18 years engaging in a prohibited sexual act or in the simulation of such act. Child pornography crimes are generally classified as second-degree felony offenses punishable by up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $25,000.
The possible penalties for a child pornography conviction can be more severe for certain cases involving alleged offenders with prior criminal records. People convicted of these crimes are required to register as sex offenders for at least 15 years, and mistake of age is prohibited from being used as an affirmative defense in these cases.
If you believe that you could be under investigation or you were arrested for an alleged child pornography offense in the greater Chester County area, it will be in your best interest to contact a West Chester criminal defense attorney before you say anything to authorities. An experienced lawyer can investigate to determine if the alleged pornography was the result of another party’s wrongdoing or if police possibly seized material illegally with an invalid warrant.