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Former western Pa. priest facing federal child pornography charge

Federal prosecutors have charged a priest who used to preside over a church in western Pennsyvlania with one count of possession of child pornography. Few details of what the government is accusing the defendant of are available but given the nature of the alleged child pornography crime and the defendant's position as a priest it is likely that the case will be prosecuted aggressively.

The indictment against the priest, 64, claims that investigators found some photographs on his computer's hard drive that appeared to depict "minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct." The indictment, which was returned on May 7 but not made available to the public until two weeks later, does not specify how many photographs are at issue or what the "sexually explicit conduct" is.

Prosecutors are searching for more evidence against the priest. The indictment contains a forfeiture petition seeking to allow authorities to seize other electronics belonging to the defendant such as his computers, cellphone and external hard drive.

The priest was the pastor at a church in Charleroi until 2009, when the diocese removed him from active duties. That occurred after a complaint of sexual abuse he allegedly committed in the 1980s arose. He was not charged based on that complaint.

Allegations related to child pornography tend to be highly emotional, but just as in any other criminal case, defendants are innocent until proven guilty. There are often issues related to law enforcement's possible use of entrapment that could be a factor in the case, or individual mitigating circumstances.

Source: York Daily Record, "Pa. priest removed in 2009 faces new porn charge," Joe Mandak, May 20, 2013

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