Former Kentucky priest who viewed child porn going to prison
Mar. 29, 2016
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A former Catholic priest accused of snapping hundreds of inappropriate pictures of students at his parish school is heading to federal prison for nearly three years.
Stephen Pohl wasn't charged with any crime for taking the photos, since the children in his pictures were clothed. But he was found guilty of a charge of looking at child pornography on his computer. The 57-year-old former pastor of St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church was sentenced Tuesday in federal court in Louisville to 33 months.
A parent of a student who was photographed by Pohl said her now 9-year-old son knew something was wrong with the priest taking photographs of him. The boy, who has since left the school, has been in counseling for over a year.
"We're completely devastated, heartbroken," said Christeena Gallahue, who sued the Archdiocese of Louisville on Tuesday.
During the Pohl's sentencing, he appeared in leg shackles and read from a brief written statement that he was sorry for all the "sadness, pain and anger" he caused to friends, family and the church's members.
Police seized Pohl's computer during an investigation that started after a 10-year-old student told his parents he felt "weird" about some photos that Pohl had taken. Pohl had told the child "to place his hands on his knees and move his legs apart" for the photos, according to a police affidavit.
The parents of the boy later saw Pohl out shopping in Louisville, confronted him and asked to see the pictures on his cellphone. Pohl handed it over, and the parents found several photos of other young boys, the affidavit said.
Police searched his living quarters at the church on Aug. 12 and found about 200 photos of children from the school, though none was considered pornographic, according to a letter to parents from the archdiocese. One of the photos of the 10-year-old student was focused on his genital area, though he was clothed, the police affidavit said. The archdiocese put Pohl on administrative leave after his apartment was searched.
The archdiocese said in a statement that "we respect Fr. Pohl's decision to accept responsibility for his actions."
The U.S. Attorney's office in Louisville said it is in the process of identifying the students in Pohl's photos, and their parents will be contacted and given the option to view them.
Christeena and Richard Gallahue are alleging in their lawsuit in state court that the Archdiocese of Louisville should've known that Pohl was a danger to children, adding that the church could've taken simple steps to monitor internet activity by its employees. The couple's attorney, William McMurry, won a $25.7 million settlement with the archdiocese in 2003 on behalf of 243 abuse victims.
"You can imagine, if there were hundreds of pictures of kids clothed, while not evidence of criminal activity, but there are hundreds of pictures — there had to have been some degree of awareness," McMurry said Tuesday. "It's reckless to not be able to identify someone so obviously demented as Stephen Pohl."
McMurray said he is concerned that Pohl's photos will be returned to the archdiocese and destroyed. As part of the lawsuit, he is asking a judge to preserve them.
The Gallahues are seeking unspecific damages for emotional distress.
Cecelia Price, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese, declined to comment on the lawsuit because it is pending litigation.