Priest with Child Porn Going to Jail
Schuylkill County Clergyman Violated Probation by Amassing a New Collection and Making Trips to New York, Once Taking 7-Year-Old Girl
By Chris Parker
Morning Call [Pennsylvania]
November 22, 2006
A Schuylkill County Catholic priest on probation for possessing huge amounts of child pornography made at least three clandestine trips to New York City, once taking the 7-year-old daughter of a stripper on a 31/2-hour excursion and later taking pictures of her.
The Rev. Ronald Yarrosh, former assistant pastor at St. Ambrose Church in Schuylkill Haven, also was discovered to have amassed a new collection of illicit photographs.
Yarrosh's contact with the child, travel outside the county and newly discovered pornography violated conditions of his probation, and President Judge William Baldwin on Tuesday sentenced him to four to 10 years in state prison.
Baldwin also ordered the destruction of all of the pornography Yarrosh had stashed in a Luzerne County storage unit and a vacant Jim Thorpe home.
"You have some real serious problems. I think you need to go to state prison," Baldwin said. "You shouldn't be out in the community — that's just waiting for an incident to happen."
Yarrosh, who was a little more than a year into the 10-year probation term, was arrested in 2004 for embezzling more than $23,000 from St. Ambrose Church in Schuylkill Haven and keeping child pornography on a church computer. He served three months on the embezzlement charge and was sentenced to probation on the child sex abuse charges.
Yarrosh, 59, of 900 W. Market St., Orwigsburg, could have gotten up to 14 years in prison, but Baldwin said he shortened it because there was no evidence that he touched the child inappropriately.
Allentown Diocese spokesman Matt Kerr said the diocese has taken action to remove Yarrosh from the priesthood. "The matter has been referred to the Vatican, but he still is a priest," Kerr said. "We fully support the actions of the court."
Yarrosh, who took the stand in his own defense, calmly admitted to buying more pornography; traveling to New York City, including one trip on July 3 when he took the child for a jaunt that included lunch and a museum visit; and drinking alcohol and leaving the county without his probation officer's permission.
Yarrosh told Baldwin the visit with the child was harmless. He said he met the girl's mother in a New York City strip club in 1988 and had been "intimate" with her. He said the child's father died when she was a baby, and that he used to baby-sit the girl twice a week.
Yarrosh told Baldwin he took pictures of the child that were "perfectly modest and proper." The photographs were not shown in court. He said he admitted to the violations in order to "start new and fresh, with nothing hidden." The priest said he fears state prison. "The prospects ahead of me are very frightening," he said.
Baldwin had no sympathy.
"That trip to New York was the initial stages of predatory actions," he sternly told Yarrosh. He also observed that Yarrosh, whose car mileage was being monitored by probation authorities, drove to the Lehigh Valley and got a bus into New York City to avoid putting more miles on the car.
"That's a pretty elaborate scheme for something so innocent," he said.
Defense attorney Christopher W. Hobbs called Yarrosh's behavior "misguided" and said he complied with most of the terms of his probation.
First Assistant District Attorney Karen Byrnes-Noon called Yarrosh's actions "sneaky and devious…from his attitude today, it's clear he thinks the rules do not apply to him."
The probation violations surfaced as Yarrosh was poised to take the second of his required polygraph tests on Oct. 17, adult probation officer Jane Pritiskutch said.
"He continued to participate in deviant sexual behavior and lied about it," she said.
Polygraph administrator Michael G. White said Yarrosh told him he had been drinking alcohol and traveling to New York.
On Oct. 18, authorities searched Yarrosh's car and residence but found no pornography or alcohol. However, newly purchased pornography, including some from 2006 that Pritiskutch said may involve children, was found Oct. 19 at Yarrosh's unit at U-Rent-It in Hazle Township and at the Jim Thorpe house, which Yarrosh said belongs to a friend.
Yarrosh told Baldwin he thought the terms of his probation barred pornography only from his home. He said he moved some of the illicit images from his home to the storage unit so he "wouldn't be bothered by them."
Byrnes-Noon said he told authorities that he bought the pornography on his trips to New York City and in Reading.
"You bought new stuff? " Baldwin asked. "I guess you thought that was OK, too."
He said Yarrosh had established a "pattern of concealment" and that he used his high intelligence to "get around the rules."
Yarrosh was sentenced on Aug. 9, 2005, to three months in prison on the embezzlement charge. He got out on parole on Nov. 22, 2005, and was working for Progressive Business Publications in Wyomissing.
The prison term came on a theft charge for embezzling the money from St. Ambrose, where he also served on the advisory board of the parish elementary school.
He also was ordered to pay restitution of $6,617 to the church and $17,012 to Catholic Mutual Group, a self-insurance fund of the Catholic Church.
Yarrosh was charged with 110 counts of sexual abuse of children after state police at Schuylkill Haven investigating the embezzlement case found hundreds of photos, magazines, videotapes and DVDs in the church rectory, on the parish computer's hard drive and at the Hazle Township storage unit.
Before being assigned to St. Ambrose, Yarrosh served short stints at churches in Allentown, Bethlehem, Easton, Wilson, Reading and in other Schuylkill communities.
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