Prosecutors Will Introduce Evidence of Uncharged Crimes at Ratigan's Trial
By Mark Morris
Kansas City Star
July 9, 2012
Federal prosecutors announced Monday that they plan to introduce evidence of uncharged crimes and other "bad acts" at the trial of the Rev. Shawn Ratigan in August.
Ratigan, 46, is charged with production and possession of child pornography while he was pastor of Catholic parishes in St. Joseph and the Northland.
Authorities arrested Ratigan in May 2011, five months after officials and staff at the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph found hundreds of lewd images of young girls on a laptop computer that the priest had sent for servicing.
In the ensuing furor of how church officials handled the discovery, authorities charged Bishop Robert Finn and the diocese in Jackson County each with a misdemeanor count of failure to report suspicions of child abuse. A trial on those counts is scheduled for September.
Federal prosecutors said in their filing Monday that they need to present evidence of uncharged conduct to prove whether Ratigan intended to produce child pornography, knew what he was doing and had motive, such as a desire "to indulge in and satisfy a sexual interest in female children."
Among the evidence not previously disclosed is an image of Ratigan in his underwear allegedly taken at the home of one of his purported victims.
Prosecutors also want to present evidence that Ratigan purportedly discarded or hid a removable electronic card from his cellphone while in police custody May 18, 2011.
Ratigan also allegedly visited nine websites whose addresses, which prosecutors listed in court papers, clearly suggested an unsavory interest in young girls. Those addresses were, for the most part, discovered on a computer hard drive belonging to Ratigan and turned over to police by his family the day of his arrest.
Forensic evidence also established that Ratigan allegedly made multiple inquiries to websites using a literary title — "Lolita," from the novel by Vladimir Nabokov — that has become a common search term for child pornography, prosecutors said.
Authorities apparently have established two instances in which Ratigan allegedly obtained girls' underwear.
Prosecutors alleged that he possessed "a minor female's underwear in the summer of 2009."
As for the second instance, authorities noted that someone recovered "a different pair of minor female's underwear at defendant's residence in the spring of 2010."
The second incident appears to match one that has been reported previously. In a letter of concern to diocesan officials in May 2010, a Northland Catholic school principal said a parent found a pair of girls' panties in a planter at Ratigan's home when a group of Brownies were there to plant flowers.
And prosecutors announced that they wanted to show jurors Ratigan's alleged Web searches for photographs of children in swimsuits and his computer bookmarks for two-way mirrors and "spy pens," which an earlier report on the case described as "small cameras disguised to look like ballpoint pens."
The lawyer representing Ratigan did not return a call to his office Monday. Federal public defenders in Kansas City seldom comment on their cases.