Prosecutors to Seek Life Term for Priest
August 3, 2012
A Roman Catholic priest in Kansas City pleaded guilty yesterday to producing child pornography in a federal case that also led to charges against the diocese bishop for failing to report suspected child abuse, and prosecutors said they would recommend that he be sentenced to life in prison.
The Rev. Shawn Ratigan, 46, had been scheduled for trial later this month. He was charged with producing child pornography in May 2011 after police received a flash drive from the priest's computer that contained hundreds of images of children, most of them clothed, with the focus on their crotch areas. Prosecutors alleged he photographed girls, sometimes under their skirts, in and around churches where he had worked in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.
Under terms of the plea deal, Ratigan pleaded guilty to four counts of producing child pornography and one count of attempting to produce child porn. Eight other counts against him were dismissed.
Acting U.S. Attorney David Ketchmark said the guilty pleas represent one charge for each of five victims whose abuse started in June 2005 — one year after Ratigan was ordained as a priest.
"With today's guilty plea, the defendant publicly acknowledged for the first time that he sexually assaulted five young children over the course of several years," Ketchmark said at a news conference after Ratigan's plea hearing. "When a defendant who wears a religious collar, who has the trust of a community, engages in conduct of this nature, his crimes are more devastating and more reprehensible."
It also led to misdemeanor criminal charges against the diocese and Bishop Robert Finn — the highest-ranking Catholic official in the United States to be charged with shielding an abusive priest — for failing to report suspected child abuse to the state. Both have pleaded not guilty and are scheduled to go to trial in September.
In a statement released Wednesday, the diocese expressed its "profound concern" for anyone harmed by Ratigan and said it is committed to making sure "every report of sexual abuse, boundary violation or misconduct is addressed thoroughly and immediately."