Shawn Ratigan, Priest Accused of Producing Child Pornography, Pleads Guilty
August 2, 2012
|Shawn Ratigan pleaded guilty to five counts Thursday.|
Shawn Ratigan, a former priest at Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Eucharist in Independence, has pleaded guilty to five federal felony counts of making or attempting to make child pornography, The Star reports. He faces up to 30 years in prison for each count. Ratigan's shocking story became public last year. He took his laptop to a repair shop and up-skirt photographs of children were discovered on the hard drive. A technician told church officials, who in turn told the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.
Officials within the diocese allegedly sat on the information from December 2010 to May 2011 before they told police. They copied the pornography to discs and gave the computer to Ratigan's family members. They destroyed the computer, and diocese officials gave the images to detectives.
Bishop Robert W. Finn released a statement when the charges were announced in which he said he regretted the way the diocese had handled the situation. Court documents said, at the time, Ratigan attempted suicide on December 17, 2010, by running his motorcycle in his closed garage. Records also showed that he had left a suicide note apologizing to the girls he allegedly had pictures of.
In May 2011, it was revealed that school officials had been warned about Ratigan's behavior. Julie Hess, principal of St. Patrick School, sent a memo to the dioceses saying that the priest had behaved inappropriately. Part of the memo reads: "During a school trip to Platte Falls, Father allowed a fourth grade girl to sit on his lap and lean her body against him. He did not immediately move to re-direct her; she sat there for at least five minutes, until teachers moved to stand next to him. Then he rose to play Frisbee with a group of students."
The memo also detailed Ratigan's home as "kid-friendly" and recounts a strange incident in which parents found a pair of girls underwear in a planter in his backyard. Last summer, Finn told parents of children at St. Patrick that prior to that assignment, nobody had complained about Ratigan.
Parents of the victims sued Ratigan, Finn and the diocese last summer. Then, the seemingly never-ending horrors continued in July 2011, when an investigation found more sexual images of children on two other diocese computers. Also in July, Tony's Kansas City noticed that the website of the local chapter of Pro Bikers For Life, a pro-life group for motorcyclists, featured photos of the priest with children. The site has since come down.
In August, Ratigan was charged in federal court, and he pleaded not guilty. Last October, Finn and the diocese were indicted in Jackson County on misdemeanor charges that between December 16, 2010, and May 11, 2011, they failed to report Ratigan's acts. A trial has been scheduled for September 24. Prosecutors in Clay County didn't file charges against Finn after he agreed to enter a diversion program.