Priest back in Louisville to face porn charge
By Matthew Glowicki
September 2, 2015
A judge Wednesday ordered the Rev. Stephen Pohl, the former pastor at St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church, held under house arrest at his mother's home until his next court appearance.
Pohl, facing one federal charge of accessing child pornography, was ordered by U.S. Magistrate Judge Dave Whalin to have no contact with anyone associated with St. Margaret Mary Parish or have unsupervised contact with anyone under age 18.
As a condition of the release on an unsecured $25,000 bond, Whalin ordered all Internet-capable devices removed from the mother's Jefferson County home.
The longtime priest was originally arrested in Florida on Aug. 21 and charged by criminal complaint. Investigators say a forensic examination of Pohl's computers revealed he viewed multiple pornographic online images of nude boys ranging in age from infancy to mid-teens with their genitals exposed, according to the criminal complaint.
Whalin further ordered Pohl only leave his mother's home for pre-approved court, doctor or defense attorney visits. An electronic monitoring device is expected to be placed on Pohl on Thursday when he is set for release from custody in Grayson County, said defense attorney Ted Shouse.
Prosecutor Assistant U.S. Attorney Jo E. Lawless noted at Wednesday's hearing that Pohl's mother's home was close to some schools, but that the combination of release conditions will maintain community safety. She shared with the court her belief Pohl's travel to Florida was not an effort to flee police.
"He's no danger to this community, and he never has been," Shouse said after the detention hearing in U.S. District Court.
Attorneys Annie O’Connell and John H. Harralson are also representing Pohl.
A grand jury is due to meet mid-month and could indict Pohl on the charge, Lawless said. The priest is next due to appear in court Sept. 29 for arraignment.
Pohl's mother and sister were sworn by the judge to report any release violations. Whalin allowed Shouse's request for a third party to retrieve the priest's possessions from the parish rectory, where he lived. The judge also allowed Lawless' request that all parish directories and school yearbooks be removed from the mother's home.
Pohl, 57, viewed the pornographic images on his laptop and desktop computer seized from the office and rectory of St. Margaret Mary Parish, said Detective Dan Jackman of the Louisville Metro Police Crimes Against Children Unit in a complaint affidavit. Investigators also said they discovered more than 150 photos Pohl snapped of clothed students, some of which constituted child erotica, according to the complaint. No criminal charges have arisen from that allegation.
The federal charge carries with it a penalty of up 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and at least five years of supervised release.
Days before his arrest at his sister's Florida home, the priest resigned from his post of six years.
St. Margaret Mary parishioners were told Sunday a new priest would replace Pohl starting Oct. 15.
The church included a letter in its bulletin offering contacts for people who need assistance or someone to talk to in the wake of the allegations as well as tips to spot signs of grief and how to cope.
"Words cannot express the sorrow I feel for our community at this time," the letter, written by community director Donna Schmidt, started. "Many of you are going through emotional pain as you sort out many of the feelings you are dealing with since the news broke of the illegal improprieties surrounding Fr. Steve Pohl and our school children."