Former Navy Chaplain Pleads Guilty to Making Child Porn
By Jessica Masulli Reyes
November 16, 2015
A former U.S. Navy chaplain and Catholic priest from Millsboro has pleaded guilty to taking pornographic pictures of a teen boy and then distributing the images.
John Thomas Matthew Lee, 50, entered the plea before Judge Leonard P. Stark in U.S. District Court in Delaware on Monday morning.
When sentenced in March, he will face 15 to 30 years in federal prison for production of child pornography and five to 20 years for distribution.
Lee, who registered as a sex offender in Delaware in 2013, already served two years in prison after he was court-martialed in 2007 on allegations that he used his position as a Catholic priest in the Navy to prey on lower-ranking servicemen and failed to tell a sex partner he was HIV-positive.
The investigation into Lee's current case began in 2013 when the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children passed along a cybertip indicating Lee's cellphone had attempted to upload an image of three naked boys lying on a bed, according to court documents.
Federal agents determined that Lee's social media accounts were uploading images of child pornography, the government said.
Then in November 2014, federal special agents and the Delaware Child Predator Task Force executed a search warrant at Lee's Millsboro home and found a laptop. Lee's Android cellphone was also seized from his parents' home, according to court documents.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward McAndrew said in court Monday that a forensic examination of the electronics turned up tens of thousands of child pornography images and hundreds of videos. Investigators also found 13,000 text conversations and direct chats on Lee's phone.
A 17-year-old boy, who Lee chatted with on social media, told investigators that Lee traveled from Delaware to Maryland to pick him up on one occasion. The two had a sexual encounter in Lee's car, and Lee never disclosed to the boy that he was HIV-positive, according to court documents.
During the encounter, Lee took a nude picture of the boy and later posted it to a social media account, courts documents said.
Lee was arrested in November 2014 and indicted. He has been in custody since his arrest.
"As a predator focusing his attention on children, Mr. Lee can expect to spend many years, if not the remainder of his life, in prison," said U.S. Attorney Charles M. Oberly III. "The government's efforts to rid society of those who exploit and abuse children is of the highest priority and we will continue to seek out these criminals."
Contact Jessica Masulli Reyes at 302-324-2777, firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @JessicaMasulli.