Catholic Clergy Member Arrested on Child Pornography Charges
By Doug Stewart And Tony Terzi
April 14, 2016
Following a nearly 10-month investigation, police have arrested Brother Thomas Sawyer, 73, of Valatie, New York. Sawyer is a member of an international catholic order, and investigators says he may have downloaded thousands of photos of naked children.
Sawyer, a longtime Catholic educator in many schools across the country, lived at West Haven’s St. John Vianney Church. Police were alerted to his activity by another member of the clergy “who witnessed some images on a computer as he entered the room,” said Sgt. David Tammaro, spokesperson for the West Haven Police Department.
Some 427 images, most of preteen males, were recovered by police, who say 250 is the threshold at which it becomes a felony. Thursday, Sawyer posted $25,000 bond after being charged with possession of child pornography in the first degree.
Tammaro says they are working with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to determine if any of these children are from Connecticut.
Sawyer was a brother, which in the Catholic Church means he committed himself to same traditional vows as a priest would, but was able to be employed in any field. A priest performs his role is as minister of the sacraments celebrating Eucharist, Baptism, and Reconciliation.
The Congregation of Holy Cross, the Catholic order Sawyer is a member of, moved him from St. John Vianney to a property in upstate New York as soon as the investigation began.
A spokesperson for the Congregation of Holy Cross says they are “deeply committed to the protection of all from abuse – especially children, young people and vulnerable adults. To that end, we adhere to a rigorous policy for preventing and dealing with all forms of sexual abuse. The Moreau Province is accredited by Presidium, an independent organization which provides outside oversight and accountability.”
According to the arrest warrant affidavit, Sawyer told police he never shared any of the images he downloaded.
Sawyer, the former IT director for Holy Cross High School in Waterbury, admitted to police he is gay and enjoys looking at photos and videos of prepubescent boys.
Brother Bill Zaydak, a spokesperson for the order, says, “It has been independently determined that computers at Holy Cross High School were never used by Thomas for review or collection of images.”