Priest Abuse Victim Sentenced for Child Porn
By Andrew Wolfson
May 23, 2016
|Michael Mudd, testifying in the 2003 trial of Rev. Daniel C. Clark|
More than 30 years after he was repeatedly abused by a Catholic priest in Louisville, a man has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for using two boys to manufacture child pornography.
Michael Mudd’s lawyer pleaded for leniency, noting that “abuse begets abuse begets abuse.”
The attorney, Chief Federal Public Defender Scott Wendelsdorf, said in a pre-sentencing memo that while there is never an excuse for criminal sexual conduct, “occasionally there is an explanation and that explanation justifies a degree of mercy not otherwise warranted."
“This is such a case,” Wendelsdorf said, asking that Mudd gets 15 years, the mandatory minimum.
But Assistant U.S. Attorney Jo Lawless noted that plenty of children who are sexually abused don’t go on to abuse others. And Senior U.S. District Judge Thomas B. Russell said that while Mudd’s own abuse was unfortunate, the public still has to be protected and he still needed to be punished.
After Mudd, 47, of Bullitt County, was sentenced Wednesday to the 30-year term requested by the government, U.S. Attorney John Kuhn said in a news release that the penalty was “just.”
And in an email, Stephanie Collins, the office’s spokeswoman, reiterated that the sentence was appropriate.
“Michael Mudd had plenty of opportunities to choose not to sexually exploit children,” she said. “His conduct escalated and showed no signs of stopping.”
The U.S. postal inspector and Bullitt County sheriff’s office targeted Mudd after learning he had ordered 64 “naturist” videos over several years, including “Oskar and His Moped” and “Boys Fight XXVII: Bucharest.”
Within 24 hours of a search warrant being executed on his home in Bullitt County, neighbors expressed concerns about Mudd’s conduct with young boys in the area, and a woman reported that her 12-year-old son had told her that Mudd had recorded him engaged in sexually explicit conduct in his house as well as at a small lake near the trailer park where he lived.
Mudd pleaded guilty last June to two separate counts of producing child pornography, and Lawless asked for a significant sentence to give clear notice that child sex offenders will be punished harshly.
"While it is true that the victims in this case were compliant and that Mudd did not use physical force against them,” she said, “the harm to the victims cannot be overstated.”
But Wendelsdorf said Mudd himself was harmed, when he was 11-years-old and sent to the Rev. Daniel C. Clark at St. Rita Catholic Church for counseling after his parents divorced.
Clark sexually molested him for more than a year, according to court records, before being transferred to another diocese and then luring Mudd and a friend into a “camping trip,” during which he sexually molested him again.
Clark pleaded guilty in 1988 to sodomizing Mudd and sexually abusing the other boy and was sentenced to 15 years in prison, but he was required to serve only 90 days in a work-release program. The archdiocese paid Mudd's family $207,000 to settle a lawsuit with the stipulation that the family never disclose the terms or that the case was settled.
In 2003, Clark was charged with sexually abusing two other boys, and Mudd testified against him when he was convicted at trial. In all, Clark molested 19 children.
In the presentence memo, Wendelsdorf described how the abuse ruined Mudd's childhood and marred his adult life.
He began a relationship with a 14-year-old boy when he was 16, knowing it was wrong and feeling such severe guilt about it that he sought psychiatric help, according to the memo.
From age 18 to 27, he worked off and on at a series of jobs but found it difficult to keep any for a prolonged period because of debilitating anxiety attacks, which eventually led him to take disability.
Referred for counseling to Seven County Services, he admitted the relationship he’d had with the 14-year-old and was referred for sex offender therapy, which he completed. He claimed his life was turning for the better and he wanted desperately to stay in treatment, but his disability benefits would no longer pay for it, and he was involuntarily discharged from the program.
According to the memo, his life took another series of bad turns - a brother was diagnosed with leukemia and his mother with pancreatic cancer - and he began ordering the “naturist” videos and watching them to relieve stress. Eventually, he moved on to the criminal conduct, to which he pleaded guilty.
Noting that Clark himself told investigators he was abused as a boy by a priest, Wendelsdorf said that “the cycle of abuse begetting abuse begetting abuse must be broken.”
He said Mudd “unfortunately relapsed and succumbed to his predilection, visiting abuse upon the victims in this case, as he was abused and his abuser was abused.”
Wendelsdorf said Mudd deserved to be punished but with a “just punishment, not a draconian prison term that serves only one of the purposes of sentencing to the exclusion of all others.”
But Lawless, the prosecutor, noted that the victims were just entering puberty and at that “vulnerable point in their development, Mudd entered their lives, took advantage of their misplaced trust and sexually exploited them for his own purposes.” She also said the proposed sentence was at the low range of recommended guidelines in acknowledgment that he pleaded guilty and spared the victims from having to testify.
Russell, the judge, said he couldn’t be sure that Mudd wouldn’t relapse.
Clark served about half the 10-year sentence he received in 2003 for abusing the second set of boys but was then given probation after the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled a judge erred in instructing the jury and in allowing Mudd’s testimony.
Clark, 68, remained a priest until 2004 when he was removed by the Vatican. He is on the sex offender registry as Offender No. 17072 and lives in the 400 block of South 41st Street.
After a caller identified himself as a reporter, a man who answered the phone Monday at Clark's address said he wasn’t available for comment.
Asked about Mudd’s sentence, Cecelia Price, spokeswoman for the archdiocese, said, “We do not have information about the particulars of this case and do not have a comment.”
Reporter Andrew Wolfson can be reached at 502-582-7189 or firstname.lastname@example.org
|Ex-priest Daniel C. Clark, who was convicted of abusing Michael Mudd and other boys (Photo: Kentucky Sex Offender Registry)|