Former Thomas More student sentenced in child sex case

By Cameron Knight
July 01, 2016

In this Friday, Jan. 29, 2016 photo provided by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), former Columbus, Ohio, seminarian Joel Wright, second left, is arrested at in San Diego on federal charges for allegedly seeking to have sex with infant and young girls in Mexico.

A former seminarian who had studied at Thomas More College was sentenced in San Diego to nearly 16 years in prison for trying to adopt or purchase infants from Mexico to sexually molest them.

Joel Wright of Ohio pleaded guilty in April to a federal charge of attempted enticement of a minor. A judge on Friday sentenced him to 15 years, eight months.

Wright placed Craigslist ads for a Tijuana tour guide, then told someone who responded that he wanted a baby girl for sex. Wright acknowledged sending explicit emails describing his desires to assault children, from infants up to the age of 4.

The person he contacted was cooperating with authorities, and Wright was arrested when he flew into San Diego in January.

Wright was a seminarian in the Columbus diocese, but he was also sponsored by the Steubenville diocese in Ohio. He also studied in Kentucky and is originally from Vermont, according to the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).

Rev. John Allen, vice president for advancement at Pontifical College Josephinum, said Wright began attending the school last fall and that he'd undergone a battery of psychological tests, interviews and a background check before being accepted. Wright lost his status at the seminary when he left the campus without authorization.

"We're shocked and saddened by the heinous nature of the allegations," Allen told the AP.

According to the criminal complaint, Wright has gone so far as to hand over an "adoption fee" in a Tijuana hotel room — and spelled out in explicit online messages what he hoped to do with an infant and a 4-year-old girl.

Asked in an email if he'd previously had sex with infants, Wright allegedly responded: "I have not gone all the way before but I have made it very close in the past so I do have experance (sic)."

Wright was carrying $2,000 in cash along with baby clothes and a bottle in his luggage when he was arrested, a Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman said.

SNAP issued a press release Friday urging school officials to keep investigating Wright's past behavior.

"We hope that current and former staff at...Thomas More College, Franciscan University, and Josephinum will aggressively seek out others with information or suspicions about other crimes by Wright and cover ups by his colleagues or supervisors," the release said.



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