Louisville archdiocese sued over 'erotic' photos
By Matthew Glowicki
August 23, 2016
Parents of a young boy who claim their son was inappropriately photographed by a Roman Catholic priest, now a convicted sex offender, are suing the Archdiocese of Louisville for negligence.
The Rev. Stephen Pohl pleaded guilty in March to a federal charge of viewing child pornography, admitting to accessing more than 100 pornographic images of nude underage boys on computers at the St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church rectory and office.
While the criminal charge didn't involve St. Margaret Mary students, investigators did discover hundreds of photos on Pohl's computers depicting clothed Louisville students, some of which police deemed "child erotica."
In the newly filed lawsuit, parents Daniel and Mary Agnes Hayden said their elementary school student was among the students secluded by Pohl, ordered into "inappropriate physical poses" and photographed.
Pohl "engaged in bizarre and unusual behavior" and took photos that were "designed to enable and did enable Pohl to satisfy his prurient and sexual interests," the suit reads.
The suit blasted the archdiocese, asserting church leadership learned nothing from the priest sex abuse scandal in the early 2000s and failed to aggressively investigate and root out Pohl at the multiple churches where he worked over three decades.
Archdiocese of Louisville spokeswoman Cecelia Price said the organization hasn't received the suit and doesn't comment on pending litigation.
"Families and others impacted by what occurred have been offered assistance, and a number of individuals have received help," she wrote in an email. "We encourage any family who needs assistance to reach out to the parish or our Victim Assistance Coordinator."
The suit noted that Pohl was often seen with a camera around his neck at school and church events, photographed children "in plain view" of archdiocese employees and then stored the inappropriate images on church property, yet no questions were ever raised.
The child was pulled out of his kindergarten class at St. Margaret Mary in 2014 by Pohl, who told the boy he was taking photos for the yearbook, the suit alleges. But no photos of the boy ever appeared in the yearbook, the parents said in the suit.
Then at a school fish fry in February 2015, the parents momentarily left their son and other children alone in the care of Pohl in the school gym. When they returned, they found the priest had moved the youth to the school cafeteria, the suit details, and their son explained Pohl had taken more photos for the yearbook.
After viewing the photos found on Pohl's electronics, the Haydens said in the suit that some of the images depicted their son in the same clothes he wore at the fish fry.
According to the suit, the child has since suffered emotional distress and focusing issues at school and now sees a counselor.
The suit, filed Friday in Jefferson Circuit court, seeks unspecified damages and a jury trial. It also asked that the pictures on Pohl's computers be preserved as evidence.
Louisville attorneys William F. McMurry and Mikell Grafton and Paducah, Ky., attorney W. Fletcher McMurry Schrock represent the parents.
McMurry represents another Louisville family who sued the archdiocese earlier this year also alleging their son was photographed by Pohl.
Police were initially tipped off about Pohl after a 10-year-old St. Margaret Mary student told his mother that the priest singled him out at an after-school club to take a number of "weird" photos on his cell phone.
The youth said Pohl had him pose with his hands on his knees and legs spread apart, according to court records.
When the boy's parents confronted the priest about the pictures, they saw similar pictures of another child on the priest's phone and reported it to law enforcement. Pohl was subsequently charged and fired.