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  Child-Pornography Charge Filed Against Nebraska Priest

By Julia McCord
Omaha World Herald
March 1, 2002

The Madison County attorney Thursday filed a single misdemeanor charge of attempted possession of child pornography against a priest recently posted to Ralston.

A Monday arraignment was scheduled for the Rev. Robert Allgaier, who until last June served as assistant pastor at a Norfolk church.

Allgaier has been under investigation by Norfolk police since October, when police received a complaint that he had viewed child pornography on a computer in the office of Sacred Heart-St. Mary Catholic Church in Norfolk.

The formal charge against Allgaier - attempted possession of visual depictions of sexually explicit conduct involving minors - is a Class III misdemeanor. It carries a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and a $ 500 fine.

County Attorney Joseph Smith said the investigation is continuing.

Allgaier will not be arrested, Smith said, adding that he has "absolute faith" that the priest will be in court Monday. The Rev. Michael Gutgsell, chancellor of the Omaha Archdiocese, said, "He will be at that arraignment."
Gutgsell said it hasn't been determined who will represent Allgaier. (7)

Allgaier was an assistant pastor at Sacred Heart-St. Mary from June 1998 to June 2001, when he was transferred by the archdiocese to St. Gerald Catholic Church in Ralston as an assistant pastor. He was removed from the parish last weekend and has left Nebraska.

He was removed from the parish last weekend and has left Nebraska. (7)

Archdiocesan officials have declined to say where Allgaier is or whether he is undergoing treatment.

Allgaier admitted to a Norfolk police investigator Feb. 20 that he has viewed child pornography several times a week for two to three hours at a time since his last year of seminary in 1998, court documents show. Allgaier was ordained in 1998.

Thursday's charge addresses activities allegedly committed between Aug. 29, 2000, and Jan. 20, 2001.

The statute of limitations in misdemeanor cases is 18 months and any alleged infraction occurring before Aug. 29, 2000, is off-limits. Jan. 20, 2001, is the date Catholic officials learned of Allgaier's alleged activities.

The officials — Gutgsell, Archbishop Elden Curtiss and the Rev. Dave Belt, pastor of Sacred Heart-St. Mary Church — did not contact the Norfolk police. The police learned of the alleged activities through the complaint made to them in October. (7)

Police searched Allgaier's Ralston residence and the Sacred Heart-St. Mary Church offices on Feb. 20 and Feb. 22. They found nothing incriminating in Ralston, but seized a computer used by Allgaier at the Norfolk church offices. The contents are being analyzed.

Smith did not wait for the results before filing the charge. He said evidence already in hand supported the charge. And time was a factor, he said.

"The longer I wait, the more I can't include," he said.

Earlier Thursday, several St. Gerald parishioners said they were completely in the dark about the allegations.

"We were not aware until the story broke (over the weekend)," said Russell Iwan, a parish council member. "I was kind of shocked."

Jaye McCoy, whose son is a first-grader at St. Gerald school, said she, too, was floored by the allegations.

Allgaier taught religion at the school and worked with the St. Gerald youth group. McCoy said Allgaier was a gifted preacher who was popular with adults and children alike.

"That's why this came as a shock to everybody," she said. "There were no tell-tale signs."

St. Gerald school is providing counselors for students who want to talk, said Principal Dave Garland. The school has 320 students in grades kindergarten through six.

St. Joan-St. Gerald Middle School also had counselors on hand Thursday, said the principal, Sister Tish Connelly.

Allgaier taught religion there on Thursdays - the seventh grade one week and the eighth grade the next week, she said.

Connelly said her students "are doing real well."

"The counselors have been excellent with them," she said. "Our kids are great."

 
 

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