Lawyer Says Priest Never Possessed Pornography

By David Hendee
Omaha World Herald
March 12, 2002

A Catholic priest charged with attempted possession of child pornography apparently did not download porn to a computer hard drive or disk.

He didn't print anything pornographic, his attorney said, and he didn't forward pornographic images to anyone via e-mail.

Thus, he never possessed child pornography, said Omaha attorney James E. Schaefer.

"That sounds like a pretty good defense," Schaefer said Monday.

Schaefer said this scenario is one of the ways he plans to defend the Rev. Robert Allgaier, who served parishes in Norfolk and Ralston. Allgaier has pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor charge of attempted possession of child pornography.

Prosecutors didn't return phone calls seeking comment for this story.

"A question that really needs to be decided is that if you just merely look at something on your desktop or laptop - momentarily, briefly - really do you intend to possess that?" Schaefer said. "It's a legitimate question the court needs to answer."

Allgaier told archdiocese officials in February 2001 that he viewed child pornography as many as four times a week, for several hours each time, according to court documents.

Schaefer mailed Allgaier's not-guilty plea Friday to Madison County Court. It was received Monday.

The written plea means Allgaier, who left Nebraska in late February but now is back, does not have to make a personal court appearance to hear the charge facing him and to enter a plea. That arraignment was scheduled for today.

A trial is expected in mid-April, but no date has been set, court officials said.

Schaefer said he has other arguments planned to defend Allgaier, but the possession issue is at the forefront of the legal nature of the case.

Allgaier was charged Feb. 28 after police investigated a complaint that he viewed child pornography on a computer at Sacred Heart-St. Mary Catholic Church in Norfolk.

Allgaier was an assistant pastor at the parish for three years ending in June 2001, when he was transferred to a similar position at St. Gerald Catholic Church in Ralston.

Archbishop Elden Curtiss said last week that Allgaier will not be given another assignment until the Omaha Archdiocese is confident that he has "overcome his obsession with pornography."

Curtiss noted that Allgaier is not accused of abusing anyone and is not a pedophile but would be placed in an in-depth treatment program.

In January 2001, two young men told a priest at another church that they were in Allgaier's Norfolk office when they started to look up an Internet site on his computer and clicked on the "history" button. It showed sites with names containing the words "gay," "naughty" and "kids."

Allgaier subsequently entered a series of sessions with a therapist whose expertise is pornography and the Internet, Curtiss said.

The archdiocese said two weeks ago that Allgaier left the state but would return for court appearances. Schaefer said Allgaier had returned but declined to reveal his whereabouts.


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