Priest Pleads Guilty
The Rev. Robert Allgaier was to be Tried for Attempted Possession of Child Pornography, A Misdemeanor
By Chris Burbach
Omaha World Herald
June 18, 2002
A Catholic priest pleaded guilty Tuesday in Madison County Court to attempted possession of child pornography.
The Rev. Robert Allgaier, who used a Norfolk church computer to view Internet child pornography, had been scheduled to go on trial on the misdemeanor charge Tuesday morning. Instead, he entered the guilty plea.
Allgaier, 31, told Madison County Judge Donna Farrell Taylor that he had viewed sexually explicit images of minors on the Internet. He answered yes when she asked if those pictures depicted real or simulated intercourse.
Allgaier's attorney, James Schaefer of Omaha, asked that his client be sentenced Tuesday. But Taylor said she needed more information about Allgaier. She scheduled sentencing for Aug. 15 and ordered Allgaier to be interviewed by probation officers.
Schaefer and Madison County Attorney Joe Smith both recommended the maximum probation, two years, as well as continued treatment and supervision. The misdemeanor charge carries a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and a $ 500 fine.
Schaefer said Allgaier wanted to plead guilty instead of having the case go to trial. He said All-gaier no longer is claiming that he viewed the images as research.
"He's accepted responsibility," Schaefer said. "He's very sorry for it. He wants to move forward from here."
Allgaier has not been accused of inappropriate conduct with children. The photographs he viewed were deleted from his computer.
Omaha Archbishop Elden Curtiss' handling of the case has drawn criticism from law enforcement and many Catholics. Curtiss did not report Allgaier to police, and he transferred the priest to a Ralston parish and a position teaching Omaha middle-schoolers without alerting parishioners.
Allgaier, who was ordained in 1998, told Norfolk police in February that he had viewed child pornography on the Internet three or four times a week for two or three hours at a time over three years. He said it was for research.
Allgaier used a computer at Norfolk's Sacred Heart-St. Mary Catholic Church, where he was associate pastor from 1998 to 2001. During that time he also taught at Norfolk Catholic High School.
Church officials learned in January 2001 that two young men had seen Internet addresses for child porn Web sites onAllgaier's computer in the church office. Allgaier admitted to Curtiss in February 2001 that he had viewed child pornography.
Curtiss removed Allgaier from his Norfolk teaching job at that time. The archbishop transferred Allgaier in June 2001 to St. Gerald Catholic Church in Ralston. The priest's duties included teaching religion to students of St. Joan of Arc-St. Gerald Middle School in Omaha. Curtiss has said psychologists' and counselors' evaluations indicated that Allgaier was not a threat to children.
Norfolk authorities became aware in October 2001 of All-gaier's pornography viewing. Smith charged Allgaier in February. The prosecutor said in March that the archdiocese should have told police sooner that a priest had been viewing child porn on the Internet. Smith said the delay hampered the investigation into the source of the pornography.
In March, Curtiss said Allgaier wouldn't be given another assignment until the archdiocese was confident that he had "overcome his obsession with pornography."
Curtiss announced then that the archdiocese had a zero-tolerance policy for sexual abuse of children.
Later, Curtiss sent written rebukes to two Omaha Catholics, including an 80-year-old former schoolteacher, who publicly criticized his decision to reassignAllgaier.
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