Priest Gets 2 Years' Probation
The Rev. Robert Allgaier is Sentenced for Viewing Child Pornography
By David Hendee
Omaha World Herald
August 16, 2002
Saying that viewing child pornography is not a victimless crime, a judge Thursday sentenced a priest to two years' probation with no unsupervised contact with children.
Madison County Judge Donna Farrell Taylor also gave the Rev. Robert Allgaier a choice between serving two days in jail or performing 80 hours of community service, including a tour of the Madison County Jail.
"He wants to do community service, judge," said Allgaier's attorney, James Schaefer of Omaha.
Allgaier pleaded guilty in June to a misdemeanor charge of attempting to possess child pornography.
He used a computer in his Norfolk church office to view Internet photos of children involved in sex acts. He has admitted doing so frequently from August 1998 to January 2001 while he was associate pastor at Sacred Heart-St. Mary Catholic Church. Allgaier has not been accused of inappropriate conduct with children.
Taylor said she hoped the sentence would send a message to those who believe the Internet is a "private haven" in which their curiosity can lead them places they normally wouldn't go.
"It is a serious offense because our society does cherish our children," she said. "It's not a private affair. It is a crime."
Allgaier apologized to the court for the harm he caused by his use of the Internet.
His probation includes a requirement to provide a written "sincere apology" to the people of the parishes in Norfolk and Ralston, where he most recently served. Taylor said the parishes are free to publish Allgaier's apology.
Allgaier was ordered to complete the therapy program the Omaha Archdiocese provided. He is being treated at St. Michael's Community in St. Louis, a clinic run by a Catholic order.
Allgaier said he will complete the inpatient portion of the therapy this month and continue with an outpatient program.
Schaefer said Allgaier, who was ordained in 1998, hopes to continue his vocation as a priest.
The sentencing hearing took an unexpected twist when Madison County Attorney Joe Smith introduced new evidence for the judge to consider.
Deb Waskowiak testified that Allgaier was a volunteer at an Omaha Wheelchair Camp swimming program in about 1992 when he emerged from the pool at the University of Nebraska at Omaha in a state of sexual arousal after working with a 13-year-old girl.
Waskowiak, who was running the program, said she banished Allgaier from the pool. When she learned in 1994 that Allgaier was studying for the priesthood, she said, she called archdiocesan officials about the incident.
A report by a Norfolk police investigator introduced as evidence Thursday said the archdiocese has no record of Waskowiak's phone call.
Waskowiak said she called the archdiocese again this year after learning that Allgaier had admitted viewing child pornography.
Waskowiak, a Catholic who is studying for a career in church youth education, said in an interview after the sentencing that testifying was not easy, but "it's not tough to stand up for kids."
State Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha, who attended the hearing, said Allgaier was not punished severely enough. Chambers said he will introduce legislation next year to boost penalties for child-porn offenses.
Allgaier could have been sentenced a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and a $ 500 fine. In addition to probation, he was fined $ 300 plus $ 776 in court costs.
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