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  Priest Faces Porn Charge
Utica Pastor Kept Child Images, Prosecutor Says

By Alexa Capeloto
Detroit Free Press
June 6, 2003

The pastor of one of metro Detroit's largest Catholic churches will face a criminal charge of possessing child pornography, the Macomb County Prosecutor's Office announced Thursday after authorizing a warrant for his arrest.

The Rev. Timothy Szott, 56 and currently on leave from St. Lawrence Church in Utica, is expected to return from a Maryland treatment facility for troubled clergy for arraignment on one count of possession of child sexually abusive material, a 1-year misdemeanor.

Authorities said they found thousands of images of nude boys in sexual poses or situations on Szott's personal laptop computer and the church server. Because other people had access to the server, the charge relates only to findings on the laptop.

"The images we found all were viewed on the Internet," said Assistant Prosecutor William Harding. "In some of these instances he actually created files for himself with these images."

There is no evidence Szott distributed or created child pornography, or had improper contact with children at the 3,500-family church or its K-8 school, Harding said. The possession charge is now a felony carrying a potential penalty of 4 years in prison, but Szott allegedly committed the crime before the change went into effect March 31.

Szott's attorney, Stephen Rabaut of St. Clair Shores, said he would notify the priest of the charge and arrange for him to voluntarily return from St. Luke Institute in Silver Spring, Md.

"This is a gentleman who has had a very lengthy, successful tenure with the Catholic Church," Rabaut said of Szott, who was ordained in 1973. "I think when this matter is over with, he'll be able to walk with his head held high."

A parishioner who voluntarily fixes the church's computers reported the images to Utica police and the Archdiocese of Detroit earlier this year. Police seized the computers and other equipment Feb. 11, and the archdiocese removed Szott within 48 hours.

Szott is one of at least 38 Michigan priests removed from public ministry in the wake of the Catholic Church's sex abuse scandal last year, but his case is unusual because the alleged misconduct happened recently.

Archdiocese spokesman Ned McGrath said church officials will proceed with their own investigation of Szott as soon as civil authorities are finished with theircase.

 
 

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