Former Priest Enters Plea in Child Porn Investigation
By Karin Brulliard
October 9, 2005
A former Roman Catholic priest at a Leesburg church pleaded no contest Wednesday to a felony charge of attempted possession of child pornography.
The Rev. Robert C. Brooks, 72, who ministered for 14 years at St. John the Apostle Catholic Church, was charged in February. Authorities said that in 2003 Brooks used a credit card to register with a child pornography Web site, attracting the attention of federal investigators engaged in an international crackdown. He faces up to five years in prison.
Brooks stepped down from his post last October after Loudoun County authorities told the Catholic Diocese of Arlington that they intended to charge him. He joined the diocese in 1974 and served at churches in Falls Church, Annandale, Vienna and Alexandria before coming to Leesburg. The Rev. John P. Mosimann is now leading St. John the Apostle.
Brooks, wearing a white turtleneck and dark suit at Wednesday's hearing, stood with his hands clasped as he answered questions from Loudoun County Circuit Court Judge Thomas D. Horne. He said he knew that his actions -- he did not offer specifics -- were "morally wrong" and told the judge his plea was voluntary.
"That was my decision, your honor, based on the fact that I wish to spare the church that I've served . . . any further embarrassment," Brooks said.
About 20 supporters filled the benches behind Brooks. Before the hearing, they stood in a circle outside the courtroom, holding hands and praying for "Uncle Bobby."
Loudoun investigators who searched Brooks's home computer found about 180 images of what appeared to be child pornography, said Loudoun Commonwealth's Attorney James E. Plowman (R).
A grand jury initially charged Brooks with possession of child pornography. Prosecutors amended the charge because they could not prove that the individuals in the images were younger than 18, a requirement for the original charge, Plowman said.
Plowman said the attempted possession charge could be proved, however, because Brooks continued to use the Web site after federal authorities warned him that it featured child pornography and was illegal to use.
Both charges carry the same maximum penalty. Brooks is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 12.
"It's up to a judge now, and we've done our job at this point," Plowman said after the hearing.
Plowman, who attends St. John the Apostle, said he thought Brooks's plea would help parishioners move on. "People trusted this man for many years, and hopefully this will give some finality to this whole thing," he said.
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