Abuse survivors say church silent on investigation of ex-priest in Johnson County

Kansas City Star [Kansas City MO]

February 2, 2024

By Bill Lukitsch

Advocates for survivors of sexual abuse by clergy are calling on the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas to address the case of an ex-priest who was investigated for possession of child pornography while he temporarily lived in Leawood.

The former priest, James Jackson, became the target of an investigation led by Overland Park police in 2022. At the time, Jackson, who spent part of his childhood in Prairie Village and attended the University of Kansas, was on supervised release for a separate federal case in Rhode Island.

Members of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, this week complained of what they called the “silence” around the allegations against Jackson along with other concerns, including the reinstatement of a priest in Lenexa who had been accused of child molestation and the hiring at Bishop Miege Catholic High School of a man who previously faced a child sex abuse lawsuit.

Court records show no charges filed against Jackson in Johnson County stemming from the Overland Park investigation. The Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas did not answer questions about the case this week.

In November 2021, Jackson, 68, was indicted in Rhode Island on federal charges of possessing child sexual abuse images. The case was investigated by East Providence police when a detective received information of a computer accessing the illegal images with a digital footprint that led to St. Mary’s Church in Providence.

An on-site preview search was conducted of files from a hard drive discovered in the office area of the church rectory, next to Jackson’s bedroom. Police found hundreds of images of children, including toddlers and infants, “engaged in sexual acts, to include bondage and bestiality,” according to a police affidavit.

Jackson was arrested and the charges were brought in federal court. A judge granted permission for Jackson to live under court supervision in Kansas with his sister and brother-in-law in Leawood as the Rhode Island case remained pending.

In July 2022, roughly eight months later, the U.S. Probation Office in Rhode Island received notice from Overland Park police that Jackson was the target of a separate investigation involving child sexual abuse images.

An Overland Park detective reported there was internet activity linked to Jackson that led to the execution of a search warrant at the Leawood residence. Jackson allegedly tried to hide a laptop and external hard drive, both of which were seized by police.

Under the conditions of his supervised release, Jackson was forbidden from using electronic devices aside from a smartphone approved by the probation office.

An arrest warrant was issued for Jackson to appear in court back in Rhode Island for a violation of his pretrial release. In October 2022, a judge ordered that Jackson remain in federal custody until trial.

Jackson pleaded guilty in June to one count of receiving child pornography in the Rhode Island case. In a sentencing memorandum from his defense attorney, Jackson expressed remorse for his “vile” crimes and sins.

Prosecutors joined in recommending a five-year prison sentence. A federal judge sentenced him last month to six years.

The Star’s Kendrick Calfee contributed to this report.

Bill Lukitsch covers breaking news for The Star. Before joining The Star, he covered politics and local government for the Quad-City Times.