Teacher-Priest Gets Prison for Having Porn

Toledo Blade [Toledo OH]
September 30, 2003

A Toledo Roman Catholic priest and high school religion teacher was sentenced to 21 months in prison in U.S. district court yesterday for possession of child pornography.

The Rev. Stephen G. Rogers, 54, will remain on a leave of absence from the Diocese of Toledo, said the Rev. Michael Billian, diocesan chancellor. He said a decision on Rogersí future will be made once his sentence is done.

Rogers was a religion teacher at Central Catholic High School when U.S. Customs agents seized his computer, disks, videotapes, and a bag of photos in December. Authorities said he was among customers who paid a monthly fee to subscribe to have access to a child pornography Internet site.

U.S. District Judge David Katz said he wanted to balance the nature of the crime and providing a proper deterrent to others. He said Rogers was not involved physically with children, but said viewing child pornography is what drives the business that allows children to be exploited.

Judge Katz said there were numerous letters sent to his court in support of Rogers because of his work in the church, and letters against Rogers because of his dealing in child pornography.

Thomas Secor, the U.S. attorney trying the case, said he believes the sentence is fair and sends a message to others who are paying for child pornography. John Czarnecki, Rogersí attorney, declined comment.

Judge Katz said he will "strongly suggest" Rogers be placed in the federal prison at Buckner, N.C. He said the prison has the psychiatric and counseling facilities and personnel Rogers needs to continue the rehabilitation he had begun on his own since his arrest.

The judge said he also took into consideration Rogersí health. The priest had coronary bypass surgery in 1997 and has been treated for prostate cancer since 1999. Also playing favorably on his sentence, the judge said, were that Rogers has no criminal record, and he sought psychiatric treatment on his own.

"This case is not about a defendant who had molested children," Judge Katz said. "There is no suggestion that he would do so. This is about the purchase of material on the Internet which is in violation of the law."

Claudia Vercellotti, local co-coordinator of the Toledo chapter of Survivorís Network of those Abused by Priests, said she was happy that Rogers would be receiving treatment but thought Judge Katz went out of his way to lessen the impact of the crime. She attended the sentencing yesterday.

"To minimize the connection between child pornography and child molestation is like collecting baseball cards and saying you have no interest in baseball," Ms. Vercellotti said. "Itís not logical. We are happy that he received some kind of sentence, but I wonder if his sentence is the same as others in the same position."


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