Priest Pornography Investigation May Take Years

By William Johnson
Louisiana Gannett News
August 19, 2004

ARNAUDVILLE - Driving through town one can't miss the signs - "Bring back Father Jules," "Pray for Father Jules."

At town council meetings, special prayers are offered for the return of their hometown priest.

"He had a great impact on our town," Mayor Kathy Richard said.

Father Jules Arceneaux, who has been pastor of St. Francis Regis Catholic Church for the past two years, was placed on administrative leave last month pending the outcome of a federal investigation into alleged pornography discovered on a church computer.

William L. Goode, a lawyer representing Arceneaux, said a young man has come forward and admitted he was the one who placed the illicit images on the church computer.

Nonetheless, the case against Arceneaux continues - and may continue for years.

Goode said the delay means nothing. "It is not an indication of anything good or bad. People just need to keep praying," Goode said.

Monsignor Richard Greene, spokesman for Bishop Michael Jarrel of the Lafayette Diocese, which oversees the Arnaudville church, believes parishioners need to withhold judgment.

"Father Jules Arceneaux has not been charged or arrested," Rev. Greene said.

Goode believes the delay is more about an overworked federal prosecutor than about the guilt or innocence of his client.

He said the case in being handled by John L. Luke Walker, assistant U.S. attorney with the Lafayette office.

"He is their child pornography expert. He has a huge number of cases, probably hundreds," Goode said.

Goode said he has no idea where the case stands now. "These investigations are secret."

But he does know the FBI agent assigned to case has been tied up testifying in another case for the past five weeks, so probably nothing is being done in the meantime.

"The investigation process takes time; sometimes it takes years," Goode said.

He said because of the speedy trial act, which requires trials to begin within 70 days of an indictment, prosecutors tend to delay proceedings.

"They have up to five years to file an indictment. I've seen many cases where they have waited until the last day to act," Goode said.

Calls to Walker's office were not returned by press time.

The Rev. Greene declined to make any further comments, saying the diocese is waiting until the FBI completes its investigation before making a statement.

In the meantime, parishioners in this heavily Catholic community remain dubious of the charges against their priest.

"That's not Father Jules," Kenneth Wyatt said.

"I love him and I support him and we're praying for him," said Regina Wyatt.

Goode said even in Lafayette he is getting this reaction. "Everywhere I go, people come up to me and thank me for defending Father Jules," Goode said.