Priest Sentenced to Eight Months in Jail on Child Porn Conviction [Barnstable MA]
November 28, 2005

BARNSTABLE, Mass. --A Roman Catholic priest who pleaded guilty to storing hundreds of images of child pornography on his computer and coercing a 16-year-old boy into filming himself performing a sex act was sentenced Monday to eight months in jail.

Prosecutors had recommended a three-year prison sentence for the Rev. Stephen A. Fernandes, 55, who was suspended as pastor of Our Lady Fatima Church in New Bedford.

Bristol District Attorney Paul Walsh criticized Superior Court Judge Robert Kane for handing Fernandes a lighter sentence. He will serve the eight-month sentence at a jail on Martha's Vineyard and is eligible for parole in three months.

"The court may see this as a victimless crime, but I don't," Walsh said in a written statement. "When I look at the terrible pictures of more than 500 kids, I see 500 victims."

Kane did not immediately return a telephone message left with his secretary.

Fernandes, who was arrested last November, pleaded guilty on Sept. 26 to charges of possession and distribution of child pornography and posing a child in a state of nudity.

Investigators found more than 500 images of child pornography, including 114 video files, on his computer after he sent the laptop to a computer servicing company in Fall River.

Fernandes also allegedly used an instant messaging service to pretend he was a 19-year-old woman and trick a 16-year-old boy into filming himself performing a sex act.

The Diocese of Fall River, in a statement released Monday, called the case "profoundly disturbing."

"Parishioners expect -- and rightly so -- that their priests will live lives of certain virtue and it is disturbing when they fall short, and particularly jarring when their actions are criminal," the statement said.


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