Long Island Priest Is Charged after Internet Child Pornography Investigation

By Bruce Lambert and Nicole Cotroneo
New York Times
November 18, 2006

A Roman Catholic priest was charged yesterday with possessing more than 1,300 pornographic pictures and videos involving children, which were found on a computer he kept in the rectory of the Long Island church where he has worked for several months.

The priest, the Rev. Thomas G. Saloy, 45, an administrator at the Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Church in Roosevelt, pleaded not guilty in Federal District Court in Central Islip. After his computer was seized Nov. 9, he attempted suicide and was admitted to Mercy Medical Center, a Catholic hospital in Rockville Centre. Yesterday the judge, Chief Magistrate Michael L. Orenstein, agreed with a request by the defense and prosecutors that Father Saloy be returned to locked quarters at the hospital.

Father Saloy stood silently during his arraignment. Later, his lawyer, Peter Rubin, disputed the prosecutors' claims, saying there were only a few pictures stored on the computer and describing them as "unsolicited." Speaking to reporters, Mr. Rubin noted that Father Saloy was not accused of abusing minors, meeting them or trying to meet them.

But federal investigators said that when they seized his computer, he "admitted that he had a sexual interest in 15- to-16-year-old boys, that in America Online chat rooms he asked for and received sexually explicit images," and that he "occasionally received images of very young children, which he deleted."

Bishop William F. Murphy of the Diocese of Rockville Centre said that after learning of the charges yesterday, he placed Father Saloy on administrative leave pending a diocesan investigation. As a result, Father Saloy is prohibited from presenting himself as a priest, wearing a Roman collar or other clerical garb or celebrating Mass in public.

The diocese issued a statement saying that it would "continue to cooperate fully with law enforcement on this matter."

The diocese said there had been no complaints about Father Saloy, who came to Roosevelt in June from Our Lady of Grace Church in West Babylon, where he had served as a priest since 1995.

Geraldine Leonard, a lifelong parishioner who lives near the church in West Babylon, said she "would be totally shocked" if the allegations about Father Saloy were true.

Ms. Leonard praised Father Saloy and another priest for revitalizing parish youth programs by organizing popular field trips and basketball games. "He was great with the kids," she said. "It totally changed the youth group."

The events that led to Father Saloy's arrest started in Milwaukee, where federal investigators said that last year they seized the computer of a man suspected of transmitting child pornography over the Internet. They said one e-mail message containing child pornography had been sent to an America Online account used by Father Saloy.

The investigators said they began tracking Father Saloy on chat sites called Gayfathers and Dudes4Dudes. Agents posing variously as a bisexual father and a 16-year-old boy said they exchanged messages with Father Saloy, who used the screen names Sideother38, Timp38 and Bball2nd.

Prosecutors said Father Saloy described himself as a bisexual father of boys in one exchange, and as a 15-year-old in another. One investigator said that he had posted messages claiming to be a youth in possession of a pornographic picture of himself and a friend, and that Father Saloy had asked him to send it.

Prosecutors described several of the images found on Father Saloy's computer: an adolescent male having sex with a boy of about 7; a man having sex with a boy; two nude prepubescent boys touching each other; a nude boy with a nude man; and a nude boy in a suggestive pose.

If convicted, Father Saloy faces up to 10 years in prison.

His mother, brother and two sisters attended the arraignment, but did not speak to reporters.

Mr. Rubin, the lawyer, said in court that Father Saloy, who suffered a major heart attack a couple of years ago, was being treated for physical and emotional problems. He added that the treatment plan called for his client's eventual transfer to a rehabilitation center for priests in Silver Spring, Md.

Sex scandals have plagued the Rockville Centre diocese, with 1.5 million Catholics. In 2003, a Suffolk County grand jury accused the diocese of ignoring and suppressing complaints about child sexual abuse while shielding and reassigning abusive priests. The diocese says it has made major changes to root out and prevent abuse, but many victims and their advocates have criticized the efforts as inadequate.

In response to previous scandals, a group of parishioners in the diocese formed a chapter of Voice of the Faithful, a Catholic lay organization that urges openness in the handling of sexual abuse claims against priests. The Long Island chapter's co-chairwoman, Peggy O'Neil, said she was unaware of any previous complaints about Father Saloy.


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