Priest Arrested in Child Porn Charge

By Shawn Charniga
The Saratogian
May 30, 2007

Albany - A 50-year-old Catholic priest who is a Cohoes native now living in Columbia County could be released on bond as early as today after a federal magistrate on Wednesday agreed to grant the accused bail as he awaits trial on charges he received and possessed computer images of child pornography.

According to a federal prosecutor, Raymond Ethier of Hudson took part in a conversation over the Internet with a Canadian just over a year ago, sparking an investigation that led federal Department of Homeland Security officials

to seize a computer from Ethier's home May 10 and recover images of child pornography.

Prosecutor Thomas Spina said Ethier was not arrested in the church, St. John Vianney in Claverack, or in his home, and refused to say exactly where the arrest by DHS, State Police and Hudson police took place. He said Ethier faces five to 20 years in prison if convicted, but the criminal process will be delayed by medical treatment the priest will seek in Maryland.

The criminal complaint filed by prosecutors claims during the May 10 interview, "Either admitted he engaged in sexually explicit conversations with other individuals on the Internet and that these conversations sometimes involved children," and says the priest admitted to using the program Limewire to download two videos of children engaged in sexual conduct.

However, according to the accusatory document, Ethier has denied ever molesting a child.

Magistrate Judge Randolph F. Treece ordered Ethier's $50,000 bond secured by an equal amount of cash or property and the accused to abide by a set of conditions or else face a return to custody pending trial.

These conditions include the surrender of Ethier's passport and a restriction of travel to the northern part of the state which is the court's jurisdiction except to seek medical treatment, avoidance of excessive use of alcohol or narcotics, no contact with minors and no use of a computer or other Internet-capable device.

Ken Goldfarb, a spokesman for the Roman Catholic Dioceses of Albany, said church officials were not aware of the charges against Ethier until they were contacted by a reporter Tuesday night. In a prepared statement faxed to the media, church officials said they were not aware of previous complaints against Ethier.

Goldfarb said Ethier was born in Albany and ordained in 1985, and served in various parishes until he was assigned to his current parish in southern Columbia County in 1995.

"The allegations against Father Ethier are very serious and very troubling," Bishop Howard Hubbard says in the statement. "The Dioceses will await the final decision of a court as to their validity. A determination as to Father Ethier's status as a priest will be made once the judicial process has concluded. The Dioceses pledges its full cooperation to authorities investigating these allegations."


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