Retired LI Priest Arrested on Florida Child Porn Charge

By Bart Jones
February 3, 2009,0,2030474.story

A retired Roman Catholic priest who allegedly molested a 12-year-old boy in East Meadow decades ago has been arrested in Florida on charges of possessing child pornography.

Kenneth Hasselbach, 68, formerly a priest at St. Raphael's in East Meadow, who later worked at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Patchogue, was arrested Friday and booked into Broward County's main jail, officials said.

Hasselbach, of Hollywood, Fla., admitted he possessed child pornography on his two computers and he said he obtained the images through Internet downloads and e-mails, according to a statement from the FBI and the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida.

The retired priest "also admitted he chatted online with 14- and 15-year-old boys about their first sexual experiences," the statement said. Preliminary examinations showed Hasselbach's computers "contained images of young boys under the age of 18 either posing nude or engaging in sexual activity."

Officials said FBI agents discovered an Internet user in Florida had received child pornography by e-mail and investigations showed the account belonged to Hasselbach.

If convicted of the charges, Hasselbach faces 10 years in prison. He could not be reached for comment.

He was accused in 1994 of molesting the boy in East Meadow some 20 years earlier, and was allowed to retire quickly. At the time, he was working in the parish in Patchogue. He was never prosecuted because the statute of limitations had expired.

In an interview with Newsday in 2002, Hasselbach admitted fondling the boy, Robert Sammarco, but said Sammarco's version of the incidents was "exaggerated" and that he believed his victim was older than 12 or 13 at the time.

Tim Echausse of the sex abuse victims group SNAP said yesterday, "This priest joins a growing list of suspended pedophile priests who have re-offended, largely because their callous church supervisors refuse to supervise and monitor them."

Sean Dolan, a spokesman for the Diocese of Rockville Centre, said the diocese took action in 1994 and Echausse's group "is now using this case to throw mud at the diocese and divert attention from the fact that this individual alone is responsible for his actions."


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