Ap: Feds Indict Pa. Priest on Child Porn Charges

By Joe Mandak
Philadelphia Inquirer
January 4, 2012

PITTSBURGH - A Catholic priest has been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges he possessed thousands of images of child pornography that county detectives said they found when searching his office and residence last month after a church employee reported seeing the cleric viewing an image of a naked boy on his office computer.

Rev. Bartley Sorensen, 62, has been suspended by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, which is cooperating in the investigation. The Associated Press could not immediately locate a phone number for Sorensen.

Sorensen's defense attorney did not immediately return a call for comment Wednesday on the two-count grand jury indictment charging the priest with receiving child pornography on his computer and possessing child pornography.

Bishop David A. Zubik said in a statement that "there is no way to understand, yet alone excuse or talk around compulsions involving children."

"My prayers are for all that have been victims of this pernicious exploitation," Zubik said.

Allegheny County detectives arrested Sorensen on Dec. 10, after a parish employee called a church child abuse hotline after allegedly seeing Sorensen viewing child pornography on his computer the previous day.

An arrest affidavit at the time said the female employee saw the image of a boy who appeared to be 5 to 10 years old, and naked from the waist down, under the caption "Hottie Boys," on the priest's computer in his residence. The employee told investigators that Sorensen, who had been transferred to St. John Fisher Church in Churchill just three weeks earlier, spent "hours upon hours" on his computer, alone in his office, according to the affidavit.

U.S. Attorney David Hickton said the county charges will be dismissed after Sorensen appears before the federal magistrate on Friday. He said the investigation is continuing.

"We're going to work the case jointly with the (Allegheny County) district attorney and the FBI, but the case is not over," Hickton said, though he declined comment when asked what more might come of the case.

County investigators filed additional charges against Sorensen on Dec. 13, the day after a second search of his church office turned up additional images and videos. Investigators said they found 5,000 pictures on three CDs taken from his church office during the initial search.

The federal charges are based on items the detectives found during both searches.

According to the indictment, federal authorities also want Sorensen to forfeit a desktop computer, a digital camera, and more than 100 CDs, DVDs, books and photo albums seized during the earlier searches by county detectives.

The indictment contends Sorensen received or possessed the images since June. The charge of receiving child pornography on his computer carries a prison sentence of five to 20 years upon conviction, while the possession charge has no minimum and carries a maximum 10-year term.


Any original material on these pages is copyright 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.