Former Westtown Priest Pleads Guilty

By Michael P. Rellahan
Daily Local News
June 8, 2015

Mark Haynes

A former priest at Ss. Simon and Jude Church in Westtown pleaded guilty Monday to criminal charges involving child pornography and other offenses involving sexual misconduct with children, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Mark Haynes, 56, of West Chester, pleaded guilty In U.S. District Court in Philadelphia to all counts contained in a superseding information filed by U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger charging child exploitation. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Sept. 10. Haynes faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison with a maximum sentence of life, possible fines, and at least five years up to a lifetime of supervised release.

Haynes, a former parochial vicar at a number of churches in the Delaware Valley, pleaded guilty to using the Internet to entice a minor to engage in sexual conduct, transfer of obscene material to a minor, distribution of child pornography, possession of child pornography, and destruction or concealment of evidence.

According to court documents, around 2010, Haynes posed as a 16-year old girl named “Katie” on a teen dating website. As “Katie,” Haynes would meet minor girls online and allegedly request that they take and send sexually explicit pictures. Haynes is also charged with distributing other images and videos of children being sexually assaulted over the Internet in 2014, again posing as “Katie.”

The case was investigated by the FBI in conjunction with the Chester County Detectives It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Michelle Rotella.

His case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice.

Haynes has been held without bail in federal detention pending his trial. The prosecution had alleged that Haynes, even after his arrest in October on charges that he possessed and distributed child pornography, continued to seek out to connect with young girls.

The former priest, who has been formally removed from his duties, had also molested at least three minor victims while he served as their pastor, the government claimed. He did not enter pleas concerning those allegations.

Rotella wrote in March that investigators had interviewed three people who came forward to say that Haynes had sexually abused them when he was their parish priest and they were minors.

Haynes is alleged to have molested the children, whose identities or the places they lived were not provided, “with acts of sexual touching, masturbation, and forced oral sex,” according to Rotella’s motion. In one instance, Haynes is alleged to have taken confession from one young girl, who told him that she had engaged in oral sex with a teenage boy. Haynes then had the girl perform that same act on him, the motion states.

In addition, the motion related that Haynes had hidden the existence of a laptop computer from law enforcement investigators, and then gotten a friend to retrieve it for him when he was barred from his former residence at Ss. Simon and Jude. Investigators found that Haynes stored child pornography and evidence of his interactions with teenage girls on other computers.

When Haynes was confronted by county detectives in October, he confessed to having child pornography on his computer, and of sending out images to others. He also stated that he had in early 2010 communicated with a young girl by using the name “Katie Caponetti,” and that he and the girl discussed sexual matters over the Internet.

FBI Special Agent Jennifer Morrow, writing in her arrest warrant in March, said that investigators had been able to track down the girl that Haynes had been communicating with as “Katie.”

The girl said that when she was 13, she began emailing with someone she thought was a 16-year-old girl. They discussed sex, and at one point the other girl — actually Haynes — sent her a video that included a naked teenage girl. Investigators were able to find images and videos on Haynes’ computers that had been sent to the girl, whose identity was not revealed in the arrest warrant.

Until his arrest last year, Haynes had served as Simon and Jude’s Parochial Vicar for about one year after having served parishes in Chester, Bucks, Delaware and Montgomery counties. He was ordained in 1985. He was removed from his position at Simon and Jude after his arrest and placed on administrative leave by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

Haynes is represented by Philadelphia attorney Alan J. Tauber of the firm of Lindy & Tauber.

To contact staff writer Michael P. Rellahan call 610-696-1544.









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