Allentown Diocese Catholic Priest Pleads Guilty to Child Pornography Charges, but Says Has No Memory of Images
By Morning Call
Laurie Mason Schroeder
June 8, 2017
|John S. Mraz, a former Roman Catholic priest at St. Ann Catholic Church in Emmaus forced to step down after child pornography was discovered on his computer, pleaded guilty Thursday in Lehigh County Court. (APRIL BARTHOLOMEW/THE MORNING CALL)|
A Roman Catholic priest who was forced to step down after child pornography was discovered on his computer pleaded guilty Thursday in Lehigh County Court.
Monsignor John S. Mraz, formerly of St. Ann Catholic Church in Emmaus, told Judge Maria L. Dantos that he didn't remember downloading the child pornography but didn't contest that he possessed it.
"This is the first that I'm hearing a description of the pictures," Mraz said. "I don't recall those types of images, but if they're on the computer, they're there."
Mraz, 67, pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography, criminal use of a communication device and possessing obscene or sexual materials, all felonies. He will be sentenced in about 90 days, following a Megan's Law review.
Under a plea deal, Mraz's minimum sentence will be capped at six months, though he could serve as much as a year in prison.
Mraz's attorney, John Waldron, said the child pornography that his client had was "on the mild side," and emphasized that there was no evidence that Mraz touched any children.
"He viewed these images, yes, but he never attempted to contact any boys or have any sexual contact with boys," Waldron said.
Lehigh County Chief of Prosecution Matthew Falk confirmed that there was no evidence that Mraz touched any children.
Waldron noted that Mraz suffers from numerous health problems. The priest used a walker as he stood before the judge.
Mraz was arrested in September following an investigation that began in August.
According to a criminal complaint:
Images of child pornography were discovered when Mraz asked a parishioner to upgrade his computer the week of July 25. During the upgrade of Mraz's laptop, the unidentified parishioner discovered the computer's recycling bin contained various images of nude males of an unknown age, court records say.
Mraz also requested an upgrade to a second laptop, and the parishioner discovered a file link named "naked little boys," or something similar, the records say. Uncomfortable with what he had found, the parishioner contacted the Allentown Catholic Diocese, which contacted the district attorney's office, according to the records.
Investigators got a search warrant and seized a number of digital devices from the rectory Aug. 19.
According to court records, the devices showed internet searches for "Small Boy Nudes," "handcuffed nude boys" and various other terms suggestive of child pornography. The children in the videos were not identified, police said.
Mraz was later interviewed and admitted using the devices to search for child pornography, court records say.
After charges were filed, Mraz was removed from public ministry and was not allowed to present himself as a priest, the Allentown Diocese announced.
"The Diocese of Allentown will continue to cooperate with authorities on this matter and respects the results of the judicial system," diocese spokesman Matt Kerr said. " ... When the matter was brought to the attention of the diocese, officials immediately notified law enforcement and cooperated completely with the investigation."
Mraz was previously the pastor at Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Northampton until his appointment to St. Ann's in 2008. Records indicate that Mraz was placed in the diocese department of education in 1994 and was a resident priest at the Church of St. Thomas More in Salisbury Township. He also served the diocese in the office for ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue.