Child Porn on Internet Puts Priest in Prison

By Dan Herbeck
Buffalo News
March 12, 2005

A Catholic priest arrested a year ago in his Varysburg rectory was sentenced Friday to three years and one month in federal prison for viewing child pornography over the Internet.

Rodney O. Personius, the attorney representing the Rev. Fred D. Ingalls, 56, said his client suffers from an "unfortunate addiction" to images of naked children.

Ingalls, who has been a priest for 30 years, was removed as pastor of St. Joseph Church in February 2004 after federal agents seized 144 images of child pornography from his computer in the church rectory.

"I would like to express my deep regret for what I've done," the soft-spoken priest, dressed in non-clerical garb, told U.S. District Judge John T. Elfvin. "I'm sorry."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Martin J. Littlefield had asked for a longer sentence, arguing that some of the seized images showed prepubescent children undergoing "sadistic and masochistic" abuse by adults. But the judge turned down the request.

Ingalls began looking at child pornography because he was a lonely alcoholic overwhelmed by the pressures of life, Personius said. He said Ingalls has made "excellent progress" over the past year at a Maryland counseling center for troubled priests.

Ingalls used a credit card to access eight Web sites featuring child pornography, according to agents from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau of the Homeland Security Department. Authorities said Ingalls was accused only of viewing the images. He never has been accused of molesting children.

"He was clinically depressed, he was drinking, and he started to experiment with this kind of material," Personius said of Ingalls. "In today's society, sex is all around us. It's an enormous danger, and he was not immune. I'm not sure that exceedingly hard criminal penalties for the users is the right way to deal with the problem."

Personius said that, according to his understanding, Ingalls never again can serve in any Catholic ministry where he would be dealing with the public. A spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo said Ingalls was "unlikely" to serve as a priest again.

Bishop Edward U. Kmiec issued a brief statement saying, "It is my hope and prayer that this sad day will not overshadow Father Ingalls' years of good and faithful service as a priest of our diocese."

As Ingalls left the courtroom, Elfvin, who had followed advisory guidelines in imposing the sentence, pointed at him and said, "Stay away from the booze!"


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