Former priest pleads guilty to viewing child pornography

AP News
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Posted: Jan 04, 2016 4:00 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A former Catholic priest accused of taking inappropriate pictures of students at his school is facing nearly three years in federal prison for viewing child pornography on a computer.

Stephen Pohl pleaded guilty Monday in federal court to one count of accessing child pornography. The 57-year-old was head pastor at St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church, which includes a school campus in eastern Louisville.

Federal prosecutors said they reached a plea deal with Pohl that, if accepted by a judge, would send him to prison for 33 months. Pohl would also be subject to lifelong supervised release after his prison term and would be required to register as a sex offender.

Pohl appeared in U.S. District Court in Louisville dressed in a suit and tie with some family members looking on. After the hearing, he reported to U.S. Marshals to be taken into custody.

The police investigation was spurred by a suspicious student who told his parents he felt "weird" about some photos that Pohl had taken of him that day at school, according to a police affidavit. In it, Louisville Police Det. Dan Jackman wrote that Pohl had told the child "to place his hands on his knees and move his legs apart" for the photos.

The parents of the boy later saw Pohl out shopping in Louisville, confronted him and asked to see the pictures on his cellphone. Pohl handed it over, and the parents found "several photos of other young boys posed in the same manner as" their son, the affidavit said.

Police searched his living quarters at the church on Aug. 12 and found more than 150 photos of children from the school, though none was considered pornographic. Police later recovered child pornography images viewed over the Internet from his computer, the affidavit said.

The Archdiocese of Louisville has suspended Pohl's ministry, meaning he cannot present himself as a Catholic priest. He resigned from St. Margaret Mary on Aug. 20.

Pohl is scheduled to be sentenced before U.S. District Judge David Hale on March 29.