William Vatterott, a Roman Catholic priest from St. Louis, was indicted yesterday on a federal child-pornography charge -- and could ultimately face ten years in prison and fines of up to $25,000.
Vatterott, 36, will appear in federal court later this week or early next week to respond to the indictment, the U.S. attorney's office says in a statement.
He was placed on administrative leave in 2011 after a complaint was filed with the Ballwin police. He had allegedly been involved in an underage-drinking incident -- and was accused of "inappropriate conduct."
The indictment says that he possessed "at least two images of an unidentified nude boy on his computer" between June 2010 and June 2011.
In a July 2011 statement, Monsignor Richard Hanneke said that the Archdiocese of St. Louis had recently learned complaints of "inappropriate conduct" involving Vatterott:
More specifically, two teenagers reported incidents of inappropriate electronic communications received from Fr. Vatterott. Additionally, one teenager, who was 18 years old at the time, reported an incident involving underage drinking and other inappropriate behaviors. None of the reported complaints involved physical contact or solicitation of any sort. We are aware that these reports have been presented to law enforcement for investigation. As a result of these complaints, Fr. Vatterott has been placed on administrative leave while this matter is being investigated.
Vaterott, that statement said, had served as a pastor of St. Cecilia Parish since January of 2008 and prior to that was an associate pastor at Holy Infant Parish in Ballwin.
In the announcement of the indictment yesterday, U.S. Attorney Richard Callahan stated the St. Louis Archdiocese has cooperated with the investigation. But David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP), questions just how forthcoming the archdiocese has been. He suggests church leaders knew about the child pornography back in 2011 but chose instead to sugarcoat it.
"We hope that someday Catholic officials will stop using euphemisms like 'inappropriate conduct' and 'boundary violations' and start being more honest," said Clohessy in a statement today. "It's hard to believe they are trying to reforming when they deliberately use vague minimizing words for these heinous crimes."
Yesterday the archdiocese released this short new statement, saying:
The Archdiocese of St. Louis has learned that Fr. William Vatterott, who had been the Pastor at St. Cecilia Parish in St. Louis and previously an Associate Pastor at Holy Infant in Ballwin, has been charged with possession of child pornography.
Fr. Vatterott has been on administrative leave from St. Cecilia Parish since June of 2011, when the archdiocese was made aware of these allegations. Since that time, the archdiocese has fully cooperated with the investigation conducted by law enforcement and the U.S. Attorney's office.
The Archdiocese of St. Louis encourages all persons with reports of misconduct with a minor involving a member of the clergy or other church personnel to contact Deacon Phil Hengen, Director of Child and Youth Protection, at 314.792.7704 or the Missouri Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 800.392.3737 or law enforcement officials.
Continue on to view the full indictment from U.S. Attorney's Office.
St. Louis, MO - A federal grand jury returned an indictment late this afternoon charging Father William F. Vatterott, 36, of St. Louis, 63111, with possession of child pornography between June 2010 and June 2011. He is expected to appear in federal court to answer the indictment later in the week or early next week.
U.S. Attorney Richard Callahan noted that the St. Louis Archdiocese cooperated with the investigation.
If convicted, this charge carries a maximum penalty of ten years in prison and/or fines up to $250,000. In determining the actual sentences, a judge is required to consider the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which provide recommended sentencing ranges.
This case was investigated by the Missouri Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and an investigator for the U.S. Attorney's Office. Assistant United States Attorney Rob Livergood is handling the case for the U.S. Attorney's Office.
As is always the case, charges set forth in an indictment are merely accusations and do not constitute proof of guilt. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty.