A Roman Catholic priest pleaded guilty in federal court to charges of violating federal child sexual exploitation laws, United States Attorney David J. Hickton announced today.
Bartley Sorensen, 63, pleaded guilty before United States District Judge Alan
N. Bloch to receiving and possessing visual depictions of minors engaged in
sexually explicit conduct.
In connection with the guilty plea, the court was advised that Sorensen, a
priest at St. John Fisher Church in Churchill, received and possessed many
images of minors being sexually abused between June 2011 and December 9,
“This case is particularly disturbing because it involves a priest, a man in
a position of great trust, viewing horrific and degrading images of children,”
U.S. Attorney Hickton said. “Consumers of these violent sexual images fuel the
production of more images, and the demand for increasingly extreme content. This
is not a ‘victimless’ crime.”
Judge Bloch scheduled sentencing for September 3, 2012 at 12:30 p.m. The law
provides for a total sentence of at least five years and up to 30 years in
prison, a fine of up to $500,000, or both. Under the Federal Sentencing
Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed is based upon the seriousness of the
offenses and the criminal history, if any, of the defendant.
Judge Bloch ordered the defendant be detained pending sentencing.
Assistant United States Attorney Craig W. Haller is prosecuting this case on
behalf of the United States.
The Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office, the Allegheny County Police
Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Churchill Police
Department conducted the investigation leading to the conviction in this
This case is a product of Project Safe Childhood. Launched in February 2006,
Project Safe Childhood is a nationwide initiative designed to protect children
from sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the
Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section of the Department of Justice, Project
Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to better locate,
apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children, as well as identify
and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please
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