Thursday, May 24, 2012

Priest Pleads Guilty to Child Exploitation Charges

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, 2011.

“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 case.

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 visit

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