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St. John Fisher Priest Sentenced to 8 Years in Prison for Possessing Pornographic Images of Children

The Rev. Bartley Sorensen, who led the Churchill parish, was also fined $25,000.

A suspended Catholic priest once assigned to St. Anne Church in Castle Shannon was sentenced Wednesday in federal court for violating federal child sexual exploitation laws.

U.S. District Judge Alan N. Bloch sentenced Bartley Sorensen, 63, to serve 97 months in prison followed by five years of supervised release for receiving and possessing thousands of visual depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

Sorensen was also ordered to pay a $25,000 fine, according to U.S. Attorney David J. Hickton.

On Dec. 9, 2011, a parish employee observed Sorensen viewing an image on the screen of his computer of a young boy wearing nothing but a shirt. The employee promptly reported what she observed to the Catholic Child Abuse Hotline.

Search warrants were later served at the rectory that resulted in the seizure of, among other things, more than 100 CDs, most of which were loaded with thousands of images of children being sexually abused, including one that depicted a nude male child with a rope around his genitals and what appeared to be blood on his genitals.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig W. Haller prosecuted the case on behalf of the United States. Hickton commended the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office, the Allegheny County Police Department, the FBI and the Churchill Borough Police Department for the investigation leading to the conviction and sentence in this case.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the U.S. Attorneys' Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims.

For more information about Project Safe Childhood, click here.

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