project safe childhood
catholic priest indicted for producing child pornography
indictment alleges sexual exploitation of five child victims,
some on church property
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Beth Phillips, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a Roman Catholic priest was indicted by a federal grand jury today for producing and possessing child pornography.
“When a person who has been placed in a position of trust exploits and victimizes children, he victimizes the entire community,” Phillips said. “Today’s indictment sends a strong message that we will not tolerate this criminal behavior.”
Shawn Ratigan, 45, of Independence, Mo., a diocesan priest and former pastor or assistant pastor in several area parishes, was charged in a 13-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Kansas City, Mo. Ratigan was the parish pastor at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Kansas City, Mo., and more recently served as chaplain to the Franciscan Sisters of the Holy Eucharist in Independence.
Today’s indictment charges Ratigan with 11 counts of producing or attempting to produce child pornography. The indictment alleges that Ratigan exploited five minor victims to produce sexually explicit pictures of them. The victims ranged in age from two years old to 12 years old. The exploitation allegedly occurred at several locations – including a church choir loft – over a six-year period of time. Ratigan is also charged with two counts of possessing child pornography.
Victim Jane Doe #1
According to the indictment, Ratigan exploited a 6-year-old minor, identified as Jane Doe #1, to produce an image of child pornography between June 11 and 12, 2005.
On Dec. 14, 2010, while Ratigan resided in St. Patrick’s Parish in Kansas City, Mo., he allegedly possessed a laptop computer containing this same pornographic image of victim Jane Doe #1 that had been taken when she was six years old. Two days later, the computer was turned over to agents for the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.
On Easter Sunday approximately six years after the initial exploitation, the indictment says, when Jane Doe #1 was 12 years old, Ratigan surreptitiously took close-up shots of her crotch area while she was wearing shorts. The pictures were allegedly taken from an angle shooting up between her legs as she was standing. According to the indictment, the pictures were taken on the grounds of the Vincentian Mission House in Independence, Ratigan’s most recent residence, on April 24, 2011.
Victim Jane Doe #2
Ratigan allegedly took pictures as he exploited a 2-year-old minor, identified as Jane Doe #2, to produce child pornography on May 17, 2006, in the buildings of St. Joseph’s Church in Easton, Mo. Between May 22 and May 31, 2006, Ratigan allegedly abused Jane Doe #2 again by taking pornographic pictures of her in the choir loft of St. Joseph’s Church.
When Jane Doe #2 was five years old, Ratigan allegedly took close-up shots underneath her skirt on June 3, 2009. Ratigan also allegedly took at least 40 close-up shots underneath her skirt on the steps in front of St. Joseph’s Church between June 12 and 15, 2009.
Victim Jane Doe #3
Ratigan allegedly took pornographic pictures of his exploitation of a 5-year-old minor, identified as Jane Doe #3, between Sept. 1 and Nov. 1, 2007. Ratigan also allegedly took close-up shots of her pubic area while trying to pull down her pants while she was sleeping between March 1 and 31, 2008.
When Jane Doe #3 was six or seven years old, Ratigan allegedly took pornographic pictures of her between April 9, 2008, and April 5, 2010.
Victim Jane Doe #4
Ratigan allegedly took close-up shots of the crotch area of the bathing suit of a 7-year-old victim, identified as Jane Doe #4, without her knowledge on July 6, 2009.
Victim Jane Doe #5
Ratigan allegedly pulled down the pants of a minor victim, identified as Jane Doe #5, while she was sleeping and took pornographic pictures. According to the indictment, this occurred between Aug. 1, 2008, and Sept. 1, 2009, while the victim was eight and nine years old.
The indictment also alleges that Ratigan was in possession of an external hard drive between Jan. 1 and 15, 2011, that contained pornographic images of minor victims.
Under federal statutes, each count of producing child pornography carries a mandatory minimum penalty of 15 years in federal prison without parole, up to 30 years in federal prison without parole. The penalty for possessing child pornography is up to 10 years in federal prison.
Phillips cautioned that the charges contained in this indictment are simply accusations, and not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting the charges must be presented to a federal trial jury, whose duty is to determine guilt or innocence.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Katharine Fincham. It was investigated by the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department and the FBI CyberCrimes Task Force.
Project Safe Childhood
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.