News and Press Releases

Roman Catholic Priest Charged With Possession, Receipt Of Child Pornography

January 4, 2012

PITTSBURGH, Pa. - A Roman Catholic Priest has been indicted by a federal grand jury in Pittsburgh for violating federal child sexual exploitation laws, United States Attorney David J. Hickton announced today.

The two-count indictment, returned on Jan. 3, 2012, and unsealed today, names Bartley Sorensen, 62, as the sole defendant.

According to the indictment, Sorensen, from June 2011 to Dec. 9, 2011, received, possessed, and accessed with intent to view visual depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

The law provides for a maximum total sentence of at least five years and up to 20 years in prison, a fine of $250,000, or both.  Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed would be based upon the seriousness of the offense and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.

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 indictment in this case.

According to Mr. Hickton, Sorensen is a Catholic Priest who had been assigned to St. John Fisher in Churchill.  The initial report in this case came from a church employee and was reported to law enforcement by the Diocese of Pittsburgh.  The investigation into this case continues and is being conducted jointly by the United States Attorney's Office, the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

"Protecting children from exploitation is a top priority of this office and we are particularly concerned when a child predator is in a position of trust," said Mr. Hickton. "Anyone with information is asked to call the FBI at 412-432-4000."

Sorensen will make his initial appearance in federal court on Friday, Jan. 6, 2012. State charges pending against Sorensen will be dismissed following his initial appearance. The federal case has been assigned to Senior U.S. District Judge Alan N. Bloch.

Assistant United States Attorney Craig W. Haller is prosecuting this case on behalf of the United States.

An indictment is an accusation.  A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

This case is a product of Project Safe Childhood.  Launched in February2006, 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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