News and Press Releases

project safe childhood

catholic priest pleads guilty to producing child pornography

faces at least 15 years in prison for sexual exploitation
of five child victims

August 2, 2012

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – David M. Ketchmark, Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a Roman Catholic priest pleaded guilty in federal court today to producing child pornography.

“Today’s guilty plea required the defendant to publicly admit that he victimized five young children over the course of several years,” Ketchmark said. “Each of Ratigan’s victims is represented in this guilty plea so that each child will receive the justice she deserves. When a sexual predator wears a collar, his crimes impact the entire community. This predator priest will now face tough mandatory penalties for his crimes.”

Shawn Ratigan, 46, of Independence, Mo., a diocesan priest and former pastor or assistant pastor in several area parishes, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Gary A. Fenner to charges contained in an Aug. 9, 2011, federal indictment. 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. He remains in federal custody; a sentencing hearing has not yet been scheduled.

By pleading guilty today, Ratigan admitted that he exploited five child victims to produce sexually explicit pictures of them. The victims ranged in age from two years old to 12 years old at the time of the offenses. The exploitation occurred at several locations – including a church choir loft – over a six-year period of time.

Ratigan pleaded guilty to four counts of producing child pornography and one count of attempting to produce child pornography. Each of those counts involved the sexual exploitation of a separate child victim.

Victim Jane Doe #1

Ratigan admitted that he exploited a 6-year-old minor, identified as Jane Doe #1, to produce an image of child pornography between June 11 and 12, 2005.

Victim Jane Doe #2

Ratigan admitted that he 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.

Victim Jane Doe #3

Ratigan admitted that he took pornographic pictures of his exploitation of a 5-year-old minor, identified as Jane Doe #3, between Sept. 1 and Nov. 1, 2007.

Victim Jane Doe #4

Ratigan admitted that he attempted to produce child pornography by taking 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 admitted that he pulled down the pants of a minor victim, identified as Jane Doe #5, while she was sleeping and took pornographic pictures. This occurred between Aug. 1, 2008, and Sept. 1, 2009, while the victim was eight and nine years old.


Under federal statutes, each count of producing (or attempting to produce) child pornography carries a mandatory minimum penalty of 15 years in federal prison without parole, with a maximum sentence of up to 30 years in federal prison without parole for each count.

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 Cyber Crimes Task Force.

Project Safe Childhood

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 United States 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, please visit . For more information about Internet safety education, please visit and click on the tab "resources."

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