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Press Release

Retired St. Louis Priest Sentenced to 5 Years in Prison for Possessing Child Pornography

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Missouri

ST. LOUIS – U.S. District Judge Matthew T. Schelp on Tuesday sentenced a retired St. Louis priest who created PowerPoint presentations containing child pornography to five years in prison.

Judge Schelp also ordered James T. Beighlie, 72, to pay $4,750 in restitution to one of the victims portrayed in the child pornography, and $22,000 in special assessments that will go towards other victims of crimes involving children. After his release from prison, he will be on supervised release for life.

Beighlie possessed 6,000 images containing child sexual abuse material on one computer, including about 3,000 images containing child pornography and 2,992 images of child erotica. Beighlie created two PowerPoint presentations with graphic titles that linked to thousands of the images, and often visited and edited the presentations over a period of years. Another computer had 236 images and 40 videos containing child sexual abuse material.

“It’s depressing and sickening to know that people were looking at images and videos of my online sexual abuse when I was a little girl and that they were getting pleasure from it – my abuse,” wrote one of the victims in a letter to Judge Schelp.

Beighlie had been looking at child sexual abuse material since at least 2008, Assistant U.S. Attorney Colleen Lang said in court, and revised his PowerPoint presentations more than 200 times. “This criminal conduct was part of his daily life,” Lang said.

On May 17, 2021, while he was working at the Congregation of the Mission in St. Louis, colleagues found compromising images of Beighlie on a church printer.

The church launched an internal investigation. When a private IT support company found what appeared to be videos of minors engaging in sex acts, an attorney for the church contacted the FBI.

Beighlie pleaded guilty in October to two counts of possession of child pornography.

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Colleen Lang is prosecuting the case.

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 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the Department of Justice Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, 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

Updated January 10, 2023

Project Safe Childhood