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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Missouri

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Catholic Priest Sentenced to 50 Years for Producing Child Porn

Project Safe Childhood


KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a Roman Catholic priest was sentenced in federal court today for producing child pornography.

“This sexual predator victimized five young children over a period of almost six years,” Dickinson said. “He violated his religious vows, betrayed the trust of his parishioners and shocked the entire community. He deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison for his deliberate, planned and chronic child sexual abuse. Today’s sentence of 50 years without parole, a virtual life sentence, is a just outcome to protect our children and our community from this predator priest.”

Shawn Ratigan, 47, of Independence, Mo., a diocesan priest and former pastor or assistant pastor in several area parishes, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Gary A. Fenner to 50 years in federal prison without parole. Ratigan was the parish pastor at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Kansas City, Mo., and worked at St. Mary’s Church in St. Joseph, Mo., and St. Joseph’s Church in Easton, Mo. More recently, he served as chaplain to the Franciscan Sisters of the Holy Eucharist in Independence.

On Aug. 2, 2012, 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. 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 over a six-year period of time. Ratigan, at the time a Catholic priest, carried out some of these victimizations in and around a church. Others he carried out in trusted environments under the noses of the victims’ parents.

Victim Jane Doe #1

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

According to court documents, Ratigan again took photos of this victim with his cell phone in April 2011 and downloaded them to his computer while he was living at the Vincentian House. Ratigan surreptitiously took photographs of the crotch area of the child when she visited him at the Vincentian House on Easter Sunday (April 24, 2011).

Victim Jane Doe #2

Ratigan admitted that he took pictures as he exploited a 2-year-old child, identified as Jane Doe #2, to produce child pornography on May 17, 2006. These photographs were taken in the choir loft of St. Joseph’s Church in Easton.

Victim Jane Doe #3

Ratigan admitted that he took pornographic pictures of his exploitation of a 5-year-old child, identified as Jane Doe #3, between Sept. 1 and Nov. 1, 2007. Ratigan had sexual contact with this victim.

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 child victim, identified as Jane Doe #5, while she was sleeping at her home and took pornographic pictures. This occurred between Aug. 1, 2008, and Sept. 1, 2009, while the victim was eight and nine years old.

Additional Photos

In addition to the specific offenses to which Ratigan pleaded guilty, a review of his cell phone after it was confiscated by police indicates that Ratigan also took surreptitious non-sexual photos of prepubescent girls on several occasions. In addition to the Easter Sunday photos of Jane Doe #1, Ratigan took photos of young girls in bathing suits as early as February or March 2011 and at a grocery store in April 2011. During this time period, a few members of Ratigan’s family caught him with a camera, which he had used to take pictures of a girls’ gymnastics program as it was being shown on television.

Ratigan was under written contract with his bishop during the time not to have any contact with minors, not to take pictures of minors and not to possess a computer. Ratigan nevertheless had multiple contacts with children, such as attending a St. Patrick’s Day Parade, attending a birthday party for a child at the child’s house and accessing Facebook sites. Ratigan took hundreds, if not thousands, of non-sexual photos of prepubescent girls.

This case was 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 www.usdoj.gov/psc . For more information about Internet safety education, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc and click on the tab "resources."
Updated January 16, 2015