Posted on: 7:46 am, September 12, 2013
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — One year after Roman Catholic Priest Shawn Ratigan pleaded guilty to producing child porn, a federal judge handed down his sentence — 50 years in federal prison, no chance for parole.
The argument before the judge Thursday was how much time Ratigan’s crimes deserved. The defense argued that 15 years was reasonable, saying Ratigan is not the worst of child predators, and that he deserves a chance at freedom to redeem himself.
The prosecution pushed for 50 years, saying the defense’s own expert said hands-on offenders are at a much higher risk to re-offend. In the federal courtroom, Ratigan sat stoically, shackled at his hands and feet, wearing a prison issued jumpsuit.
It was an image in stark contrast from what prosecutors said was known to his victims. To them, Ratigan was a friend and trusted priest in clerical clothes.
“The victim’s parents spoke and it was heart wrenching to hear what they had to say and I think the judge’s sentence clearly reflected the anguish of those victims,” said Tammy Dickinson, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, whose office oversaw the case.
An attempt at revealing Ratigan’s true identity was presented by both sides. The prosecution painted the 47-year-old as arrogant, bold and a liar, with an incurable obsession with young girls. An offender that prosecutors said deserved 50 years in prison.
“It ensures that he will never prey on another child victim again,” Dickinson said after the sentencing.
The defense told the judge 50 years is a death sentence and said Ratigan served the community well before his “breakdown” as they called it.
The attorney for three of Ratigan’s five victims, Rebecca Randals, didn’t see it that way.
“The Bible tells us there are sins of thought and there are sins of act and he chose to act. And so when they say he has personality disorders, he’s been depressed, there are millions of people that have personality disorders and are depressed and do not act by victimizing children,” said Randals.
Ratigan’s attorneys said they believe Ratigan is cured.
Ratigan himself spoke briefly; he said words cannot express his sorrow to his victims and their families. He also told the judge “prison is hell and I know I deserve 15 years, but 50 years, I don’t think so,” Ratigan said as he stood before the judge.
Ratigan also said, “I know God has forgiven me and I know my soul is in good shape.”
The judge said Ratigan abused his authority, betrayed his church, himself and the victims and said 50 years is reasonable for the crime. Ratigan will be 97 years old when his sentence runs out.
Shawn Ratigan, Priest, Sentenced To 50 Years For Child Porn
The Huffington Post
12 September 2013 07:20 PM ET EDT
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A Kansas City-area priest whose case led to a criminal conviction against his bishop will likely spend the rest of his life in a federal prison after being sentenced to 50 years on Thursday for producing or trying to produce child pornography.
The Rev. Shawn Ratigan pleaded guilty in August of last year to five counts – one for each of his five young victims. He was charged in May 2011 after police received a flash drive from his computer containing hundreds of images of children, most of them clothed, with the focus on their crotch areas.
Ratigan, 47, apologized to his victims and their families before learning his punishment and asked the judge for the statutory minimum sentence of 15 years for each count, with the terms to all run at the same time.
“Prison is hell,” Ratigan said. “I know I deserve 15 years, but 50 years? Come on, I don’t think so.”
His public defender, Robert Kuchar, argued that Ratigan’s offenses weren’t as bad as those of other child pornographers whose photos are more graphic and often include images of the victims participating in sexual acts.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Katharine Fincham described Ratigan as a serial sex offender who was arrogant and had a sense of entitlement he thought would keep him from getting caught. She said he deserved the long sentence because he violated the trust of his victims and their families by using his position as a clergyman to get close enough to them to take illicit photos of the children.
A computer technician working on Ratigan’s laptop in December 2010 found hundreds of troubling images of young girls and reported it to officials with the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. Instead of turning the photos over to police or reporting suspicions about Ratigan, Bishop Robert Finn sent him away for psychiatric evaluation and later ordered him to stay at a convent where he could say Mass for the sisters and stay away from children.
The photos were given to police in May 2011 after Ratigan violated Finn’s orders.
Jackson County prosecutors charged Finn and the diocese in October 2011 with one misdemeanor charge each of failing to report suspected child abuse, because of the five-month delay between when the photos were found on Ratigan’s computer and when the diocese reported him to police.
Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said Finn and the diocese were required under state law to report the discovery to police because the images gave them reason to believe a child had been abused.
Finn was convicted of one count last September and sentenced to two years of supervised probation. The charge against the diocese was dropped.
If Finn abides by a set of stipulations from the judge, his conviction will be wiped from his record next year.
On Thursday, parents of one of Ratigan’s victims said a 50-year sentence was sufficient so that he will never be able to harm the children again.
“We witnessed our outgoing, vibrant little girl become depressed, withdrawn, anxious,” her mother said, sobbing at times. “She’s too scared now to trust anyone of authority.”
Complaints against Ratigan, who was ordained in 2004 at the age of 38, began piling up in 2009 as parents became concerned he was spending too much time with children and taking too many photos of the youths while they played and participated in church events.
A May 19, 2010, letter from St. Patrick School Principal Julie Hess mentioned how several people had complained that Ratigan was taking compromising photos of children and allowed them to sit on his lap and reach into his pocket for candy.
Vicar General Robert Murphy, who received the letter, spoke with Ratigan about setting boundaries with children, then gave a summary to the bishop. Finn later acknowledged that Murphy had briefed him on the memo, but he didn’t read it until a year later.
The diocese issued a statement on behalf of Finn after Ratigan’s sentencing, apologizing for the priest’s actions and saying many steps have been taken to protect children since his arrest.
“To victims of abuse, their families and the community at large, I renew my heartfelt apology and firm pledge to make our Catholic institutions second to none in the protection of children and the vulnerable,” Finn said in the statement.
Kuchar said he plans to appeal Ratigan’s sentence.
Shawn Ratigan, who doesn’t like prison much, gets to spend 50 years there
The Pitch Blogs
12 September 2913
Posted by Steve Vockrodt
Shawn Ratigan spent part of his freedom using his role as a priest in the Catholic Church to help him victimize five young children.
Given that he’s 47 years old, his 50-year sentence handed down on Thursday means that he has probably seen the last of life outside the four walls of a prison cell. The disgraced priest has no opportunity for parole.
The Independence man was the parish pastor at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Kansas City as well as St. Mary’s Church in St. Joseph and St. Joseph’s in Easton, Missouri. He admitted guilt in 2012 to several child-pornography-related charges brought about by his habit of taking sexually explicit photos of young children, who ranged in age from 2 to 12, after gaining their trust as a member of the church. Beyond the five victims prosecutors know about, Ratigan was also found to be taking surreptitious nonsexual photos of young children in their bathing suits and at places like the grocery store.
According to The Kansas City Star, Ratigan asked federal judge Gary Fenner to think about handing him a 15-year sentence. It turns out he doesn’t care for spending time in prison.
“I hope that you won’t sentence me to a life of hell on earth,” Ratigan said, according to the Star. “Prison is hell, and I know I deserve 15 years. But 50 years? Come on, I don’t think so.”
Hell on earth it is for Ratigan. He tried to escape his fate with a suicide attempt in 2010, but succeeded only in leaving behind an incriminating suicide note.
Ratigan’s case was a major one among the many child sexual-exploitation cases involving priests and pastors in the Catholic Church, and the church’s subsequent efforts to cover it up. Ratigan’s case led to the first prosecution of a bishop, in this case Robert Finn, for not going to authorities when he learned of the priest’s predilection toward young girls. Finn was convicted and was sentenced to two years of probation.