Priest Shawn Ratigan Pleads Guilty in Child Porn Case

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Catholic priest Shawn F. Ratigan changed his plea to guilty in a child pornography case on Thursday, and prosecutors say that they want to make sure he stays behind bars for the rest of his life.

Ratigan, 46, who formerly worked at a church in the Northland, pleaded guilty to four counts of producing child pornography and one count of attempted production of child pornography in a Kansas City federal courtroom on Thursday afternoon.

He had previously pleaded non-guilty to the charges. In exchange for changing his plea, prosecutors agreed to drop seven other charges.

The crimes first came to light when a computer technician found sexually-explicit images of children on Ratigan's computer.

"When a defendant wears a religious collar and has the trust of the community engages in conduct of this nature, his crimes are more devastating and reprehensible," said acting U.S. Attorney David Ketchmark.

Ketchmark says that his office will recommend the maximum sentence - 15-30 years for each count of the five counts to be served consecutively. Ratigan still faces child porn charges in state court.

"Our recommendation will be a virtual life sentence to make sure he doesn`t harm another child," said Ketchmark.

Attorney Rebecca Randles, who represents some of the victim's families in the civil case against Ratigan, says that she was glad for the plea agreement, which means that victim's won't have to take the witness stand.

"They all has the willingness to see this through to a trial, but we`re talking about very young little children," said Randles.

Mike Hunter with SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, says that he's glad that Ratigan's victims will receive some justice.

"For many of us, we didn`t come out soon enough and people don`t believe us," said Hunter. "And in this case there was little doubt."

released a statement on Wednesday. It read in part: "If Fr. Ratigan pleads guilty, several suffering families will be spared the trauma of a trial."

In a statement released on Wednesday, SNAP said, "tomorrow’s outcome is not the end of this tragedy. It’s still important for victims, witnesses and whistle-blowers to come forward."

Ratigan, who is still officially a Catholic priest but who is no longer practicing, is set to be sentenced following the completion of a pre-sentencing report. There is no word on when that might be complete.

The Ratigan case also led to criminal charges against the Kansas City-St. Joseph Catholic Diocese and Bishop Robert Finn, who are accused of failing to report the suspected abuse for months after first learning about it. That trial is set to start in September.

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