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Philadelphia priest to plead guilty to possessing child pornography

Date: August 27, 2004
Source: Computer Crime Research Center
By: Robert T DeMarco

According to federal court documents, the Rev. Matthew J. Kornacki, 57, will admit that he ordered computer disks containing images of children involved in sexual activity and that he had 150 images of child pornography on his personal laptop computer.

Source Philadelphia INQUIRER



A veteran Philadelphia Roman Catholic priest ensnared last year in a New York-based federal probe of child pornography will plead guilty tomorrow to a count of possession.



According to federal court documents, the Rev. Matthew J. Kornacki, 57, will admit that he ordered computer disks containing images of children involved in sexual activity and that he had 150 images of child pornography on his personal laptop computer, seized by Secret Service agents at a visit last year at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood.



Assistant U.S. Attorney Kenya Mann confirmed that Kornacki will plead guilty before U.S. District Judge R. Barclay Surrick.



"This is very unfortunate, this is a very nice man," said Francis Recchuiti, Kornacki's attorney. "He has never been involved in any of this other stuff. He wasn't trafficking. He ordered it once, destroyed it and didn't realize it was still on his computer hard drive."



Kornacki's trial was to have begun tomorrow, but earlier this month he lost a crucial pre-trial challenge of the legality of government evidence, including his statements to federal agents.



In addition to pleading guilty to the one-count indictment on which he was charged in May, Kornacki will forfeit the laptop.



Mann said Kornacki faces a likely 30- to 37-month prison term under federal sentencing guidelines.



Kornacki, who served in five city and four suburban Roman Catholic parishes in 31 years as a priest, was removed from active ministry after the July 16, 2003, interview by Secret Service agents working with New York City police detectives.

Since then, Kornacki has lived at the St. John Vianney Center in Downingtown, a church-run facility for priests undergoing psychological counseling.



Prosecution documents filed in connection with Kornacki's plea give the first details of how agents were led to Kornacki, then assistant director of the seminary's Department of Continuing Formation for diocesan priests and director of its spiritual-year programs.



The New York task force began its probe of Internet child pornography trafficking in August 2001, the documents say, and agents bought a computer disk containing child pornography from an online website.



Agents then subpoenaed website operators for a list of everyone who used wire transfers to order copies of the disk. Among the customers, the documents say, was Kornacki, whose address at the Wynnewood seminary was on the wire transfer.

Agents visited the seminary last July to meet with Kornacki. At first the priest denied ordering the disks; he later admitted ordering them but told agents he felt guilty and destroyed the CDs.



Kornacki also admitted downloading child pornography online on his laptop computer and signed a consent letting the agents seize and search the computer, the documents say.



Court documents say a search of the laptop's hard drive revealed 2,100 images, copies of which were sent to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The center identified 150 as child pornography, including images of 31 known victims.



Contact staff writer Joseph A. Slobodzian at 215-854-2658 or jslobodzian@phillynews.com



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