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The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

SNAP Press Statement

For immediate release: Monday, April 13, 2009

Priest pleads guilty to child porn; Sex abuse victims respond

Statement by Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, Outreach Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 862 7688 home, 314 503 0003 cell)

We're grateful that Bagert has admitted his guilt, but worry that unless he's jailed for a long time, he may have easier access to kids now that he's married.

We desperately hope that others who saw, suspected or suffered crimes or misdeeds by Bagert come forward to law enforcement now, so that a strong case can be made to a judge that Bagert be locked up for years.

Like many sexually troubled priests, we strongly suspect that Bagert is smart and will seem contrite in court. Many predatory priests are savvy and articulate and very persuasive in their claims to have 'reformed.' They often get very light sentences, only to eventually re-offend. Let's hope that doesn't happen here. It's likely Bagert has committed other sex crimes for which he could still be prosecuted. But that will only happen if other victims and witnesses find the strength to speak up now. This is the time for honesty and compassion, not for fear and complacency.

Please, if you have any other information about Bagert's inappropriate actions, please call police immediately.

(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the nation’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We've been around since 1988 and have more than 9,000 members across the country. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)

Contact David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, 314-645-5915 home), Peter Isely (414-429-7259) Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747), Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688)


http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/latestnews/stories/041409dnmetexpriestplea.cfaaef44.html

Former Grand Prairie priest pleads guilty to downloading child porn on church computer

01:30 PM CDT on Monday, April 13, 2009 -

By JASON TRAHAN / The Dallas Morning News - jtrahan@dallasnews.com

A former Grand Prairie priest has pleaded guilty to downloading child pornography on a church computer in 2005.

Matthew Bagert, 40, was indicted in November for downloading four sexually explicit photos of boys. His plea agreement was filed Friday in Dallas federal court. He faces up to 10 years in prison, up to a $250,000 fine and possibly a lifetime of supervised release. His sentencing date has not been set.

Bagert was initially charged under state laws in Dallas County district court. But in 2006 the case was dismissed because a judge ruled that a fellow priest and a deacon at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Grand Prairie broke the law when they searched Bagert's church computer without his consent.

State prosecutors turned the case over to the U.S. attorney’s office in Dallas, which filed federal charges.

According to court files, the Rev. Jesus Belmontes, an associate priest, said that he first saw what he thought was a questionable image on Bagert’s computer in December 2004 but that he wasn’t sure it was pornography.

Father Belmontes said that after attending a church workshop on recognizing and reporting sexual abuse in January 2005, he became concerned and decided to sneak into Bagert’s office to search his computer because he feared making a false claim against his colleague.

The next day, Father Belmontes and deacon David Maida returned and videotaped the images they found. Grand Prairie police later executed a search warrant and arrested Bagert based on the images they found.

After the state case was dropped in 2006, Bagert was indicted in November 2008 and surrendered to federal authorities. He was put on supervised release awaiting trial, which was scheduled for next month.

Bagert has left the priesthood and recently worked as a traveling installer for hotel energy management systems. He is now married.


Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
www.snapnetwork.org