Crime & Courts

Former Fairbanks priest pleads guilty to soliciting and paying for child porn

Clint Landry, formerly a priest with the Catholic Diocese of Fairbanks, pleaded guilty to a single count of attempted coercion and enticement of a minor for messaging contacts in the Philippines and wiring cash for child pornography, according to a federal plea agreement.

According to Ronnie Rosenberg, the diocese's human resources and legal coordinator, Landry entered his plea Thursday morning at the federal courthouse in Fairbanks.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kyle Reardon did not immediately return a call for comment Thursday.

Landry, 58, was placed on administrative leave and suspended from his ministerial duties on May 23, 2014, after "revelations of Internet computer misconduct," the diocese said in a release. Landry served as the parish priest for Fairbanks' largest Catholic congregation, Sacred Heart Cathedral.

A plea agreement filed Wednesday outlined an investigation that began when a diocese custodian found an open email on a public computer at Landry's employer-provided living space.

Prosecutors say the email contained a sexually explicit image of a 13-year-old girl; the email recipient was Landry.

The custodian told her supervisor, and the diocese did a computer search that turned up "multiple sexually explicit instant messages (IM) between the defendant and others," according to the plea agreement.

In messages dated May 18, 2014, Landry communicated with a teenage boy in the Philippines, the agreement says. During the online chat, Landry and the boy negotiated how much money Landry would send in exchange for a live transmission of child pornography.

Landry communicated with at least seven email accounts in the Philippines between June 4 and Aug. 7, 2013, "for the purpose of viewing live video of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct," the agreement says.

The attempted-coercion charge carries penalties of no less than 10 years in prison, five years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine. An additional charge of attempted production of child pornography was dismissed as part of the plea deal.

Rosenberg said the diocese reconfigured its priests' assignments after Landry's arrest.

"We always need more priests. That's an ongoing need out here," she said.

Bishop Chad Zielinski decided Landry would not resume ministry or any kind of employment within the diocese, and the former priest will not be permitted to live on church property, Rosenberg said.

She added that the diocese could not have foreseen Landry's actions, as he lacked apparent psychological issues and a criminal background.

"There was no way we could've predicted," she said. "All of our priests in the diocese undergo interviews, background checks and provide reference letters. This is not something we anticipated, but it's something that does occur in society, not just the church."

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