Category Archives: Father Matthew Bagert
Former Catholic priest in Grand Prairie gets prison in child porn case
by JASON TRAHAN / The Dallas Morning News
Posted on December 1, 2009 at 4:22 PM
A former Catholic priest in Grand Prairie who pleaded guilty to downloading hundreds of pornographic images of children on a church computer in 2005 was sentenced to more than four years in prison on Tuesday.
U.S. District Judge Sam Lindsay also ordered that Matthew Bagert, 40, remain on supervised release for three years after getting out of prison. He will likely have to register as a sex offender for life, officials said.
Bagert, who lives in Richardson, is to report to prison on Jan. 19.
He was indicted in federal court last fall, accused of downloading sexually explicit photos of nude boys. He pleaded guilty in April.
Prosecutors say more than 600 pornographic images were found on Bagert’s computer at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Grand Prairie. Bagert told investigators he had been viewing child porn since he was a priest at St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church in Plano in 1997.
Before Lindsay imposed sentence, Bagert — who is married and has a 9-month-old son — told the judge he was receiving treatment for his urge to view child porn and deserved probation. He has never been charged with molesting children.
“I’ve worked to understand why I was attracted to pictures of young boys,” he said, saying it was a product of his being pushed into the priesthood by his parents and being pressured into a sexual relationship by a male mentor in the seminary.
“I know what I did was wrong. I’ve learned how to live as a mature and integrated man.”
After hearing from Bagert, his wife and a psychologist who evaluated him and found him to be progressing well, Lindsay was not convinced probation was adequate.
“You are artfully suave — in common parlance, you’re smooth,” Lindsay told Bagert. “I am not convinced you have changed as much as you say you have. It’s not uncommon for individuals to change once they’re in trouble with the law.”I have a difficult time, given your problems with sexuality, believing that you could ‘turn it off’ and not be inclined to continue what you were doing.”
Bagert was initially charged under state laws in Dallas County district court. But in 2006, that case was dismissed because a judge ruled that a fellow priest and a deacon at Immaculate Conception broke the law when they searched Bagert’s church computer without his consent.
The criminal code that the state judge based his ruling on does not extend to federal law, however, and 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 at Immaculate Conception, 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.
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, Belmontes and deacon David Maida returned and videotaped the images. 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 has been on supervised released ever since.
Bagert has left the priesthood and works as a traveling installer for hotel energy management systems.