February 04, 2005

Priest's tip led to pastor's arrest in porn case

The Dallas Morning News

08:40 PM CST on Thursday, February 3, 2005

By STEPHANIE SANDOVAL / The Dallas Morning News

GRAND PRAIRIE – While associate priest Jesús Belmontes spoke with Father Matthew Bagert in his office at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Grand Prairie in December, he noticed a reflection from the pastor's computer screen on a glass picture frame behind his desk.

The reflection turned out to be the image of a nude boy. Father Belmontes alerted a Dallas Catholic Diocese official, and his tip ultimately led to the arrest Wednesday of Father Bagert on charges of possession of child pornography, a third-degree felony. He was released on $20,000 bail.

According to Grand Prairie police arrest affidavits, investigators seized Father Bagert's computer Jan. 31 at the church rectory. They found that the hard drive contained "numerous images, sexual and lewd in nature" of naked boys from ages 4 to 14 years old.

Police also seized videotapes and printed materials during the search of the rectory.

The Dallas Catholic Diocese on Wednesday suspended Father Bagert – the pastor of Immaculate Conception since 2001 – pending the outcome of the police investigation.

Father Bagert, 36, could not be reached for comment. But he has retained former Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick McLain, who specialized in prosecuting child exploitation cases.

Posted by kshaw at February 4, 2005 05:34 AM