OTTAWA – A disgraced Roman Catholic bishop betrayed little emotion Thursday as a court was told his laptop contained hundreds of pornographic images of young boys — including photos of torture.
The 71-year-old cleric pleaded guilty in May to importing child pornography and voluntarily went to jail to begin serving time even before a formal sentencing.
A second charge of simple possession remains against Lahey, but it is expected to be withdrawn as part of the plea deal when he is formally sentenced later this year.
Close to 600 photos, mostly of young teen boys, were found on Lahey’s Toshiba laptop and a handheld device when he was stopped at the Ottawa International Airport in September 2009.
An Ottawa police detective told the court Thursday that the images ranged from soft-core nude shots to far more gruesome photos.
“Some of them were quite graphic,” Det. Andrew Thompson said. “There were images of nude boys, but there were also torture and stuff like that.”
As Thompson answered questions from the witness stand about the contents of Lahey’s laptop, the bishop sat quietly, his right hand trembling slightly as he ran his index finger along his mouth, chin and the cleft between his nose and upper lip.
He was dressed in a grey sport coat, khaki pants and a tan shirt with the top few buttons undone. He wore glasses and his grey hair was neatly combed and gelled.
Lahey’s lawyers argued that the bishop may not have seen every image stored on his laptop’s hard drive, since some of the pictures may have come from pop-up windows he never actually looked at.
They also tried to make the case that the 588 images of child porn were just a small fraction of the 155,000 or so photos on his computer. Thompson said. They also discovered that the bishop came across many of the images by typing the keyword “twink” into a search engine. The court heard the term is associated with hairless, adult males and is sometimes used within the gay community.
Among the contents of Lahey’s laptop were pornographic stories about children which, like some of the photos, depicted torture. A character in one of the stories, entitled “The Masturbation Chronicles,” shares Lahey’s name, Father Raymond. It was not clear if that tale involves torture.
Thompson told the court some content on Lahey’s laptop ranked among the worst he has seen during the course of what he estimates are between 50 and 300 child-porn cases.
“They’re right up there,” he said. “I mean, it doesn’t depict infants but the explicit images of torture are disturbing.”
A support group for clergy-abuse victims called the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests urged the judge to give Lahey a tough sentence.
“We urge the magistrate presiding over this sentencing hearing to give Lahey a stiff sentence and send a message to pedophile clerics in Canada and abroad that child abuse will not be tolerated,” the group said in a release.
“Kids are safest when child predators are jailed, so we sincerely hope that Lahey is put behind bars, and we urge anyone who was a member of the Antigonish diocese who saw, suspected, or suffered these crimes to come forward and tell their story to civil — not church — authorities. Please remember that there is no greater weapon for a pedophile than silence.”
Lahey is scheduled to return to court in December. His lawyer, Michael Edelson, has asked the judge to reschedule that appearance for an earlier date