FSSP priest pleads not guilty to federal child pornography charges

Father James Jackson Father James Jackson, FSSP, appearing at a Nov. 15 arraignment before the Rhode Island District Court. | Joe Bukuras/CNA

Father James Jackson pleaded not guilty Dec. 21 to federal charges of distributing child pornography and possessing and accessing with intent to view child pornography.

The Catholic priest, a member of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP), entered the plea remotely via video conference, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Patricia A. Sullivan, sitting in Providence, Rhode Island.

Jackson’s lawyer, John Calcagni III, declined comment after the proceeding.

Jackson, formerly pastor of St. Mary’s Church in Providence, was arrested on Oct. 30 by the Rhode Island State Police after an investigation by a Rhode Island computer crimes task force.

The state police had executed a search warrant that day at the parish and arrested Jackson after determining that he was the owner of large amounts of child sex abuse material found on an external hard drive in an office area near his bedroom, an affidavit states. 

The investigation revealed that an internet subscriber geolocated to St. Mary’s rectory shared child sexual abuse material via the peer-to-peer network on four occasions between Sept. 4 and Oct. 17, 2021, the affidavit states. 

“These image and video files depicted prepubescent females, including infants and toddlers, engaged in sexual acts,” the affidavit states.

Jackson is being charged in both state and federal court. It is possible that the case will only be prosecuted in one court system. However, that hasn’t been decided yet. 

His state charges consist of possession of child pornography, transfer of child pornography, and child erotica prohibited, which could amount to a maximum penalty of up to 21 years in prison. 

The federal charge of distributing child pornography is punishable by up to 20 years in federal prison, with a minimum mandatory term of incarceration of five years. Possessing and accessing with intent to view child pornography, his other federal charge, is punishable by up to 20 years of incarceration.

Prior to becoming pastor at St. Mary’s on Aug. 1, Jackson spent 15 years at the FSSP apostolate at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church in Littleton, Colorado.

Under the terms of his release from federal court in early November, Jackson is free on an unsecured bond with electronic monitoring. He was allowed to return to his home state of Kansas to live with a relative while waiting for the charges to be adjudicated.

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