DENVER (KDVR) — A Catholic priest who served in Littleton for 15 years has been arrested on accusations that he had and shared child pornography.
The Rev. James Jackson, 66, was booked in Rhode Island on Saturday after a task force traced child pornography to his church’s internet connection and determined he owned the material, according to Rhode Island State Police.
Jackson served at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Littleton from August 2006 to July 2021, according to the Archdiocese of Denver, which called the allegations against him “extremely troubling.”
He served as the officiant for the Catholic funeral mass for Officer Eric Talley, who died in the King Soopers mass shooting in Boulder in March.
Internet Crimes Against Children task force makes arrest
Rhode Island State Police said members of their Internet Crimes Against Children task force traced child pornography to St. Mary’s Church in Providence, Rhode Island.
Taskforce members executed a court-ordered search warrant on the church and its rectory, where the priest lives, on Saturday.
“Father Jackson was identified as the owner of digital media allegedly involved in the possession and transfer of child pornography and child erotica,” Rhode Island State Police said in a press release.
Jackson was held on $5,000 bail, but he was unable to post it, police said. Should he post bail, he would be prohibited from contact with children under 16 and would have restricted access to the Internet.
If convicted, Jackson could face the following penalties:
- Possession of child pornography: a fine up to $5,000, up to five years in prison, or both
- Transfer of child pornography: a fine up to $5,000, up to 15 years in prison, or both
- Possession of child erotica: a fine up to $1,000, up to one year in prison, or both
Do Catholic priests undergo background checks before getting assigned to a church?
The Archdiocese said it employs methods to review a priest’s character before hiring and said Jackson did not raise alarm when he was hired in Colorado more than 15 years ago.
“To minister in the Archdiocese of Denver, a religious order priest must have a letter of good standing from his religious order, pass a background check and complete the archdiocese’s required Safe Environment training,” the Archdiocese said in a statement. “Before Fr. Jackson was permitted to minister in Colorado, all three of these safety steps were completed. During Fr. Jackson’s time working at Mount Carmel, the archdiocese never received any allegation of misconduct against him.”
Jackson’s former church parish in Littleton is run by the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, according to the Archdiocese. In a statement, the organization said the priest passed a background check before starting his Rhode Island assignment in August “and had a sterling record of priestly service.
“We had no reason to believe Father was engaging in any inappropriate behavior, let alone criminal conduct,” the organization said in a statement. “Like all those accused of crimes, Father has a natural human right under both civil and canon law to the presumption of innocence and we will fully cooperate with the law enforcement authorities as they investigate this matter.”
Jackson will face trial in Rhode Island’s Sixth District Court.
Information on clergy child sex abuse in Colorado can be found in these Attorney General’s reports.