Father Raymond Ethier, a priest in the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese, remains in police custody after being arraigned in Federal Court Wednesday afternoon. Ethier was arrested by Homeland Security agents on Tuesday and held at the Albany County Jail overnight.
Federal papers show this was a quick investigation run by the feds. It started after a man told another over the Internet he was abusing his step-children. Investigators say they tracked down a person using the screen name "nudistdude23" to Ethier. But it was what they allegedly found on his computer that is at the core of the charges.
As NEWS10's Latricia Thomas reports, the investigation began after the priest allegedly went too far online.
Reverend Raymond Ethier has served as the leader of St. John Vianney Catholic Church in Columbia County since its inception two years ago, when two other parishes merged. But the 50-year-old pastor now faces the possibility of serving hard time after federal agents seized his computer from his Hudson home, and allegedly found child porn.
Court documents allege Ethier went online under the screen name "nudistdude23", and bragged about sexually abusing two step-children. Ethier later admitted to authorities those claims were bogus, but that he had downloaded two computer videos and still images depicting young kids having sex.
Federal documents also allege the following:
- "On May 10, 2007, a computer was recovered from Raymond Ethier's residence. A forensic examination of said computer resulted in the recovery of images depicting minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct. More specifically, a number of computer videos were recovered from said computer which depict boys between the ages of 9 and 16, engaged in sexually explicit conduct..."
- "Ethier admitted that he engaged in sexually explicit conversations with other individuals on the Internet and that these conversations sometimes involved children. However, he indicated that these conversations were merely fantasy in nature and that he has never abused a minor."
While no one at Ethier's parish would comment on the arrest, the reverend's neighbors say he usually kept to himself, living in a mobile home provided to him by a member of his church.
"I didn't really see him much, but if he's guilty, I'm glad he's arrested," says Jenneane Fatum, Ethier's neighbor.
The Albany Diocese says Ethier has been placed on leave and not permitted to perform any functions as a priest. They say prior to Tuesday's arrest, they had never received a complaint about the father, who was ordained in 1985, and that they were not aware of the investigation until his arrest.
The reverend will soon be out of jail on 50-thousand dollars bond, on home arrest, and prohibited from using the computer or Internet.