Friday, January 25, 2008                                                                                       View Comments

Pastor pleads guilty

NEW CASTLE - A former pastor of a Slippery Rock Township church pleaded guilty this week to two counts of possession of child pornography.

No sentencing date has been set for Robert D. Schmidtberger, 52, but prosecutors recommended a sentence of 12 months minus two days to 24 months minus four days with 15 years' probation.

Lawrence County Judge Thomas Piccione, who oversaw the guilty plea, ordered a psychological assessment to determine whether Schmidtberger might be a violent sexual predator.

After his release, Schmidtberger will be required to register with the state police under the provisions of Megan's Law.

State police filed the charges based on information provided by the America Online Internet service, which periodically reviews subscribers' e-mails. A review on March 12, 2005, detected three e-mails that included images that depicted child pornography.

AOL personnel matched the sender's screen name to Schmidtberger and notified the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which contacted the state police.

The address on Schmidtberger's online account, 468 Rose Point Road, was that of Rose Point Reformed Presbyterian Church. That was also listed with the office of Lawrence County District Attorney John Bongivengo as Schmidtberger's home address.

The district attorney's office reported that, at the time charges were filed in 2005, Rose Point Reformed Presbyterian Church's Web site listed Schmidtberger as its pastor. The church's Web site now lists no pastor and says weekly sermons are given by guest pastors.

A call Thursday afternoon to the church was not returned.

Police searched Schmidtberger's residence and seized computers and other electronic devices. An examination of those devices turned up the images of child pornography on 15 CD-ROMs.

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Also see: Former Pastor Charged