Catholic Priest Sentenced to Federal Prison on Child Pornography Charge

Catholic Priest Sentenced to Federal Prison on Child Pornography Charge

PROVIDENCE – Father James Ward Jackson, 68, a former Rhode Island priest assigned to St. Mary’s Church in Providence, was sentenced today to six years in federal prison, having previously admitted to a federal judge that that he downloaded and stored thousands of files of child pornography, announced United States Attorney Zachary A. Cunha.


According to documents filed with the court, in September 2021, an East Providence Detective assigned to the Rhode Island State Police Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force identified an IP address assigned to the rectory at St. Mary’s Church that was being utilized to share files of child sexual abuse material.


A court-authorized search of a computer and digital device located in a church rectory bedroom utilized by Father Jackson was found to contain images and videos of child sexual abuse, including multiple images involving prepubescent females, and some of which involved acts of bestiality and sadomasochism. A forensic audit of the devices subsequently identified over 12,000 images and 1,300 videos of child pornography.


The defendant, charged by way of a federal criminal complaint and arraigned in U.S. District Court in Providence on November 3, 2021, was later released while awaiting trial to the custody of his sister, who resides in Kansas. In June 2022, members of the Kansas ICAC identified an IP address at the residence in Kansas where Father Jackson was staying that was being utilized to download child pornography.  Acting on a court-authorized search warrant, members of the Kansas ICAC seized a portable computer and an external hard drive from Jackson’s bedroom; an analysis of the storage device revealed evidence that numerous files with names indicative of child sexual abuse material had been deleted.


Father Jackson was returned to Rhode Island and ordered detained while awaiting trial on federal charges filed in U.S. District Court in Rhode Island. He pleaded guilty on June 8, 2023, to a charge of receipt of child pornography.


Jackson was sentenced today by U.S. District Court Judge William E. Smith to seventy-two months of incarceration to be followed by five years of federal supervised release.  In addition, pursuant to federal law, the Court imposed special assessments of $17,000 (The Amy, Vicky and Andy Child Pornography Victim Assistance Act of 2018), and $5,000 (The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015).  In addition, the Court indicated it will order restitution to specific victims in approximately thirty days.


The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney John P. McAdams.


The matter was investigated by the Rhode Island State Police ICAC and Homeland Security Investigations.


U.S. Attorney Cunha expressed appreciation for the efforts of the Overland Park, Kansas Police Department and the Kansas ICAC.