If the State Dropped Charges Against Father James Jackson, Why is He Still Being Prosecuted?

Father 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.

Father James Jackson, FSSP, appearing at a Nov. 15 arraignment before the Rhode Island District Court.
Father James Jackson, FSSP, appearing at a Nov. 15 arraignment before the Rhode Island District Court. (photo: Joe Bukuras/CNA / EWTN)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — State charges accusing Providence priest Father James Jackson of possession of child pornography, transfer of child pornography, and child erotica prohibited have been dropped, according to the state court website

But the ex-pastor, a member of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP), still must face federal charges of distributing child pornography and possessing and accessing with intent to view child pornography, his lawyer John Calcagni III told CNA. He declined further comment.

The state’s move to drop charges was an expected procedural development that allows the federal case against Father Jackson to move forward.

Father 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 Father 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. 

His state charges could have amounted to a maximum penalty of up to 21 years in prison. 

The federal charges 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, Father 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, Father 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.

Ivan Aivazovsky, “Walking on Water,” ca. 1890

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