BY KATY MOELLER
Rev. W. Thomas Faucher speaks to the Idaho Statesman from the Ada County Jail about how he would like to be remembered in the community and what will happen after his trial.
The Rev. W. Thomas Faucher, a longtime priest in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Boise who pleaded guilty to five felony crimes, has been sentenced to 25 years in prison without parole and will be required to register as a sex offender.
Faucher, 73, was accused of amassing thousands of child porn images and videos on his home computer — and pleaded guilty in September to sharing some of those images online. He apologized in the courtroom ahead of his sentencing at the Ada County Courthouse in Boise on Thursday.
“This is the crime that has the potential for both immediate and long-lasting consequences,” 4th District Court Judge Jason Scott said. “… I think there is a legitimate risk to the community.
“I am deeply sorry that I was and have been connected to that in any way,” Faucher told the judge in a statement that lasted about 17 minutes. Faucher said he was deeply struck by the victim impact statements and that he knows child pornography is not a victimless crime.
“I was one really sick puppy. I screwed up big time … I feel so much remorse and anger,” Faucher said at his sentencing.
He wants to build a future making up for what he’s done. He would like to meet with victims and apologize to them and give lectures on the evils of child pornography.
“There are many people who will benefit if I am no longer in jail,” Faucher said, explaining that he’d like to help others. “There are no people who will benefit if I am in jail or in prison.”
A thinner and more frail-looking Faucher was wheeled into the courtroom in his Ada County jail uniform just before 9:30 a.m. At least 30 people, including some members of the Diocese of Boise, plus local media were packed into the windowless fifth-floor courtroom — some watching cried while others left the room as a local detective described in graphic detail the images and child pornography found in Faucher’s possession.
Thomas Faucher appears before Fourth District Judge Jason Scott to be sentenced after being found guilty of multiple felonies, including possessing and trafficking child pornography among other charges Thursday at the Ada County Courthouse in Boise, Idaho.
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Diocese officials told the Statesman Wednesday that they will seek to have Faucher defrocked. They reiterated that in a press release after the sentencing:
“The volumes of shocking information that the law enforcement investigation uncovered reveal the heinous nature of child pornography and the tragic impact upon its victims,” the release says. “While we cannot begin to fathom what brought Faucher to the point that he was able to enter into this evil and dark world, we are thankful for the efforts of the law enforcement community in doing what it can to protect our children from these crimes.”
Investigation took a toll on police
The prosecutor called Garden City police officer Detective John Brumbaugh to the stand on Thursday. Brumbaugh, who’s been on the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force for five years, said he received a cybertip that involved two images sent from email@example.com that was linked to the St. Mary’s Catholic Church website.
In the months that followed, Brumbaugh said, his investigation looked at chats and emails that showed Faucher was “actively seeking interests with gay men, satanic interests” and the rape and killing of minors. He also described the contents of the images police found on Faucher’s cellphone, computer and Dropbox account: more than 2,500 files that were sexually exploitative or pornographic with young-looking subjects. The files were described by police as violent, disturbing and torturous, some involving children crying.
“The volume of [images] was something I haven’t come across,” detective said. He’s talking about how the extreme nature of the images affected him and others that investigated.
Other images include live animals being abused. Files of children and adults being set on fire. The detective is listing a variety of forms of very graphic abuse.
In online chats with a person called “Bruno,” Faucher expressed a desire to have sex with boys, Brumbaugh said. Faucher said he had “satanic desires,” an attraction to 6-year-old boys and that “the thought of killing someone does begin to excite me,” according to the detective.
Brumbaugh also said Faucher’s online conversations about shared child pornography include the Catholic priest talking about fantasies, including the sexual abuse of altar boys and babies, and saying that he liked a video of a boy being being beaten to death.
“The volume of [images] was something I haven’t come across,” Brumbaugh said, and added that the extreme nature of the images took a toll on himself and others involved in the investigation.
As Faucher solicited more videos of young boys, he wrote that he felt “wonderful indifference,” Brumbaugh told the courtroom.
Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, whose office oversees the task force that investigated the crimes, said in a press release that the sentencing is a reminder of how challenging this work can be.
“Today’s sentencing brings to close one of the most difficult cases the Idaho Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Unit has ever investigated,” Wasden said. “As those in the courtroom today are now aware, the nature of the evidence uncovered was extremely disturbing. I want to publicly say thank you to the ICAC staff for their extraordinary professionalism and dedication to their mission in the face of inherently difficult work. ”
Other images the detective said the investigation found included depictions of black slavery, which Faucher spoke about using racist language, as well as images of Faucher urinating on a cross and canon law book. Faucher also wrote that he urinated in the wine for Mass at least once, Brumbaugh told the courtroom. Faucher talked to “Bruno” about betraying canon law, then blaming it on his age and illness, Brumbaugh said.
Faucher bragged to Bruno about how easy it had become to lie: “It felt good to lie for no good reason except to do it … Most of the time, I just make a new reality and believe it as long as it suits me.”
“It felt good to lie,” Faucher wrote in one of the conversations, the detective said.
Faucher later told Brumbaugh that no one else had access to his email account, the detective said. Brumbaugh also said there was no evidence that someone had remote access to Faucher’s computer nor evidence of a virus on the computer.
‘It shakes the community’
Ahead of the sentencing, special prosecutor Kassandra Slaven asked for a 30-year prison sentence, including 20 years before Faucher would be eligible for parole. She also requested a no-contact order be put in place with all minor children.
An evaluation concluded Faucher is on the upper end of the risk to reoffend and is less amenable to treatment, Slaven said, adding that he was diagnosed as a pedophile. She argued that his status as a Catholic priest is an aggravating factor.
“It shakes the community. It shakes the members of the Catholic Church,” Slaven said. “… He portrays himself as a victim and is not at all accountable for his actions.”
Faucher’s defense attorney, Mark Manweiler, had called for probation and sex offender treatment instead of prison time.
Manweiler said the evidence does not support that Faucher looked at all of the images on the computer. He also said that although Faucher looked at, possessed and shared child pornography, “He’s never sexually abused any child.”
Earlier, the Statesman reported that two men came forward to church officials and prosecutors to accuse him of sexually abusing them when they were children several decades ago; no charges have been filed in those cases. The defense said Thursday any accusations made now should be taken “with a grain of salt.”
“Tom isn’t a good person. He’s a wonderful person” who’s helped hundreds if not thousands of people, Manweiler said. He also read from a letter of support from Boise Mayor Dave Bieter, who said Faucher has helped his family.
Manweiler emphasized what he says caused Faucher “to get into this world of Satanism and pornography”: that the priest of 45 years went from a position of power “to all of the sudden being nothing” and “he couldn’t handle it.” Manweiler said it was a combination of rejection by church officials, alcohol abuse and loneliness that caused Faucher to stray into Satanism and child porn.
Faucher has lost 47 pounds since he’s been in jail and has a life expectancy of about 5 more years, the defense says. He also has brain damage and alcohol-induced dementia.
Charges against Faucher
Prosecutors have said they found more than 2,000 photos and videos depicting child sexual abuse on Faucher’s computer and phone. They said he spoke in online chat rooms about having a desire to rape and kill children; his attorney previously said at least one of those conversations was Faucher “role playing” with an author in Brazil.
He was charged with 21 counts of felony sexual exploitation of a child, one count of felony possession of a controlled substance (LSD) and two counts of misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance (marijuana and ecstasy). He pleaded guilty to two counts of distribution of sexually exploitative material, two counts of possession of sexually exploitative materials and one count of drug possession.
Diocese spokesman Gene Fadness told the Statesman Wednesday that church officials haven’t seen evidence that Faucher has taken full responsibility for his actions. In pleading guilty to five of the 24 charges against him, Faucher said that he didn’t remember sharing child porn with others because he had alcohol-induced depression and dementia.
The diocese evicted Faucher while he was being held in the Ada County Jail, and they had the house exorcised before selling it.