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WELS fires church official over child porn charges


Religion news in Wisconsin and beyond

Nov. 18, 2011

By Annysa Johnson of the Journal Sentinel

Nov. 18, 2011 0

The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod fired its communications director on Friday, a day after he was charged with possessing child pornography at his Waukesha home and Wauwatosa office.

Synod President the Rev. Mark Schroeder issued a brief statement Friday saying Joel W. Hochmuth’s employment had been terminated.

“WELS holds it employees to high ethical and moral standards; we will not and cannot tolerate behavior that goes against these principles,” Schroeder said. He said the synod is cooperating with authorities in the investigation and praying for all who have been affected by the events.

Hochmuth, 52, was charged Thursday in Waukesha County Circuit Court with three counts of possession of child pornography. He was released on $20,000 bail.

Hochmuth is accused of using the Internet to download hundreds of images of boys engaged in sexual acts with other youths and adult men, according to the criminal complaint. Images were found on his computer at his Waukesha home and on a thumb drive at his office, it said.

According to the complaint, Hochmuth told investigators he had been “struggling with an addiction to viewing pornographic photos and videos of young boys in sexually explicit poses,” and that he had gone to counseling after his wife caught him viewing them.

If convicted, Hochmuth faces up to 15 years in prison and 10 years of extended supervision on each count.

About Annysa Johnson

Annysa Johnson covers K-12 education in southeastern Wisconsin.

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