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R.I. priest pleads guilty to charge of receipt of child pornography

The Rev. James W. Jackson, who served at St. Mary’s Church in Providence, was found with thousands of images and videos depicting of child sexual abuse, according to the US attorney’s office.

The Diocese of Providence.Carlos R. Munoz / Globe Staff

PROVIDENCE — A priest who had been assigned to St. Mary’s Church in Providence pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday to downloading thousands of files of child sexual abuse.

The Rev. James JacksonRhode Island State Police

The Rev. James W. Jackson, now 67, caught the attention of authorities in September 2021, when an East Providence detective assigned to the State Police Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force identified an IP address assigned to the rectory was being used to share files of child sexual abuse material.

A court-authorized search of a computer and digital device in Jackson’s bedroom at the rectory found 12,000 images and 1,300 videos of child sexual abuse, including multiple images involving prepubescent females and some involving bestiality and sadomasochism, according to the US attorney’s office. Jackson was using a peer-to-peer file-sharing network, according to the investigation.


Jackson, who was a member of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, had served out of state until his appointment to St. Mary’s a month earlier.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence removed Jackson from the ministry on Oct. 31, 2021, and he was arraigned in US District Court three days later.

Jackson was released to the custody of his sister, who lives in Kansas, as he awaited trial.

Then, in June 2022, authorities in Kansas identified a computer sharing child pornography. They traced it where Jackson was living, according to the US attorney’s office.

Again, authorities seized a portable computer and an external hard drive from Jackson’s bedroom, though this time, an analysis of the storage device revealed evidence that numerous files with names indicative of child sexual abuse material had been deleted, according to the US attorney’s office.

Jackson was sent back to Rhode Island and remained held while he waited for trial.

On Thursday, he pleaded guilty to a charge of receipt of child pornography. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 11.


“Exploitation of children is not a crime without any victims. Sadly, the innocent lives in film and pictures many never realize their trauma until much later in life,” said Michael McDonnell, spokesman for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “We hope Jackson faces a stiff sentence and is completely removed from the clerical state.”

Amanda Milkovits can be reached at Follow her @AmandaMilkovits.