Former Wisconsin Lutheran official sentenced in child porn case

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hochmuth

A former official with the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod was ordered to serve one year in jail with work-release privileges, followed by 10 years probation, for downloading hundreds of images of boys engaged in sexual acts with other young boys and men.

Joel W. Hochmuth, 52, of Waukesha, had faced up to 15 years behind bars followed by 10 years of extended supervision.

Hochmuth, who has a wife and son, was the communications director for the synod when he was charged in November with three counts of possession of child pornography. He was fired by the synod the next day.

To avoid a trial, Hochmuth agreed to plead guilty to one count of possession of child pornography, and the two other counts were dismissed.

Prior to sentencing, Hochmuth told the court that he is in treatment.

“For the first time I'm being equipped with the tools to fight my sinful habit,” the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Hochmuth as saying. “I appear before you today guilty of an abhorrent and violent crime. I have offended my god, betrayed my wife, shamed our son and dishonored my church. To all of them I apologize. I also apologize to the victims portrayed in the images I viewed and downloaded. That I could have been so drawn to what I was looking at today disgusts me.”

In addition to finding pornographic images of young boys on Hochmuth’s home computer, investigators said they found 310 photographs and 38 videos on a thumb drive at his WELS office in Wauwatosa.

Hochmuth denied downloading any explicit material while at work.

The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, also known as WELS, opposed the 2009 decision by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to allow the ordination of gays and lesbians in committed monogamous relationships.

“To view same-sex relationships as acceptable to God is to place cultural viewpoint and human opinions above the clear Word of God,” said the Rev. Mark Schroeder, president of WELS at the time.

With about 390,000 members and nearly 1,300 congregations nationwide, WELS is the third largest Lutheran church body in the United States.