Chicago priest charged in child porn case posts bond

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Octavio Munoz | Chicago Police photo

Octavio Munoz, a 40-year-old Chicago priest accused of possessing child pornography, has posted $50,000 bail and is free on electronic monitoring, authorities said Friday.

A family member put up the money — $5,000 — to secure Munoz’s release, a Cook County Jail spokesman said Friday.

Munoz’s had only $2,000 in savings, his lawyer said at a bond hearing Wednesday.

Munoz is charged with a single felony count, after investigators hired by the Archdiocese of Chicago found a video of pre-pubescent boys engaging in sex acts on a computer that belonged to the priest, prosecutors said.

Police still are sorting through hundreds of DVDs and VHS tapes seized in a search of Munoz’s home, Assistant State’s Attorney Guy Lisuzzo said Wednesday. Investigators also found child-sized underwear and magazines depicting young boys.

Munoz was director of Casa Jesus, 750 N. Wabash, an archdiocese program that recruited Spanish-speaking candidates for the priesthood locally and internationally. Munoz left that post in July 2015 to become pastor of St. Pancratius,, 4025 S. Sacramento, in the Brighton Park neighborhood.

Munoz’s successor as rector of Casa Jesus entered Munoz’s apartment with an archdiocese employee on July 7, 2015, while Munoz was not home. Among the moving boxes stacked in Munoz’s apartment, the two saw video of a young boy masturbating playing on the screen of a laptop next to Munoz’s easy chair. The employee waited a week to report what he had seen to the archdiocese, thinking that the new rector had already notified his superiors after meeting with Munoz.

A spokeswoman for the archdiocese said Friday that the rector told church officials he did not see anything inappropriate in Munoz’s apartment, but hired Hillard Heintze, a private investigations and security firm, to search Munoz’s computer immediately after receiving the complaint from the employee. Those investigators were unable to locate the laptop identified by the employee.

The archdiocese’s team of private investigators to search of other electronics linked to Munoz, some of which were owned by the archdiocese, and found emails “that contained stories of child erotica,” and another video, showing minor boys engaged in sex acts. After the week-long investigation, the archdiocese investigators reported Munoz to police on July 28, the same day the archdiocese said Archbishop Blase Cupich removed Munoz from his post at St. Pancratius and stripped him of his ministerial powers.

The archdiocese also transferred Munoz for “archdiocesan evaluation and business” but did not inform Chicago Police of the transfer, Lisuzzo said in court on Wednesday. Archdiocese spokeswoman Colleen Tunney-Ryan said Friday the archdiocese did tell Chicago Police where Munoz was.

An arrest warrant was issued for Munoz on Aug. 28, and he was arrested in Maryland, where he was in treatment at the St. Luke Institute, a Catholic facility that specializes in treating clergy for an array of problems, including “sexual issues,” according to its website. Tunney-Ryan said privacy laws prevented the archdiocese from disclosing details about Munoz’s stay at the facility.

Munoz’s lawyer, Raymond Wigell, said Wednesday that Munoz was not being treated for “sexual issues” at St. Luke’s. He also noted that someone else may have had access to Munoz’s computer.

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