Former Lutheran church official close to plea deal in child porn case

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WAUKESHA -- A former Lutheran church official, accused of having child pornography, is close to a plea deal. Joel Hochmuth was in Waukesha County court Thursday, March 8th.

A plea deal is in place, but Hochmuth's attorney said they needed more time to review it. A plea hearing is now set for Friday morning, March 9th.

Prosecutors say Hochmuth had pictures and videos of young boys in sex acts. He was fired from his post at the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, where he served as Director of Communications.

Hochmuth was charged with three counts of possessing child pornography, after a sting operation by the FBI's Cyber Crimes Task Force found child porn images and videos on Hochmuth's personal and work computers, as well as thumb drives.

Hochmuth was arrested at his home in Waukesha.

According to the criminal complaint in the case, an undercover FBI agent used peer-to-peer software which allowed him to connect with Hochmuth's computer and browse for files, and says Hochmuth was sharing child porn. The agent says he also chatted with Hochmuth online, and Hochmuth allegedly told him he likes pictures of males 10 years of age or older.

The criminal complaint states that during his arrest, Hochmuth stated he has been struggling with an addiction to viewing pornographic photos and videos of young boys in sexually explicit poses, but denies ever creating his own pornography. The complaint also says Hochmuth's wife caught him looking at the images once, and says they went to counseling as a result.

Officials removed a desktop computer and a laptop computer from Hochmuth's home, and the criminal complaint states Hochmuth said what would be found on his home computer was nothing compared to what they would find in his office. A search warrant was executed at Hochmuth's office, and FBI agents found a thumb drive, containing 310 child porn images, and 38 videos. Agents say there were several hundred images found on Hochmuth's home computer.

Hochmuth is accused of possessing and distributing child pornography online. He is to have no contact with minors, except his own child, and cannot use any device that can access the internet.