WAUKESHA -- Joel Hochmuth, a former Lutheran church official accused of having child pornography, pleaded guilty Friday to possession of child pornography. In exchange for the guilty plea, the state dropped two of the three counts against him.
As Judge Kathryn Foster asked if Hochmuth understood the plea, he broke down.
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 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's attorney Paul Bucher argues Hochmuth should avoid prison. He says immediate treatment is the best solution.
"Obviously he knows prison is a good possibility. We're not asking for prison, but he knows that's a possibility," Bucher said.
Hochmuth will be sentenced on June 4th. He faces up to 25 years in prison and a $100,000 fine. Until then, he's not allowed to use the internet. He also cannot see anyone under the age of 18 without a supervisor. The only exception is for his child.