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'Priest of Porn' Is Arrested : Crime: Suspect wanted in Los Angeles is arrested in Spokane, Wash. Police say he led a ring that produced child pornography.

December 14, 1989|JOHN H. LEE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A former Roman Catholic priest sought by Los Angeles police on child pornography charges has been arrested by sheriff's deputies in Spokane, Wash., authorities said Wednesday.

John Bauer, 53, who Los Angeles police said led a four-man ring that produced pornographic videos of boys in Hollywood and Mexico, was arrested late Tuesday night.

Authorities said Bauer is being held without bail on federal charges that he fled California to avoid prosecution. He probably will have an extradition hearing next week.

Spokane County sheriff's deputies stopped Bauer and a friend on an interstate highway on the outskirts of the city, said Sheriff's Detective Mark Henderson. A source had informed deputies that Bauer was in town for a day and was apparently headed to Seattle, Henderson said.

Bauer may have gone to Spokane--where years ago he ran an adult bookstore--to borrow money, police said. Bauer's companion, who deputies identified as "a long-time friend," was not arrested.

Henderson said Bauer told authorities that he had been "bouncing around" several Western states and Mexico since he fled Los Angeles following a drug-related arrest in August, 1988.

That month, Los Angeles police served Bauer with a search warrant and confiscated marijuana plants and more than 100 videotapes from his apartment.

Police then arrested Bauer on marijuana cultivation charges and he was released on $1,000 bail.

Authorities later reviewed the tapes, which showed Bauer and three other men committing sex acts on boys, ages 8 to 14, the detective said.

By the time police realized that the videos contained evidence that incriminated Bauer in a child pornography ring, the former priest had fled Los Angeles.

Bauer is charged with production of child pornography, conspiracy to produce and distribute child pornography and conspiracy to commit child molestation.

The three other men were charged on the basis of evidence contained in the tapes.

Two of the three--David Negrette, 26, of Huntington Beach, and Jerry Houchens, 49, of Santa Ana--were arrested in March. Negrette is currently on trial on child molestation charges in Orange County. The others await trial.

Police are still searching for the fourth member of the alleged pornography ring, Victor Feliciano, 29.

Bauer--referred to as the "Priest of Porn" in a 1984 interview published in Chic magazine--was an altar boy in the fourth grade and later led a Montana parish as an ordained priest, police said.

Between 1963 and 1970, Catholic Church officials tried unsuccessfully to have Bauer removed from the priesthood. After opening a lucrative adult bookstore in Bozeman, Mont., he was finally dismissed.

Nonetheless, he continued to wear his priestly garments and introduce himself as Father Bauer, police said. In calling attention to his businesses--which eventually spread to Washington and included a sex shop called Miss Kitty--he became "quite a media figure," Henderson said.

"He wasn't shy of publicity," the detective added.

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