A retired Covington (Louisiana) psychiatrist booked in 2008 with possessing more than 100 sexually explicit pictures of children on his computer has pleaded guilty to less severe charges.
Dr. Steve Taylor, 71, admitted to attempted possession of juvenile pornography during a hearing at the St. Tammany Parish courthouse in Covington on Tuesday, according to the District Attorney’s Office. In exchange for his plea, state Judge Peter Garcia sentenced him to two years in prison.
Ralph Whalen, Taylor’s defense attorney, said his client will begin serving his sentence April 22. He declined to answer questions about the reasoning behind the plea.
Meanwhile, DA spokesman Rick Wood explained that prosecutors struck the deal because they had concerns about evidence in the case and were unsure that a trial verdict would be favorable.
“It was the right thing to do,” Wood said.
Taylor, prior to his arrest, had been honored for his work with health care organizations and had been affiliated with a group dedicated to counseling victims of sexual abuse.
Sheriff’s Office deputies began investigating Taylor three years ago after receiving a tip that child pornography had been downloaded on his computer.
Investigators later seized Taylor’s home computer and uncovered images downloaded from websites showing non-local youths under the age of 17. On April 9, 2008, they searched Taylor’s home and office and jailed him on 107 counts of juvenile pornography possession, each of which was punishable with a $10,000 fine and two to 10 years in prison.
Authorities have declined to say where the tip originated.
A grand jury indicted him last September. The court scheduled his trial for this week, but he accepted a plea bargain rather than combat the charges before a jury.
Attempted possession of child pornography carries a maximum five-year sentence. Assistant District Attorney Joseph Oubre handled the prosecution.
Taylor was well-known as a psychiatrist on the north shore. He served on St. Tammany Parish Hospital’s Ethics Board, counseled residents after Hurricane Katrina and ran a support group for survivors of suicide. Late in the month during which he was arrested, he was supposed to receive an “Angels Among Us” award from the Hospice Foundation of the South. But organizers canceled the event.
He also collaborated with the Louisiana chapter of the Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests, or SNAP.
Taylor attended the first meeting of the organization in Metairie in 2003. He also accompanied members of the organization to Baton Rouge when they urged the Legislature to require clergy to report abuse suspicions.
At the time, he told The Times-Picayune the right of clergy to keep confessions private did not outweigh the importance of discovering potential abuse cases. “The privilege is not as important as helping the next child,” he said. “The cycle has to be broken.”
Source: Ramon Antonio Vargas, “Retired Covington psychiatrist pleads guilty to attempted possession of child pornography,” The Times-Picayune, April 13, 2011.