After child porn charge, Tate released from prison

Disgraced former Christ Church musical director Robert Tate, who pled guilty in 2007 to possession of child pornography, has been released from prison and is back in Fairfield County.

Mr. Tate, who was music director of the church for 35 years, is now living in a village apartment in New Canaan and, as he is a registered sex offender, the New Canaan superintendent of schools sent out a letter to parents last week informing them of this. Mr. Tate, 70, was originally sentenced to five and a half years in prison in 2008 after pleading guilty to possessing child pornography.

Mr. Tate is required to register as a sex offender wherever he works or lives, have monitored Internet usage, and is barred from spending any time alone with children younger than 18 years old — unless a “responsible adult” who is aware of his conviction is present.

Mr. Tate could have faced up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. He pleaded guilty to one count of possession of child pornography in January 2007 after being arrested in November 2006 after a church employee reportedly found pornographic images of children on his computer. He pled guilty to only one count but during his sentencing in 2008 it was said he not only possessed more than 400 images of child pornography but had also traveled to places such as Costa Rica, Amsterdam and Thailand to have sexual relations with young boys and had molested a boy decades ago before he worked in Greenwich.

During his sentencing, Mr. Tate admitted in court that he possessed hundreds of sexually explicit images of children, which he downloaded from the Internet. Some of the children in the images were younger than 12. During his 35 years at Christ Church, through his role as director of music and organist, Tate was in frequent contact with children and led youth choirs for the church.

When he was sentenced, Mr. Tate said he was “deeply ashamed” of his actions and said his position at the church allowed him to take advantage of the boys in his care. While there have been no allegations of any kind of molestation while he was employed at Christ Church, Mr. Tate told United States District Judge Alan Nevas that what should have been platonic shows of support to boys in the choir, such as touching an arm, were in fact sexual to him and that he took advantage of the boys in a way they weren’t even aware of.

At the time, Frank O’Reilly, Mr. Tate’s attorney, called the sentence “fair.”

“I’ve struggled all my life with a sexual attraction to young boys,” Mr. Tate said in court at his sentencing. “I don’t know why this happened to me. I was abused myself, but that is no excuse. The actions I took harmed hundreds of boys.”

The revelation that he has moved to the town has caused some concerns in New Canaan.

“It’s horrifying this pedophile is allowed to live in the center of town,” Jill LaGattuta, a New Canaan mother of three, told Hersam Acorn Newspapers on Monday. “Kids hang out in the shops there. He’s right around the corner from Mead playground and from where kids play in the streets.”

New Canaan Police Sgt. Carol Ogrinc told Hersam Acorn this week that Mr. Tate has the right to seek residency in the town of his choice, but he has to follow certain conditions.

“His living in town makes people more on edge,” Sgt. Ogrinc said. “But our surrounding towns do have sex offenders. Within miles of any direction there are sex offenders. As always, parents should watch their children and know where they are at all times. Have them check in when they go out with friends. If you’re already doing that, don’t change anything you’re doing. Awareness is the most important thing.”

As of Sept. 1, 2009, Connecticut state law (Public Act 09-199) requires that whenever a registered sexual offender is released into the community, in addition to the local police department receiving notification, the state Department of Public Safety shall, by e-mail, notify the superintendent of schools for the school district in which the registrant resides, or plans to reside. The notification is limited to the same information available to the public through the Internet at the sex offender registry on the Department of Public Safety website, icrimewatch.net.

Despite the charge, Mr. Tate has long had defenders in town, many of whom wrote letters on his behalf to the judge before his sentencing and referring to him as a “musical genius” and a “hero.”

But at his sentencing, Mr. Tate told the court he didn’t deserve his supporters’ praise.

“What they’ve said isn’t true,” Mr. Tate said. “I was a terrible choir master. I was a terrible person. I harmed the kids. There’s nothing I can do about that except go forth and say no more.”

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