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ALABAMA: Man nabbed in state child porn operation is Birmingham priest and former Auburn University professor

ALABAMA: Man nabbed in state child porn operation is Birmingham priest and former Auburn University professor

By Carol Robinson
http://www.al.com/
Nov. 21, 2017

One of two men arrested in a massive state operation aimed at child predators is a well-respected Episcopal priest in Birmingham and a former college journalism professor.

ALEA's Alabama Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force on Monday evening announced charges against The Rev. Michael Glenn Rich, 56. He is charged with three counts of possession of child pornography.

Rich was formerly an assistant professor of journalism at Auburn University. He was ordained May 31, 2006, as clergy in charge at St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Jacksonville. In 2014, he accepted a call to serve as priest in charge in discernment at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Birmingham. He had served as rector of St. Luke's for more than seven years when he left for Birmingham.

Efforts to reach Rich for comment were unsuccessful.

The Right Reverend John McKee Sloan, Bishop Diocesan, Diocese of Alabama, released this statement to AL.com: "Our diocese is grieved by the arrest of Michael Rich. Upon learning of the charges against him, Rich was immediately suspended from the practice of ministry within the Episcopal Church, and proceedings under the disciplinary canons of our church have been initiated. The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Alabama are committed to guarding against sexual misconduct in all its ugly abusive forms. Our churches are united in proclaiming that our hope is in God, who created all that is, who redeems us from all of our selfish sinfulness, and who sustains and guides us, even in our darkest days. "

Rich and Thomas Morrison Hart J., 46, of Adamsville were arrested last week during Operation Standing Guard II, which began on Nov. 13 in the Birmingham area, said Lt. Brook Walker, ICAC commander and commander of ALEA's Special Victims Unit. Hart is charged with charged with five counts of possession of child pornography. Hart was arrested Nov. 15, and released from jail the following day. Rich was arrested Nov. 16, and released from jail the same day.

Walker on Tuesday said Rich was arrested after the Special Victims Unit received a tip that initiated an investigation into his internet activity and the use of it to upload illicit images to the internet. After a search warrant and initial investigation, it was determined that Rich possessed multiple images of child pornography on his electronic devices.

She said the investigation, including a forensic analysis on his electronics, is ongoing. More charges are possible depending on the results of that analysis. Right now, Walker said the probe focuses on Rich's personal devices.

ALEA's Alabama Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force on Monday evening announced charges against Michael Glenn Rich, 56, of Birmingham, and Thomas Morrison Hart J., 46, of Adamsville. Their arrests were part of Operation Standing Guard II, which began on Nov. 13 in the Birmingham area, said Lt. Brook Walker, ICAC commander and commander of ALEA's Special Victims Unit.

At least a dozen area law enforcement agencies took part in the operation: ALEA's SVU and Tactical Unit, Alabama's Attorney General's Office, FBI, Homeland Security Investigations, Walker County Sheriff's Office, Birmingham Police Department, Bessemer Police Department, Homewood Police Department, Moody Police Department, Pelham Police Department, Gardendale Police Department, Calhoun County Sheriff's Office, Tallapoosa County Sheriff's Office and the University of Alabama Police Department's Joint Electronic Crimes Task Force.

During the five-day initiative, ICAC seized 100 electronic devices, carried out eight search warrants, identified 22 children that were being sexually exploited through social media, and initiated two sexual assault cases. In addition, Alabama ICAC Task Force collaborated with the Georgia ICAC Task Force. Georgia's ICAC task force conducted Operation Hidden Guardian for five days, overlapping their operation dates to have the maximum results in both states, Walker said. The Georgia ICAC Task Force arrested 21 suspects, with seven cases involving Alabama citizens who traveled to Columbus, Ga., with the expectation of having sex with a child.

AL.com reporter Greg Garrison contributed to this report.

BACKGROUND ON THIS PRIEST

The Episcopal priest, Michael Glenn Rich, was ordained Deacon May 31, 2006 by +Marc Andrus for DIO Alabama.

He was priested on Dec. 12, 2006 by +Henry Parsley for DIO Alabama.

The Rev. Dr. Rich is Rector at St. Andrew's --- Birmingham.

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