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WORCESTER, MASS: Former Episcopal priest charged with possessing child pornography

WORCESTER, MASS: Former Episcopal priest charged with possessing child pornography

By Brian Lee
The Telegram & Gazette
Posted Sep 13, 2019

A Holyoke kindergarten teacher, who was a former priest at Episcopal churches in Providence and Cranston, Rhode Island, has resigned after FBI agents raided the rectory at St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Worcester.

Agents armed with a warrant went to the home of the Rev. Gregory Lisby at 919 Pleasant St., St. Luke's church rectory, on Wednesday. In August, investigators had reviewed data provided by Microsoft for Lisby's account and identified approximately 180 images and about 15 videos that appeared to depict child porn, according to court documents.

Agents sought a criminal complaint against Lisby in U.S. District Court for possession of child pornography.

Lisby is married to the Rev. Timothy Burger, rector of the Episcopal church, according to court documents. Lisby is a former rector of All Saints Church in Worcester. From 2005 to 2010, he served in the Rhode Island Diocese as a curate, which is an assistant priest, at St. Martin's Episcopal Church in Providence; and as rector, or head priest, at Church of the Ascension in Cranston, according to a spokesman for the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts.

Additional files of child pornography were subsequently found during the investigation, authorities said.

Agents said they also uncovered a document belonging to Lisby for a post-baccalaureate teacher licensure program on which he states: "If I could teach any grade, I would love to be a kindergarten teacher. The joy, spontaneity, and openness to learning of younger children is what attracts me to early childhood education."

Lisby worked at the Morgan School in Holyoke, which is under state receivership.

On Thursday, Holyoke Receiver-Superintendent Stephen Zrike forwarded Lisby's resignation letter to the FBI.

"Last night I was accused of an awful crime that could put Holyoke children in harm's way," the email began.

The receiver issued a letter to parents confirming Lisby had resigned from his teaching post at Morgan School on Thursday, asserting the allegations were "troubling news."

In a letter to parishioners on Friday, the Rev. Douglas J. Fisher, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts, addressed the charges against Lisby, noting his marriage to Burger of St. Luke's. The bishop noted that Lisby was suspended at one time for an "inappropriate relationship with an adult that did not involve sexual contact."

"When trust has been violated, God's people and God's mission suffer," he wrote.

A spokesman for the Western Massachusetts Diocese, Jim Naughton, said the case prompted Rhode Island Bishop W. Nicholas Knisely Jr., to look through records from Lisby's time in the state. Naughton said Knisely told him Friday that he did not find any complaints about Lisby's conduct.

The rectors of both St. Martin's and Ascension have written members of both congregations to notify them of the case and to ask them to share any information or concerns they might have, said Naughton.

An email sent to parishioners from St. Martin's rector, the Rev. Mark Robert Sutherland, said: "Many of you will remember Greg Lisby as a former curate at St. Martin's.

"News media outlets in Massachusetts are reporting his arrest by the FBI on possession of child pornography charges. I did not know Greg, but I have heard many at St. Martin's speak of his time here with warmth and affection and so I know this news will come as an unexpected and deeply disturbing shock.


Former Holyoke Teacher Arrested for Possession of Child Pornography
Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Massachusetts


September 13, 2019

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS -- A former Holyoke kindergarten teacher was arrested last night and charged with possession of child pornography. Yesterday, the defendant resigned from his position as a kindergarten teacher for the Holyoke Public Schools where he was employed.

Gregory Lisby, 40, of Worcester, was arrested last night in Northboro and charged today with one count of possession of child pornography. Lisby will appear in federal court in Boston at 2:15 p.m. today.

According to the charging documents, investigators received a tip that an image depicting child pornography had been uploaded to a Microsoft OneDrive account that was determined to belong to Lisby. Pursuant to a search warrant, investigators reviewed the OneDrive and identified approximately 180 images and 15 videos of child pornography. On Sept. 11, 2019, a search was executed at Lisby's home where a preliminary on-scene review of Lisby's OneDrive account, on both his iPad and cellphone, was conducted. Lisby was subsequently arrested last night and charged with possession of child pornography.

Members of the public who have questions, concerns or information regarding this case should call the U.S. Attorney's Office at 617-748-3274.

The charging statute provides for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling and Joseph Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division made the announcement today. The Worcester, Holyoke, Northboro and Southboro Police Departments, along with the Massachusetts State Police provided assistance with the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kristen Noto of Lelling's Worcester Branch Office is prosecuting the case.

The case is brought as part of Project Safe Childhood. In 2006, the Department of Justice created Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative designed to protect children from exploitation and abuse. Led by the U.S. Attorneys' Offices and the DOJ's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children, as well as identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov/.

The details contained in the criminal complaint are allegations. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

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