Did church music director hire pedophile?

February 19, 2008 2:20:41 PM PST
A former music director at a prominent Greenwich church who was convicted of possessing child pornography hired a pedophile who sexually assaulted a choir boy and failed to tell authorities, prosecutors disclosed Tuesday. The music director, Robert Tate, faces nine to 11 years in prison under guidelines when he is sentenced Thursday, prosecutors said in court papers.

Tate, 65, was choir director for 34 years at Christ Church, creating a music program that gained an international reputation. Former President George H.W. Bush attended the church while growing up and funeral services for his parents were held there.

Prosecutors said Tate permitted two sexual predators to remain in the church's choir at various times. They also said he rehired an assistant organist who was fired for sexually assaulting a choir boy and failed to tell authorities when the organist assaulted another church choir boy.

"We now know that the former assistant organist was a serial child predator who sexually abused children wherever he went," prosecutors wrote.

Prosecutors also repeated accusations they made in December that Tate sexually abused children at home and abroad since the 1970s. Tate picked up boy prostitutes in New York and brought them back to his apartment at the church for sex and traveled to Thailand to have sex with boys, authorities said.

Prosecutors did not recommend a sentence, leaving it to the judge's discretion.

"Mr. Tate has great shame about much of his conduct over the years," said his attorney, Francis O'Reilly. "The reference by the United States attorney causes him great shame, knowing a child was harmed by his conduct."

Tate was immediately terminated, said Eugene Riccio, the church's attorney.

"Statements of this nature regarding historical events at Christ Church, which were unknown to the current leadership of the church, are disturbing even if they date back several decades," Riccio said. "Christ Church has taken substantial steps and numerous precautions in their 'safe church' policies to prevent this type of situation from ever occurring."

Tate's case also led to the conviction of a former attorney for the church for destroying Tate's laptop computer containing child pornography. The attorney, Philip Russell, was sentenced to six months of home confinement.

Russell's attorneys have said Russell's wife and daughter attended the church, which had been very helpful to his wife when she was ill, and Russell wanted to avoid a church scandal.

Prosecutors said neither Russell nor the church knew about allegations that Tate was sexually abusing children. Tate was not charged with those crimes.