Federal authorities have charged Father Michael J. Volino, 41, parochial vicar at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Greece, with receiving and possession of child Internet pornography. The Diocese of Rochester has placed the priest on administrative leave, pending disposition of the charges against him.
The priest appeared March 10 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jonathan Feldman in Rochester and was released under house arrest to a family friend, according to Richard Resnick, assistant U.S. attorney. The terms of the house arrest prohibit the priest from accessing a computer and from having any contact with persons under the age of 18, Resnick said.
Father Volino’s attorney, John R. Parrinello, added that Father Volino was fitted with an ankle bracelet to monitor his movements. At this time, his client is planning to plead not guilty, Parrinello said.
The attorney called Father Volino “a very humble and dedicated priest” who “has never acted improperly with any person, period.”
A diocesan statement noted that Father Volino is not allowed to engage in public ministry while on administrative leave. Officials of the Rochester Diocese and the Federal Bureau of Investigation both noted that the diocese is fully cooperating with the investigation.
If convicted on the charge of receiving child pornography, Father Volino could face a mandatory five years in prison and a maximum of 20 years, Resnick said, adding that conviction on the possession charge could carry a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.
If the priest were to be convicted on both charges, the sentences would run concurrently, Parrinello said.
Father Volino was slated to appear in court again on March 14 for procedures related to his house arrest, Parrinello said. Resnick said a preliminary hearing is set for April 12.
According to FBI Special Agent Michael Preisser’s affidavit in support of the federal complaint, while servicing Father Volino’s computer in January, a diocesan Information Technology employee discovered what the employee “thought to be child pornography in the temporary Internet files of the computer.” The employee informed his supervisor, and the diocese subsequently contacted the authorities, Preisser’s affidavit states. The FBI seized the computer and interviewed Father Volino in early February, according to the affidavit.
Preisser’s affidavit alleges that Father Volino told the FBI that he had, for approximately three years, been seeking professional help for sexual issues; that he continued to view Internet pornography while he was in counseling; that he knew it was wrong to do so; and that “he would never take his fixation to the level of touching underage boys.”
In its statement, the Rochester Diocese noted that its decision to place Father Volino on administrative leave is in accord with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.
An Elmira native, Father Volino was ordained in 1992. He has served at St. John the Evangelist since June 2002. Previously he had served at St. Lawrence Church in Greece and St. Theodore’s in Gates.