Priest to serve child pornography sentence in Island jail
A week after a member of Saudi Arabia's extended royal family reached a plea deal to serve his jail time at the Dukes County House of Correction, a second off-Island prisoner was sentenced to the Edgartown facility.
On Monday, a Bristol Superior Court judge sentenced Rev. Stephen Fernandes, 55, to eight months at the Island's house of correction. Prosecutors had asked for a three-year sentence.
Mr. Fernandes, a Roman Catholic priest in New Bedford, was arrested last November and pleaded guilty on Sept. 26 to charges of possession and distribution of child pornography and posing a child in a state of nudity.
According to the Associated Press, investigators found more than 500 images of child pornography, including 114 video files, on Mr. Fernandes' computer after he sent his laptop to a computer servicing company. Mr. Fernandes also allegedly pretended that he was a 19-year-old woman in a successful effort to coerce a boy to perform a sex act, which Mr. Fernandes recorded.
Michael McCormack, Dukes County sheriff, said that Mr. Fernandes will serve his time at the Dukes County House of Correction because there were concerns over his safety at a larger, off-Island jail.
"Because our facility is smaller and we don't have gangs, it is generally a safer place," said Sheriff McCormack. "Both the judge and the defense attorney thought it was appropriate for him to serve his sentence here, and I agreed."
Sheriff McCormack said that there are currently 28 inmates serving time for various offenses at the house of correction, located on Upper Main Street in Edgartown.
Mr. Fernandes is the second high-profile prisoner to arrive at the facility in the last two weeks. Last week, Bader al-Saud, a member of Saudi Arabia's extended royal family, arrived at the jail to serve his one-year sentence.
Mr. al-Saud, 23, was sentenced to two years in jail with one year suspended after pleading guilty to motor vehicle homicide while operating under the influence of alcohol and driving without a license. Three years ago, Mr. al-Saud, then a student at Suffolk University, struck and killed Orlando Ramos, 37, shortly after leaving a downtown Boston nightclub with a friend.
Mr. al-Saud was allowed to serve his jail time on the Vineyard after reaching a plea deal with the court, the Suffolk District Attorney's office, and his defense attorneys.
This week, Sheriff McCormack said that in most cases he is able to determine when an inmate can serve time on the Vineyard. He said that he agreed to accept both Mr. Fernandes and Mr. Al-Saud into the facility.
The news of the two high-profile incarcerations generated several off-Island press reports that likened the Island house of corrections to a shabby bed and breakfast.
The Boston Herald published a news story on Tuesday entitled, "Kiddie porn priest joins prince at cushy Island jail."
Several newspapers quoted Bristol County District Attorney Paul Walsh, calling the Island jail "the country club of state prisons."
In a news story published last week in The Times, Sheriff McCormack said that a jail sentence is never cushy.
"I think that anyone who thinks there is a cushy incarceration doesn't really understand incarceration and the concept of incarceration as a punishment meted out by the court," he said.