Pastor gets 5 years probation

FAIRMONT — In late April, the small town of Northrop was rocked by the news that Robert Cairl Trueblood, then pastor at St. James Lutheran Church, had been charged with the possession of child pornography.

Trueblood, 56, has now been sentenced, with a stay of imposition. A stay of imposition means a person pleads guilty to a felony level offense. However, if they successfully complete probation, the conviction will be deemed a misdemeanor. If probation is violated and the stay of imposition revoked, a judge will then pronounce a sentence that would have initially been given.

On Monday, Trueblood was placed on supervised probation for five years, and will be monitored by the Minnesota Department of Corrections.

Conditions in his probation agreement include following the recommendations of a psychosexual evaluation completed in September. Other conditions prohibit use of the internet without approval, registration as a predatory offender, and having no contact with persons under age 18 without document approval by the probation agent, with the exception of his minor child.

Trueblood is also sentenced to 90 days in the Martin County Jail, and is to serve 90 days on work release, if eligible. In addition, the sentence includes a $1,000 fine.

According to the original complaint, on March 7 the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension received a tip from the company Chatstep. According to company representatives, a user identified as “PervyPastor” accessed a chat room through the service and uploaded a photographic image identified to be consistent with child pornography. Chatstep provided information about the user’s IP address, and indicated the incident occurred on March 7, at about 4:14 p.m.

The Bureau received information from Frontier Communications in response to a subpoena that indicated the IP address was assigned to a subscriber identified as St. James Lutheran Church and School in Northrop. The agent accessed the website for the church and school and located the staff directory. Given the name utilized by the reported user as “PervyPastor,” the agent identified the Reverend Robert C. Trueblood as the school’s superintendent. The agent noted that all other staff consisted of females.

From there, the agent reviewed the comprehensive list of data and confirmed that on numerous occasions user “PervyPastor” accessed chat rooms on the service, and also noted that additional users “TrueRev,” “Kyle” and “Robert,” also accessed Chatstep chat rooms from the reported IP address, and the rooms were the same or similar to the ones accessed by “PervyPastor.”

The agent proceeded to access Chatstep and initiate correspondence with “TrueRev.” When the agent asked “TrueRev” what his preferences would be given his occupation, “TrueRev” replied the “job itself has nothing to do with the preferences.”

The agent then engaged “TrueRev” in a private correspondence during which “TrueRev” provided his cell phone number and email address, indicating the information was to be used for “clandestine conversations.” The email given was “erastes@tutanota.com,” and the agent confirmed that the telephone number given is a VOIP service number and that tutanota.com is an encrypted email service that provides end-to-end encryption of a subscriber’s email contents and attachments. This information led the agent to believe that “TrueRev” is actively engaged in taking steps to conceal his identity.

In further email communication, “TrueRev” indicated he had been propositioned for sexual contact by individuals under the age of legal consent, but indicated he had not followed through with physical contact.

On April 24, “TrueRev” established a private chat room with Chatstep, and the agent corresponded with “TrueRev,” who was in the room under the username “Pastor.” During this time “TrueRev” sent several sexually explicit photographs of young males. Many were of young boys whose ages were questionable as it relates to them being 18 years of age.

During the chat, “Pastor” stated he taught elementary and secondary levels at a local parochial school, consistent with Trueblood’s position within St. James Lutheran School.

A search warrant was executed April 27 at the church office of St. James Evangelical Lutheran Church in Northrop. During the execution of the warrant, Trueblood’s computer was taken into custody and preliminarily examined. During the examination, Bureau officials discovered pornographic photographs depicting children under the age of 18.

Trueblood was interviewed by law enforcement and admitted the conversations documented by the agent were conversations in which he was engaged, and the content of those conversations was accurate.

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