Patrick Wojahn, a gay man and former mayor of College Park, Md., was sentenced Monday to 30 years in prison on child pornography charges.
Wojahn, 48, was charged with “possession, possession with intent to distribute and distribution of material that exploits children,” The Baltimore Sun reports. He pleaded guilty to all charges and accepted the punishment as part of a plea agreement.
Prince George’s County Circuit Judge Karen H. Mason handed down a 150-year sentence but suspended most of it, leaving the prison time at 30 years. He also will be subject to five years of supervised probation upon his release, have to register as a sex offender, and be barred from unsupervised contact with minors. As a nonviolent offender, he will be eligible for parole after serving one-quarter of his prison sentence, but if he violates the conditions of his release, he could be imprisoned again.
Wojahn was elected to the College Park City Council in 2007 and won the mayor’s office in 2015. He resigned as mayor in March after detectives obtained a search warrant for his home. He was soon arrested, and he has been held without bond since then.
The search arose from a tip to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Detectives seized Wojahn’s cell phones, his computer, and more, and found they contained hundreds of pornographic images of children. Investigators identified 52 of the children, many of whom offered victim impact statements.
“This is not a victimless crime,” Assistant State’s Attorney Monica Meyers said at a news conference, according to the Sun. “It impacts these children today and for the rest of their lives.”
Mason said she believed Wojahn showed genuine remorse, and his attorney, David H. Moyse, said the former mayor appreciated that. “He’s focused on doing what he can to rehabilitate himself and make this up to the people that love and support him,” Moyse said.
At the sentencing hearing, Wojahn said, “I want to give an apology,” the Washington Blade reports. “I don’t know what happened. I can’t explain what changed me. I want to apologize to all my friends. I apologize to my family.” He stated his love for his husband, Dave Kolesar, and both men were in tears.
“I hope what I went through will help others who need help, get help,” Wojahn said. “I do hope I will be able to recover fully myself. I hope others will know recovery is possible.”
Kolesar testified at the hearing as a character witness, along with Wojahn’s mother, his sister, and 13 of his friends. “Most told the judge they understood the seriousness of the charges … but called on the judge to take into consideration the good that Wojahn has done as a family member, friend, and elected official over his lifetime,” the Blade reports.
Those who spoke included representatives of two LGBTQ+ Catholic groups — Sister Jeannine Gramick, cofounder of New Ways Ministry, and Francis DeBernardo, its executive director, plus Thomas Bower of Dignity Washington.
Some witnesses said Wojahn had mental health and addiction issues that had contributed to his use of child porn, and they urged that he receive treatment while incarcerated. Mason said he would be housed at the Patuxent Institution in Jessup, Md. It is a maximum-security prison that offers extensive mental health services.