Richard Arthur Pollard, 73, a former Episcopal priest who renounced his orders two months ago amid allegations of sexual misconduct, was arrested Thursday on charges he sexually assaulted a boy.
Pollard’s accuser looked on as Pollard was handcuffed and taken to the Pinellas County Jail.
The arrest came after investigators wired a Tarpon Springs location with audio and video recording equipment and caught Pollard on tape admitting to the abuse and apologizing to the victim, said Al Danna, a Florida Department of Law Enforcement special agent who coordinates investigations of crimes against children.
“I feel that justice was served … but I’m still not sure how I feel,” the priest’s accuser, now a 38-year-old man, said at a news conference at Tarpon Springs Police Station.
Investigators said assaults occurred between 1970 and 1974 when Pollard served at St. Andrew’s Church in Tampa, and between 1974 and 1976 when he was rector of All Saints Church in Tarpon Springs.
His accuser was between 6 and 11 years old at the time. He told investigators Pollard performed oral sex on him and had him do it to him, Danna said.
Because the alleged sex occurred many years ago, investigators said there is no way to know how many times it happened, but they are certain it occurred at least four times in Tampa and four times in Tarpon Springs, Danna said.
The boy, who was a friend of Pollard’s son, met Pollard at St. Andrew’s Church.
After Pollard transferred to Tarpon Springs in 1974, the victim occasionally visited Pollard’s home to play with his friend, officials said.
“He would say not to tell anyone, [people] wouldn’t understand our special relationship,” the priest’s accuser said. The Tribune does not publish the names of sexual assault victims.
Pollard retired from All Saints in 1992 after 38 years of ministry, with an emotional send-off. He was praised for building membership.
But three years after the priest retired, his accuser came forward with allegations.
Jim DeLa, spokesman for Episcopal Diocese of Southwest Florida said Pollard and then Bishop Rogers Harris met with the victim and his family.
Pollard apologized “for any pain he may have caused” and promised to pay for the young man’s psychological treatment, DeLa said.
DeLa said in his review of church records that he found no mention of criminal charges; the diocese never contacted authorities, Danna said.
This victim isn’t the first to come forward against Pollard.
Two men in their 30s came forward two months ago and accused Pollard of fondling them when they were teenagers in the 1970s, Danna said. The men chose not to file formal complaints, in part because they said they believed prosecutors could not charge Pollard because the statute of limitations had run out.
But in the most recent case, the allegation constituted capital sexual battery because of the alleged victim’s age at the time of the crime – and therefore there was no statute of limitations deadline.
If found guilty, Pollard would receive a mandatory sentence of life in prison for each charge, Danna said.
DeLa said the church is not aware of any other allegations against Pollard.
“We’ve asked that if anyone else was involved or had any information to please come forward,” DeLa said. “We would want them to come forward.”
A sign on the door of Pollard’s modest waterfront community home in west Pasco County reads: “Peace to all who enter here.”
A man who answered the door at his stucco home, at 4601 Floramar Terrace, identified himself only as Pollard’s relative. He said the family has been advised by their attorney not to speak about the case.
Zephyrhills Police Chief Robert Howell lived near St. Elizabeth Episcopal Church when Pollard was vicar there in from 1964-69.
“We were good friends, and when I heard about it I was certainly surprised,” Howell said Thursday.
Howell said he never would have suspected Pollard was capable of committing the crimes of which the defrocked Episcopal priest is accused. But, he noted, he hasn’t seen his former neighbor for years.
The retiring police chief recalled his children playing with the Pollard children. The Pollards were leaders in the east Pasco community, he said.
“They were very nice people: good parents, good citizens, good neighbors, well thought of in the community.”
Neighbor Valeria Krathwohl said: “They’re quiet people, just beautiful people. It’s hard to believe that he would do something like that.”