While wearing a hidden recorder earlier this week, a 38-year-old man who said he was molested as a boy confronted former Episcopal priest Richard Pollard.
What did you do to me, the man asked.
“He not only apologized for all the pain he’d caused, but he admits to sexually molesting him,” said Al Danna, an agent with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
On Thursday, agents arrested Pollard at his home at 4601 Floramar Ter. in New Port Richey. The 73-year-old was charged with eight counts of capital sexual battery.
Pollard’s arrest follows a monthlong investigation by the Tarpon Springs and Tampa police departments as well as the FDLE. If convicted, he faces eight life sentences in prison.
The man’s allegations also revealed that the Episcopal Church knew about the abuse allegations in 1995, but did not tell law enforcement.
“I’m sure they did what they thought was the best thing at the time. Whether we’d make the same decision today is hard to say,” said diocese spokesman Jim DeLa.
DeLa and the Rev. Frank C. Creamer of All Saint’s Episcopal Church not
ed there was a different bishop in place in 1995.
“Hindsight is so wonderful,” Creamer said. “I know I handled my responsibilities appropriately at the time. I think the bishop at that time did what was appropriate from his position as well.”
Pollard, who is married and has three grown children, served as priest in three counties. From 1964 to 1969, he was the vicar at St. Elizabeth’s Episcopal Church in Zephyrhills. From 1969 to 1974, he was at St. Andrew’s Church in Tampa, then in 1974, he moved to All Saint’s Episcopal Church in Tarpon Springs.
The abuse happened in Tampa and Tarpon Springs, both at Pollard’s home and the two churches in those cities, said FDLE Agent Danna.
Pollard fondled the boy and had the child perform oral sex on him, police said. He told authorities the abuse started when he was 6 and continued until he was 11. The first incidents happened at St. Andrew’s Church in Tampa.
The abuse continued when Pollard moved to All Saint’s Church, then in downtown Tarpon Springs, in 1974, authorities said.
According to police, one incident occurred during a sleepover at Pollard’s former house on Carlton Road in Tarpon Springs. Other incidents happened at the church itself, police said.
“He took the ultimate trust that there is and betrayed it,” said Tampa Police spokesman Joe Durkin.
In 1995, the man told the Rev. Creamer about the molestation.
After a review by then-Bishop Rogers S. Harris, the situation was settled with Pollard agreeing to pay for counseling for the man. Pollard also agreed never again to function as a priest. Though already retired, Pollard might have been called on occasionally as a substitute priest.
Creamer said the man was neither encouraged nor discouraged from pursuing criminal charges at that time against Pollard. But Creamer said he did tell him about his options, including getting an attorney.
Despite counseling, the man said the incidents continued to “terrorize his personal life,” and he decided he had to do something about it, Danna said. So he called Tarpon Springs police.
Pollard acted as pastor of All Saints until his retirement in 1992. He shepherded the church through a major growth period, which saw the church take up new quarters on Keystone Road in East Lake.
In June, Pollard renounced his ministry after two other men came forward with allegations that he fondled them when they were teenagers in the 1970s. Authorities said the statute of limitations prevents them from charging Pollard with those crimes.
Danna said investigators intend to use the two men as witnesses in this case.
Unlike in 1995, when All Saint’s was not told about the allegations against Pollard, church officials handed out fliers at All Saint’s disclosing the allegations against Pollard and warning, “There is a possibility of other potential victims.”
In addition, Bishop John Lipscomb met with the congregation and participated in an hourlong question and answer session.
“The church doesn’t have anything to hide,” Creamer said. “We want to communicate to the community that we care deeply for the people who may have been hurt by this situation. We have great compassion for the alleged victims and the perpetrator and his family.”
The allegations triggered a church review of the personnel files of more than 700 present and former clergy in the Diocese of Southwest Florida to see whether there were “things that may not have been dealt with properly before,” said DeLa.
Pollard is being held without bail in the Pinellas County Jail.