BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) – A former music director at a prominent Greenwich church was sentenced Thursday to 5 years in federal prison for possessing child pornography.

Robert Tate, 66, must also pay a $50,000 fine, participate in sex offender treatment and register as a sex offender.

Tate pleaded guilty in January 2007 to possessing child pornography and then spent several weeks at long-term treatment centers for sexually deviant behavior.

“I’ve struggled all my life with sexual attraction to young boys,” Tate said during his sentencing hearing in U.S. District Court in Bridgeport. “I was abused myself, but that is no excuse for what I did. I’m deeply ashamed of it.”

Tate was abused by a music teacher when he was a boy, according to his attorney, Francis O’Reilly.

Tate was choir director for 34 years at Christ Church, creating a music program that gained an international reputation. Former President George H.W. Bush attended the church while growing up and funeral services for his parents were held there.

“He was known worldwide,” prosecutor Peter Jongbloed said of Tate. “He had the keen ability to teach children how to sing and how to sing well.”

But while teaching the privileged, Tate sexually abused children at home and abroad since the 1970s, prosecutors said. Tate picked up boy prostitutes in New York and brought them back to his apartment at the church for sexual activity and traveled to Thailand to have sex with boys, authorities said.

Prosecutors also said Tate permitted two sexual predators to remain in the church’s choir at various times. They said he rehired an assistant organist who was fired for sexually assaulting a choir boy and failed to tell authorities when the organist assaulted another church choir boy.

“We now know that the former assistant organist was a serial child predator who sexually abused children wherever he went,” prosecutors wrote in court papers.

Jongbloed said there is no evidence that those who are abused are more likely to abuse others.

Tate admitted he fondled boys for money in the Philippines and Costa Rico. He also said he traveled to Thailand to pay for sex with young men.

Tate also said he went to New York City.

“There were boys I went into the city with whom I had this kind of interaction,” Tate said.

Tate was not charged with those incidents. Prosecutors would not say why, but attorneys involved in the case said the conduct occurred many years ago and the victims were unknown.

Dr. Richard Mark Weinberger, who directs the clinic in Minnesota where Tate was treated, said Tate was unusually forthcoming in admitting his misconduct and has made progress in recognizing the harm he caused.

“He has demonstrated he is amenable to treatment and is willing to address hard issues and make changes in his life,” Weinberger said.

U.S. District Judge Alan Nevas condemned Tate’s conduct but said he would have faced a much longer sentence had he not agreed to treatment and been forthcoming about his misconduct.

“What you did was unspeakable. It was horrendous,” Nevas said, adding that Tate victimized children every time he looked at a graphic image.

Tate’s case led to the conviction of a former attorney for the church for destroying Tate’s laptop computer containing child pornography. The attorney, Philip Russell, was sentenced to six months of home confinement.

Jongbloed said Tate was helpful as a witness in the case against Russell.

Russell’s attorneys have said Russell’s wife and daughter attended the church, which had been very helpful to his wife when she was ill, and Russell wanted to avoid a church scandal.

Prosecutors said neither Russell nor the church knew about allegations that Tate was sexually abusing children.


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