Priest, deputy among 18 charged in prostitution sting

? A Roman Catholic priest and a Clay County Sheriff’s deputy were among 18 people charged in a Kansas City area prostitution sting.

The operation, which occurred in June, focused on escort services and involved 20 law enforcement agencies in Kansas and Missouri — the largest local sting of its kind. About 100 people were arrested, according to Kansas City Police, who coordinated the effort.

Sixteen of those charged Thursday in Platte County face a misdemeanor charge of patronizing prostitution. Two were charged with a misdemeanor charge of prostitution.

Among those charged Thursday was the Rev. Vincent Rogers, pastor of St. James Catholic Church in St. Joseph. Rogers, 36, was found guilty of patronizing prostitution and sentenced to probation the same day. Rogers entered an Alford plea, which means he did not admit guilt but conceded there was enough evidence to convict him.

“Father Rogers believed that prolonging the proceedings would result in further disruptions at his parish and in adverse publicity to the priesthood and the church,” said Rogers’ attorney, John P. O’Connor.

Clay County Sheriff’s Deputy Preston E. Darity also was among those charged Thursday for patronizing prostitution. Officials with the Clay County Sheriff’s Department could not be reached for comment. Darity was suspended after he was arrested.

The prostitution sting began with police placing four ads in a weekly newspaper and on the Internet. Police said people who answered the ads and agreed to exchange something of value for sex acts were arrested. Police said women who agreed to provide sex acts in exchange for something of value also were arrested.

In court Thursday, Rogers received a suspended sentence and was placed on two years’ probation. As special conditions of his probation, Rogers will be required to undergo testing for sexually transmitted diseases, obtain counseling and perform 40 hours of community service.

After his arrest in June, Rogers contacted the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, which placed him on administrative leave.

No decision has been made about whether Rogers would be able to return to work, said the Rev. Patrick Rush, vicar general and spokesman for the diocese.

“We have a large box of letters from parishioners requesting that he be able to remain,” Rush said. “Certainly, we’ll take the parishioners’ requests into account.”

Rush said it probably would be the middle of next week before any decision was made.

Parishioner Phyllis Conard said that despite the plea, she still believed in Rogers.

“I still have faith in him,” Conard said. “I still love him. By pleading the way he did, that is between him and our God. I’m praying for him just as I always did.”