Update: $20K Bail for WELS Communication Director Charged with Child Pornography
Joel Hochmuth is suspended from work and authorities claim he had pornographic images on a thumb drive in the WELS offices in Wauwatosa.
Joel W. Hochmuth, 52, of Waukesha, communication director for the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), had his bail set Thursday afternoon at $20,000 on three counts of possessing child pornography.
Hochmuth faces up to 75 years in prison if convicted of the three felony charges.
Detectives from the Waukesha Police Department met with a special agent from the FBI, who told detectives that Hochmuth was using the Internet handle “Skiguy10101” had child pornography on his computer depicting “pre-pubescent and adolescent boys engaged in various sexual acts.”
Hochmuth told authorities that the number of images found on his computer in Waukesha “was nothing compared to what they would find in his office,” the complaint states. Hochmuth denied downloading pornographic images on his work computer but police located three thumb drives at the WELS office in Wauwatosa, 2929 N Mayfair Rd., that had nine images and videos of young boys engaged in sexual acts, the complaint states. Authorities believe boys shown in the graphic pictures ranged from 10 to 14 years old.
Hochmuth appeared in court wearing a green protective vest. His defense attorney, Paul Bucher, said that he is not suicidal but is “devastated by the allegations.”
“It is pretty standard protocol because of the depression and some of the behavior he was having in the jail, but not suicidal,” Bucher said. “He is just depressed and the anxiety of all of this has had an effect.”
Hochmuth’s family was in court but declined to give statements to reporters after the bail hearing.
Hochmuth has problems with adult pornography addiction, Bucher said. Bucher wants to get him out of the jail by the end of the weekend and into counseling. A reporter asked if Hochmuth was addicted to child pornography, to which Bucher replied “I don’t believe that is the case.”
Bucher will need time to review the case, charges and search warrant in the case against Hochmuth.
“I will have to take a look at the images,” Bucher said. “They are described pretty explicitly in the criminal complaint.”
The Rev. Mark Schroeder, president of WELS, said he learned about Hochmuth’s arrest Wednesday evening after being contacted by a reporter.
“We were completely shocked, devastated and surprised,” Schroeder said.
The church official knows limited details about Hochmuth’s arrest, he said, mostly gained from a police report and information in the media.
“We don’t really know anything beyond that,” Schroeder said. “We are sort of in the dark right now.”
His employment suspended “until the facts are fully known,” Schroeder said. WELS will cooperate fully with authorities, according to Schroeder.
“We take allegations such as these very seriously,” Schroeder said. “Our church body has absolutely no toleration for the behavior is being alleged here.”
Hochmuth’s LinkedIn page states he was a correspondent for CNN for about 15 years and also was employed as an adjunct professor of communications at Kennesaw State University.