Fired WELS Official Pleads Not Guilty to Child Pornography
Joel M. Hochmuth, 52, is out of the Waukesha County Jail on $20,000 bail and is ordered to not use the Internet.
Editor's Note: This article has been updated to reflect that Joel Hochmuth was fired from his duties at the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod following his arrest.
The former communications director for Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, who was fired from his position after his arrest, pleaded not guilty to three counts of child pornography possession Friday morning in Waukesha County Circuit Court.
Joel W. Hochmuth, 52, of Waukesha, waived his preliminary hearing during his court hearing. Another hearing has been set on the case for Feb. 3. Hochmuth currently is out of jail on $20,000 bail and is ordered to not access the Internet. 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 in mid-November, 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,” according to the criminal complaint.
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 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.
The Rev. Mark Schroeder, president of WELS, previously told Waukesha Patch that the religious organization was “shocked, devastated and surprised” about the allegations against Hochmuth. Hochmuth was suspended “until the facts are fully known,” Schroeder told Patch.
“We take allegations such as these very seriously,” Schroeder said. “Our church body has absolutely no toleration for the behavior that is being alleged here.”