Former Wheaton College professor pleads guilty to child pornography
BY DAN ROZEK Staff Reporter August 5, 2013 12:22PM
Donald Ratcliff / photo from Carol Stream police
Updated: August 5, 2013 12:35PM
A former Wheaton College professor who has written books on children’s spirituality pleaded guilty Monday to having child pornography on his home computer.
When he was arrested last year, Donald Ratcliff had on his computer at least 500 pornographic images of children — some of whom appeared to be younger than 13 years old, DuPage County prosecutors said during his brief court hearing.
Ratcliff told police after his 2012 arrest that he sporadically had been seeing a counselor because of his interest in child pornography, prosecutors said.
The plea means the 61-year-old Ratcliff faces a possible seven-year prison term when he is sentenced later this year, though he also is eligible for probation.
As part of his plea deal, prosecutors dropped nine other felony counts — including six of aggravated child pornography that would have made Ratcliff eligible for a 49-year prison term.
Carol Stream police arrested Ratcliff in March 2012 after an investigation traced Internet files containing child pornography to computers in his home.
Police searching his house seized six computers and found the child pornography, Assistant State’s Attorney Louisa Nuckolls said Monday.
Ratcliff admitted periodically downloading pornographic pictures and videos of children but told investigators he wasn’t addicted to viewing the images, Nuckolls said.
“He felt he had a problem, not an addiction,” Nuckolls said, quoting what Ratcliff told authorities.
He said little during his hearing, but quietly responded “guilty” when Judge John Kinsella asked him to enter a plea.
At the time of his arrest, Ratcliff taught Christian education at the suburban religious college famed for being the alma mater of evangelist Billy Graham.
He also had written 10 books on children’s spirituality.
The college fired Ratcliff shortly after he was charged and his wife quickly divorced him.
Through his attorney, Ratcliff declined to comment on the guilty plea.
He remains free on bail until his Oct. 9 sentencing.