COLUMBUS (WCMH)–Joel Wright, a former student at a Columbus seminary, was formally charged Wednesday in Southern California on charges he attempted to travel out of the country to rape underage children.
A grand jury indicted Wright on one count of attempting to cross state lines “with intent to engage in a sexual act with a person who had not attained the age of 12 years,” and a count of traveling, and attempting to travel, from Ohio to California and Mexico “for the purpose of engaging in any illicit sexual conduct with another person.”
Wright was arraigned on the charges Thursday and pleaded not guilty.
He could face up to 30 years and a fine for each individual charge. His mother, Teresa Poquette, did not want to comment but said her son was innocent.
In a criminal complaint filed last month, a special agent with the Department of Homeland Security said Wright engaged in frequent email communications, indicating his interest in sexually assaulting children between the ages of one and four.
Wright was also ordered by the grand jury to forfeit property, including two cell phones.
The indictment was announced by the United States District Court in the Southern District of California.
Wright was a student at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus for one semester.