Rev. Robert Poandl: Priest found guilty in child sexual abuse case

NOTE: Graphic details were discussed during testimony that may be difficult to read or considered inappropriate.

CINCINNATI – A Catholic priest accused of molesting a 10-year-old boy 22 years ago showed no emotion when he was found guilty of sex charges in federal court Friday.

Rev. Robert Poandl, of Fairfield-based Glenmary Home Missioners, was convicted of one count of transportation of a minor across state lines for illicit purposes.

Poandl, 72, faces up to 10 years in prison at sentencing.

When his verdict was read, Poandl's face didn't move. Around him, there were tears and bursts of emotion. Behind him, a man shouted, "Thank God."

Poandl did not comment after the verdict. He remains free on house arrest with electronic monitoring. U.S. District Court Judge Michael Barrett ordered him to have no contact with minors.

The accuser's mother was overwhelmed by the verdict. Her son testified he did not tell his parents or anyone else about the 1991 attack for 18 years until 2009. The man said he suffered nightmares after the attack, experimented with LSD and cocaine, got hooked on Oxycodone and plotted to kill the priest and commit suicide.

"Just the relief and to reach over and to hug my son and to see the relief in him finally.  I've dealt with this 4 1/2 years and it's been a nightmare," she said.  "He has dealt with this for 22 years - 22 years until he could finally see justice."

Judy Jones of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, attended the trial all week to show support for the victim and his family and said, "They are so brave. The victim is so brave. To have to get up there and tell all the gory things Father Bob Poandl did to him."

In a statement, SNAP director David Clohessy said: “We are grateful that Fr. Robert Poandl has been found guilty ... However, we are worried that he may receive such a light sentence.

"It’s crucial that the justice system has accurate information about Fr. Poandl and his crimes so that he can be appropriately sentenced. So it’s important that every single person who saw, suspected or suffered his crimes now come forward to prosecutors."

Father Chet Artysiewicz, president of Glenmary Home Missioners, said in a statement, in part:

“My heart breaks for all those who have been impacted by this tragic situation. This has been a long, painful experience. I respect and accept the decision of the 12 jurors. I and all the members of Glenmary Home Missioners have continually prayed that a just resolution would be reached.

"I pray that God's love and compassion will lead to healing for all involved, especially for the victim and his family.”

See Artysiewicz's complete statement at http://www.glenmary.org/site/epage/146541_919.htm

Outside the courthouse Thursday, Poandl’s brothers, David and Edward, said they believed in Robert’s innocence and they were standing by him during these "dark times." They declined comment after the verdict.

The jury of eight women and four men had the task of weighing the accuser’s startling testimony against the defense’s claim that the former drug user made it all up.

The accuser, now 32, testified that "Father Bob" sodomized him in a West Virginia church rectory in 1991.

The accuser testified that Poandl “screwed up my life by raping me.”

"I wanted to go and kill him, punish him for what he's done," the accuser said.

During closing arguments, the U.S. attorney said Poandl groomed his victim's family by giving them money and earning their trust with the intent to molest the boy.

The defense tried to make the case that the boy had never gone to West Virginia with Poandl, attacking the accuser's drug use and credibility.

Federal prosecutors charged Poandl under the Mann Act after a West Virginia state court dismissed sex and assault charges against him in 2010 because of a technicality.

The accuser said Poandl attacked him after he fell asleep on an overnight trip with the priest to Holy Redeemer Catholic Church.

"I awoke and he was sodomizing me. I cried out, ‘What are you doing to me?’" the accuser said.

"He replied, 'We're having sex.'"

When they retired for the night, the accuser and Poandl took separate beds in a rectory bedroom, he said.

He testified that he woke up a first time and Poandl was fondling him.

“He had his hand in my pants fondling my genitals," the accuser said.

He said he asked Poandl what he was doing and Poandl said was checking to see if he was wearing underwear.

The accuser testified that Poandl went back to his bed, but he awoke again to find Poandl sodomizing him.

Prosecution: “Was your underwear off?”

Accuser:  “Yes.”

Prosecution: "Were you on your stomach or your back?”

Accuser: “Stomach.”

The prosecution asked what the accuser did then.

"I just sat there and got raped," he said.

Prosecution: "Did he finish?"

Accuser: “Yes.”

Afterward, the accuser said, Poandl stood up, held out his hands and repeated, "I did a bad thing."

“You sinned and I sinned. We need to pray,” Poandl said, according to his accuser.

And they both prayed, the accuser said.

Poandl

also told him “this was between you and me and god and that's all that needs to know,”  the accuser said.

When the accuser’s mother testified Tuesday, she said she pleaded with her son to go on the overnight trip with Poandl after Poandl had given their struggling family $800 a week earlier.

The woman testified that her son at first refused to go, but she persisted.

"Father Bob has been so good to us,” she recalled telling her son.

The accuser recounted that Wednesday. He said he remembered that it was the “summer before fifth grade.”

He said Poandl showed up at the family’s Price Hill home on a Saturday afternoon.

His mom asked the boy if he would go on a trip with Poandl because the priest needed someone to keep him awake during the long drive.

The accuser said his teenage brother refused to go and his oldest brother was doing something with school.

“Mom says to me, "He's been very good to us. He's helped us out," the accuser testified.

The accuser said it was dark when they arrived at the church. He said no one else was staying in the rectory.

The accuser said they stayed in a small upstairs bedroom with two twin beds covered with quilts. There were religious paintings on the walls.

He said Poandl told him to take a shower and afterward he put on a T-shirt and underwear. He said that’s what he usually wore to bed.

On the day after the attack, the accuser said he served as an altar boy while Poandl said Mass.

After the trip, he saw Poandl just two more times and Poandl was standoffish, the accuser said.

“I was completely humiliated," the accuser said.

He said he started having nightmares in seventh or eighth grade. Once in high school, he started drinking and smoking marijuana, he said.

He said he used drugs because he wouldn’t get nightmares.

"I didn't tell a single human being until 2009," he said.

He said he felt helpless. He worried that Poandl could hurt other kids, but he feared what he would go through if he brought charges against a priest.

So he decided to kill him.

He testified that he tracked down Poandl online and discovered he was at a mission in Georgia.

Prosecution: “You were going to hunt down the defendant and take his life?

Accuser: “Yes.”

Prosecution:  “Did you contemplate suicide?”

Accuser: “Yes.”

Prosecution: “Did you write a note?

Accuser: “Yes.”

He testified that he had a 12 gauge shotgun, directions and his car packed.

But he finally told his fiancee and his mother about the attack, the accuser said. His parents came to his home and he gave them the shotgun and the suicide note, he said.

Later that year, the accuser pressed charges against Poandl in West Virginia.

He testified he never filed a civil suit.

“All I want is for him to be in a prison and to protect other kids, that's what I want," the accuser said.

On cross-examination, the defense grilled the accuser about his drug use.

The accuser, who works in a pharmacy, said he no longer uses Oxycodone and never worked under influence of drugs.

Defense: “Did you lie to your employer (about your drug use)?”

Accuser: “No,  I did not tell I was taking.”

Defense: “Did the thought cross your mind to take pills from the pharmacy?”

Accuser: “I did not steal from the pharmacy.”

Defense: “You told detectives you hadn't committed any felonies?”

Accuser: “No, I didn't think of my past drug use as crimes.”

During tearful testimony, the accuser’s mother  said she begged her 10-year-old son to go with Poandl.

The mother testified that her husband had lost his job in 1990 and they were having financial trouble with only his pension and her babysitting money to support four kids in Catholic school. She said she taught her kids to respect and obey priests, as she had been taught.

Poandl knew of their money problems, she said, because she and her husband had led marriage encounter weekends with Poandl since 1988 and had often talked about family matters with him.

She said “Father Bob” came to their Price Hill house to do pre-planning for weekends, then he started "popping over" for dinner – once a week or every other week.

One night in the summer of 1991, he showed up for dinner with $800 in a white envelope. The mother said she asked Poandl what she could do for him. Poandl told her to pray for another priest, she said.

A week later, she testified, Poandl showed up at their home on a Saturday afternoon and asked if one of her sons could come with him to West Virginia so he could cover Mass for another priest.

"He always had a kind heart," the mother testified about her then 10-year-old.  "He was the compliant one. He did as he was told."

When her son came home the next day, "he didn't look well,"  she testified.  He was pale and hung back.

When she asked what was wrong, her son said his stomach hurt. He told her Poandl gave him cornflakes with lemonade.

She said she asked the boy if he slept well and he said no.

Then the boy asked her if he ever had go with "Father Bob" again.

She testified that she said no.

At one point in her testimony, the mother glared at Poandl and got visibly angry.

Prosecutor:

“Did he stay for dinner that night?”

Mother: “No.”

Prosecutor: "Did he ever turn down dinner before?”

The mother paused, then said strongly, “No.” 

After turning her head and glaring at Poandl, she faced the  prosecutor and jury again and shook her head.

One week after the West Virginia trip, Poandl stopped at their house and said he wasn’t going to come by anymore,  because he could tell none of her boys were going to become priests, the mother testified.

She didn’t see him again until 2006 at a dance, she said.

The West Virginia trip changed her son, the mother said. He had been gregarious, a talker, funny, but not anymore.

He switched friends and was afraid to go outside, even to take out the garbage.

“He fought us tooth and nail" about going to church, she said.

The defense called four witnesses to try to shoot holes in the accuser’s testimony.

Gail Stone and her husband John, members of Holy Redeemer Catholic Church, said they didn't remember seeing a boy with Poandl there in 1991.

Gail Stone, the church organist, testified that she remembered playing for Poandl and discussed the music with him before Sunday Mass.

John Stone said he had been on parish council and was head of finance and the church renovation project in 1998 and 1999. He testified that some of the church features were not as the accuser had described them.

John Stone said he wasn’t sure if he remembered Poandl.

Judith Hawkins, accounting manager at Glenmary Home Missioners, said Glenmary records show that Poandl was driving a Glenmary vehicle in August, 1991. Poandl paid $100 at the end of the month for gas and wear and tear, she testified.

While the accuser and his mother testified that Poandl picked up the boy in a sedan for the West Virginia trip, Hawkins said Glenmary records showed that Glenmary had only trucks and vans at the time.

On cross examination, the prosecutor pointed out that the Glenmary vehicle records were from 1993 – two years after the trip.

The accuser told jurors that he remembered having steak and eggs at the Queen Bee Diner in Spencer the morning after the alleged attack.

James Greathouse,  a former employee at Queen Bee Diner in Spencer, testified they never served eggs and didn't open until 11 a.m. on weekends.

Former Cincinnati police Lt. Lawrence Handorf appeared as a prosecution witness Wednesday. He said Glenmary Home Missioners hired him in 2009 to look into allegations against Poandl.

He said he interviewed Poandl with his attorney present. He said Poandl acknowledged that he took boys on trips and said he would give them a "Catholic experience."

Handorf said Poandl denied sodomizing the accuser and couldn’t remember if had taken him to West Virginia.
Poandl said he sometimes helped the boy’s family with groceries and possibly money, Handorf said, but when he asked Poandl if he gave them $800,  Poandl asked where he would get that kind of money.

Glenmary Home Missioners is a religious order serving rural communities and is not affiliated with the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, according to Glenmary communications director Jean Bach.

In February 2012, Poandl was accused of sexual misconduct and was relieved of his ministerial duties, Bach said. The alleged incident took place nearly 30 years earlier when the victim was a minor, Bach said.

After that accusation, Poandl lived under a safety plan at Glenmary's Fairfield residence and was not allowed to function as a priest or wear the white collar, Bach said.

Poandl was indicted in the West Virginia case 10 months later in November 2012. He was put under house arrest and required to wear an ankle bracelet, which the court monitors, Bach said.

Poandl is prohibited from leaving the Glenmary residence except for legal or medical appointments, Bach said.

He is always accompanied by at least one Glenmarian when he leaves the residence, she said.

See an account of Poandl's work history at http://www.bishopaccountability.org/assign/Poandl_Robert_F_ghm.htm

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