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New charges: Strongsville Catholic priest charged 21-count child pornography indictment

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Posted at 10:43 AM, Jan 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-17 14:40:08-05

CLEVELAND — A Cuyahoga County grand jury handed down a 21-count indictment against a Strongsville Catholic Priest who is accused of possessing child pornography.

Reverend Robert McWilliams, 39, is charged with 19 counts of pandering sexually oriented matter involving a minor, one count of illegal use of minor in nudity-oriented material or performance and one count of possessing criminal tools, according to court documents.

McWilliams was arrested on Dec. 5 at St. Joseph Catholic Church for allegedly possessing child porn.

According to the criminal complaint, McWilliams was in possession of child pornography three separate times—the first instance in 2016, again in 2018, and then again in 2019.

Court records state on May 17, 2018, McWilliams posed as a female minor in order to receive nude images of teenage boys. McWilliams received a nude image of the boy’s genitals through electronic communication, according to the court.

McWilliams was previously arraigned on Dec. 9 in the Cuyahoga County. He was appointed a public defender and was given a $50,000 bond. According to court records, he posted bail on Jan. 2.

McWilliams has an arraignment scheduled in the Cuyahoga County for Jan. 22.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests thanked law enforcement for arresting McWilliams, but said there is still work to do. They released the following statement:

"We applaud law enforcement for their work in this case, but there is still much more to do. Child pornography is a crime with many victims, many predators and a tragically long shelf life.

Rev. Robert McWilliams was arrested on church property for possessing child pornography. Now Catholic officials in the Diocese of Cleveland must immediately call upon any victims, witnesses, or whistleblowers to come forward to law enforcement with information that will aid in the investigation. Rev. McWilliams' complete work history must also be publicized and reviewed, with an eye to uncovering whether any children were victimized at any of his posts.

Catholic leadership often says that sex abuse in the Church is "in the past,” but cases like this prove otherwise. Over the past two years, law enforcement in at least 30 states have arrested or started criminal proceedings against living, working priests implicated in sex abuse, according to SNAP’s internal monitoring. This means that parishioners and the public must continue to be vigilant in order to protect children in their communities.

Child pornography is a devastating crime that can lead to a lifetime of victimization. Now it is up to Catholic officials in Cleveland to learn whether or not any parishioners were harmed by Rev. McWilliams. In addition to doing outreach to every church where Rev. McWilliams worked, we also call on Bishop Nelson Perez to release the findings of the secret grand jury investigation into his diocese. The only way to protect children is to be completely transparent."

RELATED: Strongsville priest charged for possession of child pornography receives $50,000 bond