Former Tyler priest sentenced to prison

Published on Thursday, 13 February 2014 10:05 - Written by From Staff Reports

An Ohio priest who served in the Catholic Diocese of Tyler from 1994 and 1999 was sentenced Wednesday to seven and a half years in prison.

Robert Poandl was convicted of taking a 10-year-old boy to West Virginia for sex in 1991. He was sentenced in federal court in Cincinnati on one count of transporting a minor in interstate commerce with the intent of engaging him in sex.

Prosecutors say the priest, from the suburban Cincinnati-based Glenmary Home Missioners, took the boy to Spencer, W.Va., in 1991 and raped him while visiting a church there.

Catholic officials in Tyler say that no one has come forward claiming abuse by the priest since his indictment in March of 2010, and maintains a page on the Diocese website about Poandl and how to report abuse.

“We encourage people to come forward who have ever been victimized by anyone,” said the Rev. Gavin Vaverek, promoter of justice for the diocese. “That’s our ongoing policy.”

At the time of the indictment in 2010, the bishop at the time of the Tyler Diocese, The Most Rev. Alvaro Corrada, issued a request in parish bulletins for any victims who may be in Tyler to step forward.

Poandl served in a parish in Pittsburg while with the Diocese of Tyler. He was convicted in September and continued to maintain his innocence Wednesday.

"I have never ever abused anyone, ever," the 72-year-old priest told the judge prior to sentencing.

Representatives at the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) say that the kind of cooperation they received from the Tyler diocese is unusual, and still urge anyone in the Tyler Diocese to come forward with any information. Those who wish to come forward may contact law enforcement or SNAP.

"It's never too late to share what you know or suspect with law enforcement officials," said Judy Jones of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "It's up to us to pass on information. And it's up to police and prosecutors to determine what will help them prosecute a criminal."

Besides Texas, he worked at churches and church assignments in Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri and Georgia.

"He has been transferred roughly 30 times in 44 years. That alone is a serious red flag," said David Clohessy of SNAP in the written release.

Poandl also said that he believes his accuser has convinced himself and his family that the abuse occurred and they believe him.

He said he would pray for the accuser and his family.

The victim, who now is in his 30s, also spoke in court prior to sentencing, saying that the priest had "put hate into my heart."

The accuser, looking directly at Poandl much of the time, said that the abuse caused him years of anger and shame.

"It is time for justice to finally be served," he told the court.

The Associated Press generally doesn't identify people who say they were sexually abused.

The accuser, now in his 30s, didn't tell West Virginia law enforcement officials until 2009 that he'd been abused. Poandl was indicted there on charges accusing him of sexually abusing the boy, but a judge dismissed those charges in 2010.

Prosecutors said at the trial that the priest told the boy's parents he needed someone to ride with him to keep him awake and navigate and then raped the boy after they arrived at the West Virginia church. The priest then told the boy that they had sinned and needed to pray for forgiveness, prosecutors have said. The defense argued that the accuser's story changed through the years and was full of inconsistencies.

Poandl's attorney, Stephen Wenke, in asking the court for a lesser sentence, noted that the priest has been diagnosed with late-stage cancer of the kidney and is likely to die before the end of the year. He asked the court to take that into account with Poandl's age and years of community service.

Wenke declined to comment Wednesday after the sentencing other than to confirm that they are appealing.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Christy Muncy had requested the maximum sentence, telling the judge that Poandl abused the trust placed in him by the victim and the victim's family. She later said she thought the sentence was fair.

"I would just encourage anyone who has been the victim of sexual abuse to come forward and have faith that justice will be served," she said.

Poandl's accuser left the court without commenting.

Members of Poandl's family were crying afterward, with some calling out "love you Bob," as the priest left the court in handcuffs.

The Glenmary religious order, which isn't associated with the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, is a society of priests and brothers who dedicate themselves to establishing a Catholic presence in rural areas and small towns. The group removed Poandl from ministerial duties in 2012.