|Roane Judge Dismisses Priest's 1991 Molestation Charges
By Andrew Clevenger
August 30 2010
Catholic priest from Cincinnati who was accused of molesting a 10-year-old boy in 1991.
Robert F. Poandl had been scheduled to go to trial on Monday. On Friday, Judge David W. Nibert dismissed all charges against Poandl, including first-degree sexual assault, first-degree sexual abuse and sexual abuse by a parent, guardian or custodian, with prejudice, meaning that they cannot be re-filed.
In January, a Roane County grand jury indicted Poandl, charging the 68-year-old priest with molesting the alleged victim at the Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Spencer in August 1991.
Nibert's ruling gives Roane County prosecutor Josh Downey 90 days to appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court. Downey did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.
Nibert ruled from the bench following an all-day hearing on Friday, said Anita H. Ashley, one of Poandl's defense attorneys.
In June, Nibert had ordered the accuser to authorize his medical providers to disclose certain records to him, she said. Some records were turned over, but not a full and complete disclosure, she said.
"It became apparent that there were several of those medical records that were missing, that [the judge] decided may well have been exculpatory," Ashley said. "He basically said that the accuser had manipulated the evidence, basically that he could not trust him based on his history. He had no trust in his ability to make a fair and honest disclosure."
Ashley said that with the exception of several adoption cases she has handled in her nearly 30 years as an attorney, this was the most satisfying result of her career.
"From the beginning it was clear to me that this man was innocent," she said. "I commend the judge for making this ruling, which is clearly the right ruling."
Ashley provided the Gazette with a copy of a letter that Poandl wrote to the priest and parishioners of the Holy Redeemer parish in Spencer, written Saturday before Poandl left for New Jersey to be with his family.
Poandl thanked them for their prayers and kindness.
"Of course, I had known that this man was not trustworthy from the moment that he accused me. I knew that I had not hurt him in any way, let alone committed that terrible crime against him," Poandl wrote. "I also know that such lying makes it all the harder for any true victim of such a crime to come forth and be believed. But until Friday and the court ruling, it was simply my word against [his] -- and because of some very sad history in our Church, my word was strongly questioned."
On Monday, a spokeswoman for Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, issued a statement criticizing the ruling.
"We hope this will be appealed to the West Virginia Supreme Court. It's important that the truth of what happened gets to be aired in open court. And it's important that suspected child predators not walk free because of legal technicalities," said Judy Jones, the organization's Midwest associate director.
"We know this victim and family. They are very credible and caring. This brave young man and his loved ones should be commended for coming forward," she said. "This victim and his family have done everything right and they have done it largely alone. It is time for others to speak up. It is important that no one victim, witness, or whistleblower feel like he or she must carry the burden of keeping Poandl away from children alone."
Jones called on Catholic bishops in dioceses where Poandl has served to investigate accusations against Poandl, calling it their civil duty and moral obligation.
"Every bishop who quietly sits back and does little or nothing risks enabling a child molesting cleric to molest again," she said.
Glenmary Home Missioners, a Catholic society of priests and brothers in Cincinnati with whom Poandl is associated, issued a statement on Friday.
"Father Poandl has maintained his innocence since the accusation was made in June 2009, and he has never had any other allegation made against him in his over 40 years of missionary priesthood," the statement reads. "The initial allegation was brought to the attention of Father Dan Dorsey, Glenmary's president, and he took immediate steps to report the allegation to civil and church authorities."
Poandl has been on administrative leave and has not functioned as a Catholic priest since June 9, 2009, the release states.
Reach Andrew Clevenger at acleven...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.
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