Judge Tosses Sex Abuse Case against Priest

By David Hedges
Times Record
September 2, 2010

Criminal charges lodged against a priest accused of sexually abusing a young boy nearly 20 years ago have been dismissed after the judge found problems with the evidence.

In January a Roane grand jury indicted Robert Poandl, 68, of Cincinnati on charges of 1st degree sexual assault, 1st degree sexual abuse and sexual abuse by a custodian.

The charges allege Poandl molested a 10-year-old boy from Cincinnati who traveled with him to Spencer in August 1991, when he was filling in for the priest at Holy Redeemer Catholic Church.

The alleged victim did not tell anyone about the incident until last year.

But Poandl’s attorneys, Anita Ashley and Dennis Curry, say Poandl came to Spencer by himself and the entire story was fabricated.

“Father Bob did not bring a boy to Spencer,” Ashley said.

“This kid made the whole thing up,” Curry added.

A jury trial set for this week in Roane Circuit Court was cancelled when the charges were dismissed.

After a pretrial hearing Friday, Roane Circuit Judge David Nibert spent more than 30 minutes explaining his decision.

Nibert said there had been “substantial prejudice” in the handling of the evidence and dismissed the charges with prejudice, which means they cannot be filed again.

Nibert stayed execution of his order 90 days to give prosecutor Josh Downey time to appeal the decision to the State Supreme Court.

The ruling involved evidence that was not disclosed, including medical records the defense had requested months ago.

Some medical records were provided but many more were not, the defense claimed, and the ones that were, all collected by the alleged victim, had several missing pages.

Downey said this week he was still reviewing his options.

“The state respectfully disagrees with the judge,” Downey said. “We feel the matter was ready for trial. The records not disclosed were not relevant to this matter because the victim already stated on the record he never told a doctor about this.”

The alleged victim, a 29-year-old pharmacist who still lives in the Cincinnati area, testified by telephone during Friday’s hearing.

He said he had suffered from increasing nightmares about the incident and broke up with his girlfriend when he started making plans to get revenge.

“I had a plan to kill Poandl to get him back for ruining my life,” the priest’s accuser said.

He said he later reconciled with his girlfriend, now his fiancee, when he made the decision to share his story with others.

“I told her how he had taken me to West Virginia and raped me,” he said over the telephone.

He said Poandl, a family friend, came to the family’s porch that summer and asked his mother if one of the children could accompany him on the drive to West Virginia “to talk to him to keep him awake.”

The abuse allegedly occurred in the rectory, the priest’s residence next to the church.

But Ashley said Poandl was not even in Cincinnati when he left for the trip, and did not return there after his visit to Spencer that lasted only a few hours.

Ashley said a very detailed diary kept by a former nun who was secretary for the local church at the time makes no mention of anyone accompanying Poandl.

The accuser’s brother, an attorney, contacted State Police last year to lodge a complaint on his brother’s behalf.

The brother also testified by telephone Friday, as did State Police Major Jack Chambers, who relayed the complaint to the officer who investigated the case, Sgt. D.B. Swiger of the State Police Crimes Against Children Task Force.

Much of the questioning centered on the original complaint given to Swiger that alleged the abuse occurred in Beckley in 1992, instead of Spencer in 1991.

The defense claims those questions were never resolved.

The defense also claimed the alleged victim failed to provide employment records or of any actions that involved his license by the Ohio Board of Pharmacy.

In his testimony, the alleged victim admitted he had developed a problem with painkillers that were not prescribed for him, but he kicked the problem on his own. He also said he was issued a citation for marijuana possession last year.

He admitted he did not submit all medical records over the 19-year period since the alleged incident, including treatment for a broken jaw suffered in the eighth grade when he was attacked by 20-year-olds.

Curry said there were other problems with the alleged victim’s story, including claims he was a high school football star who attracted offers from Division I schools. Ashley said their investigator learned the accuser had not even played football after his sophomore year and made no significant contributions to the team.

“If somebody lies about something like that, it’s got to mean something,” Curry said.

“The judge concluded (the alleged victim) is not credible. You can’t trust him.” Curry said. “They were trying to manipulate the evidence to convict an innocent man. Only a person without a conscience would do something like that.”

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