Dying Priest Sentenced to 7 1/2 Years in 1991 Sex Abuse Case
By Brenna R. Kelly
February 13, 2014
A longtime Catholic priest was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison Wednesday after he was convicted last year of taking a Cincinnati boy to West Virginia and sexually assaulting him in 1991.
Rev. Robert F. Poandl, 73, who is dying of cancer, could have been sentenced to up to 10 years in prison. U.S. District Judge Michael Barrett said he took Poandl’s health into consideration when deciding the sentence and recommended that Poandl serve his time in a medical facility.
Federal jurors in Cincinnati found him guilty in September of transporting a minor in interstate commerce with the intent of engaging him in sex.
“He preyed on the weak and the poor, he preyed on children to satisfy his sexual desires,” Poandl’s victim David Harper, now 32, told the judge during the hearing. “It is time for justice to finally be served.”
The Enquirer does not normally identify victims of sexual abuse, but because Harper has stepped forward publicly, we have chosen to do so in this instance.
Before the judge handed down the sentence, Poandl, denies the allegations, told the judge he will pray for the victim and all victims of sexual abuse.
“I am repulsed by the notion of child sexual abuse,” he said. Poandl also said he would pray for wrongly accused priests “as I find myself the victim of that as well.”
Poandl belongs to the Glenmary Home Missioners, a Fairfield-based Catholic religious order and is not associated with the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.
He was relieved of ministerial duties in February 2012. Poandl is suffering from kidney cancer which has spread. His attorney said people with Poandl’s diagnosis have a 20 percent chance of living five years.
Barett said he received numerous letters in support of Poandl prior to the sentencing hearing. Two of Poandl’s nephews, his sister and his doctor urged the judge to give Poandl the most lenient sentence.
“If you want to send an innocent man to jail, send me,” said his nephew Frank Poandl. “He didn’t do it.”
Poandl met Harper’s family through a marriage ministry and took the boy, with his mother’s permission, on an overnight trip to a rectory in West Virginia.
Once there, Poandl awakened the boy in the middle of the night by having sex with him. The victim told authorities that after the act, Poandl said they had just sinned and needed to pray to God for forgiveness.
Harper didn’t tell anyone about the assault for 18 years, but he said Wednesday the events were “seared into my mind like a hot brand into flesh.”
Harper said the abuse led to substance abuse and caused him to consider killing Poandl and himself.
“Robert put hate into my heart,” he said.
At the trial, Poandl’s defense tried to undermine the victim’s credibility by bringing up his past abuses of prescription drugs and a 2009 citation for marijuana possession.
This was the second charge Poandl faced in the 1991 assault. The same incident was to be the focus of a trial in West Virginia in 2010, but the charges were dismissed.
The case was resurrected in federal court because Poandl was accused of taking the boy across state lines.
According to Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, Poandl’s employment history had “big red flags” because he had been transferred about 30 times in 44 years.
Another man testified Wednesday that Poandl abused him and his brother in Georgia in the 1980s. The man, who said he was an alter boy and a boy scout, said he was abused in a rectory bathroom.
“Fr. Bob is a child predator and a pedophile,” he said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Christy Muncy said that in addition to the two men, prosecutors believe there is a third victim.
“There is no doubt that Mr. Poandl has had a positive impact on a lot of people’s lives,” Muncy told the judge. “I don’t doubt that there are a lot of boys he didn’t abuse, but there were three that he did. To most of the planet, he is a good person, but to those three boys, he is their abuser.”