Trial of former St. Helen’s seminarian now scheduled for May


January 3, 2021

By Andrew Cass

The trial of a Strongsville priest with Geauga County ties is now scheduled for late May, federal court records show.

The priest, Robert McWilliams, 40, is facing charges of two counts of sex trafficking of a minor, three counts of sexual exploitation of children, one count of transportation of child pornography, one count of receipt and distribution of visual depictions of real minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct and one count of possession of child pornography.

McWilliams is a former seminarian at St. Helen’s Catholic Church in Newbury Township.

A trial in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio was previously scheduled for Feb. 18, but in December defense attorney Robert A. Dixon asked for the case to be continued, citing ongoing challenges stemming from the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Dixon’s motion was unopposed by federal prosecutors. Northern District of Ohio Judge Sara Lioi set a new jury trial date of May 24. The new deadline for a plea deal in the case is set for April 9, court records show.

McWilliams was arrested Dec. 5, 2019, at St. Joseph in Strongsville after the Ohio Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force raided his office and living space. He was facing criminal charges in Cuyahoga and Geauga counties, but prosecutors in both ultimately dropped their cases after a federal complaint was filed Feb. 21 in the The Northern District of Ohio U.S. Court.

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