Philly Area Priest Who Lied About Child Sex Abuse To Be Sentenced

The Patch [Philadelphia PA]

March 28, 2022

By Jon Campisi

Robert Brennan, a former Catholic priest who lied to the feds in a child sex abuse case, will be sentenced in federal court later this week.

A former Philadelphia Catholic priest who pleaded guilty late last year to lying to federal agents in connection with a child sexual abuse case will learn his fate later this week when he is sentenced by a federal judge.

Robert Brennan, who was charged in a corruption case by the federal government relating to his alleged sexual abuse of a minor child decades ago, is scheduled to be sentenced on Thursday by U.S. District Judge Anita Brody, according to court records.

According to media reports, Brennan, who had since been defrocked, admitted that he lied to FBI agents when they interviewed him at his Maryland home in 2019, saying that he did not know Sean McIlmail or his family, when, in fact, he had allegedly sexually abused McIlmail decades ago when Brenna was a priest with the Philadelphia Archdiocese.

McIlmail died as a result of a drug overdose back in 2013, according to media reports and court records.

The federal government is urging Brody to sentence Brennan, who is now in his 80s, to five years of probation with the first 24 months on home detention with electronic monitoring, according to a sentencing memorandum filed by lawyers with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Background information on the case provided by government lawyers say the investigation dates back to the fall of 2018, when the FBI’s Philadelphia Field Office began looking into the Roman Catholic Church regarding widespread child sexual abuse by clergy and the Church’s concealment of the abuse.

Grand jury investigations revealed allegations of sexual abuse against dozens of current and former priests, Brennan apparently being one of them.

The reports alleged that Brennan had engaged in “inappropriate or suspicious” behavior with boys from four different parishes, and that a boy identified as S.M. came forward in 2013 to say that Brennan had sexually abused him between 1998 and 2001 when he was an elementary and middle school student at a Catholic school in Philadelphia.

Court papers identify the victim as “S.M.” but the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the victim was McIlmail.

On April 25, 2019, FBI agents went to the Maryland home where Brennan had been living and showed him photos of the victim, but Brennan said he didn’t know the boy. He later admitted that that was a lie.

“The defendant had a choice when the FBI came to his doorstep on April 25, 2019,” reads the government’s sentencing memorandum. “He could have turned them away, or he could have told the truth. Instead, he held close to his lies, claiming not to know a family with whom he had interacted on countless occasions, and a child whom he allegedly molested multiple times — a child whose life was cut tragically short at the age of 26 after he revealed that Brennan had sexually abused him…”

The memo continued: “The defendant’s lies to the FBI were criminal in that they had the natural tendency to influence a decision or function of the FBI, which was investigating possible federal offenses committed by Archdiocesan priests that may have been still viable within the federal statute of limitations, and a possible conspiracy within the Church to cover up such crimes.”

Brennan was ultimately charged with four federal criminal counts of making a material false statement. Each count carries an eight-year maximum prison term plus three years of supervised release and monetary fines, according to the government.

Government lawyers said despite the possibility of jail time, the parties came to an agreement that a sentence of five years’ probation followed by supervised release was warranted in the case.

Brennan’s sentencing is scheduled to take place Thursday at 10 a.m. at federal court in Philadelphia.