Strongsville Catholic priest hit with 21-count child pornography indictment in Cuyahoga County

By Cory Shaffer
January 17, 2020

Robert McWilliams, the Catholic priest at St. Joseph Church in Strongsville, is arraigned on a child pornography charge in Chardon Municipal Court.
Photo by Cory Shaffer

A Cuyahoga County grand jury has handed up a 21-count indictment charging a Strongsville Catholic priest with possessing child pornography.

The Rev. Robert McWilliams, 39, is charged with 20 counts of pandering obscenity involving a minor, a second-degree felony. He is also charged with possessing criminal tools.

McWilliams is currently jailed in Geauga County on a $150,000 bond. He is set to return to Cuyahoga County to answer to the new charges at a Wednesday arraignment.

McWilliams has been in jail since his Dec. 5 arrest at St. Joseph Church. Ohio Internet Crimes Against Children Task raided McWilliams’ living space at the church’s rectory on a search warrant that originated in Geauga County.

Authorities in Geauga County believe McWilliams was using a second cellphone number to contact children he knew so he could pretend to be someone else, and was using extortion to get the children to send him nude photographs, prosecutors said.

Officers during the search seized electronic devices including a cellphone, iPad and laptop associated with McWilliams. Investigators discovered additional images of child pornography that were not related to the Geauga County investigation, and charged McWilliams in Cuyahoga County, Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Carl Sullivan said.

McWilliams was originally held on a $50,000 bond after his arrest. When a Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court judge refused to lower his bond, McWilliams’ attorney Robert Dixon appealed the decision to the 8th District Court of Appeals and won. Sheriff’s department staff held McWilliams in jail for five days after his mother posted bond.

Prosecutors in Geauga County charged McWilliams with a single count of pandering obscenity involving a minor before he was released from the Cuyahoga County Jail. He was transferred to the jail in Chardon.


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