Ex-DeSales University priest’s child porn included torture of young children, feds say

By Sarah Cassi
December 03, 2020

A former DeSales University priest and advisor to the royal family of Monaco is accused of possessing thousands of images of child pornography, including some described as the torture of very young children, according to federal authorities.

William McCandless, 56, of Wilmington, Delaware, was charged by indictment Thursday with three counts of child pornography offenses, U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain announced.

McCandless, who was previously assigned to DeSales University, appeared Thursday in federal court before Magistrate Court Judge Henry Perkin and was arraigned in the case.

McCandless was placed on house incarceration with electronic monitoring, and ordered to surrender his passport because he has frequently traveled overseas and has numerous contacts abroad, prosecutors said.

“McCandless’ alleged conduct here is extremely disturbing. It occurred not just overseas but continued while he crossed international borders, purporting to do the work of the Church,” McSwain said in a news release. “The innocent children in these images will have to deal with the impact of this alleged abuse for the rest of their lives. We can never make them fully whole again, but we can bring them some measure of justice by investigating and prosecuting the people who drive the demand for this abuse, no matter their affiliations.”

Defense attorney John Waldron said Father McCandless was aware of an investigation for the past 38 months, but they were not told any details.

“We were trying to find out why it’s taking so long,” Waldron said, before he was called Wednesday and told McCandless was indicted. “I have never seen an investigation take over three years.”

Waldron said he was anxious to receive discovery to see what exactly the specifics are evidentiary-wise in the case.

In a statement released Thursday evening, DeSales University said McCandless worked as a counselor at the university’s wellness center from Feb. 1, 2017, until Oct. 18, 2017.

He was terminated when the school first learned he was under investigation in this case. Because of the ongoing criminal case, the university declined to comment further on the matter.

“Consistent with the University’s mission, DeSales remains committed to maintaining a safe environment for our students and the larger community,” the statement said.

From 2010 until January 2017, as a member of the Catholic order of Oblates of St. Francis DeSales, McCandless was assigned to the St. Charles Parish in the European Principality of Monaco.

McCandless served as parochial vicar at Paroisse Saint Charles in Monaco and was an advisor to Princess Charlene, wife of Prince Albert II, according to the Oblate of St. Francis DeSales website.

Prosecutors said while McCandless worked in Monaco, he collected thousands of images of child pornography, which he brought back with him to the United States in January 2017.

Once back in the U.S., McCandless allegedly tried to get similar images, prosecutors said, and also searched online for things like how to get “off the grid,” how to “disappear” and how to erase items from “the cloud,” the prosecutor said.

“For a priest and university faculty member to violate his position of trust by allegedly engaging in the depraved activity for which he has been indicted is reprehensible,” said Brian A. Michael, Special Agent in Charge for Homeland Security Investigations Philadelphia.

Before he left for Monaco, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests released a statement accusing McCandless of admitting to abusing a 14-year-old French boy attending a church camp.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports news of the accusation broke in the Monegasquan press in 2016 and McCandless was ordered back to the United States.

The case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations and was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat child sexual exploitation and abuse.



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