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Ohio priest found guilty in state child abuse case

CINCINNATI, W.Va. -- A priest charged with taking a 10-year-old boy to West Virginia for sex more than two decades ago was found guilty on Friday.

Federal jurors in Cincinnati found Robert Poandl guilty of one count of transporting a minor in interstate commerce with the intent of engaging him in sex, a charge that carries a possible sentence of up to 10 years in prison.

Poandl, from the suburban Cincinnati-based Glenmary Home Missioners, took the boy to Spencer on Aug. 3, 1991, and raped him while visiting a church there, prosecutors said. Poandl's attorney, Stephen Wenke, told jurors the allegations were false and denied the boy was even on the trip.

The accuser, now 32, waited until 2009 before telling law enforcement officials in West Virginia that he'd been abused. Poandl was indicted there on charges accusing him of sexually abusing the boy, but a judge dismissed those charges in 2010.

Prosecutors told jurors the priest told the boy's parents he needed someone to ride with him to keep him awake and navigate and then raped the boy after they arrived at the West Virginia church. Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim Oakley said the priest then told the boy that they had sinned and needed to pray for forgiveness.

But Wenke said the accuser's story changed through the years and was full of inconsistencies.

The trial on the charge filed last year in Cincinnati began Monday after U.S. District Judge Michael Barrett had earlier rejected a defense motion to dismiss the case over a statute of limitations. The judge ruled the prosecution clearly alleged an offense involving sexual abuse of a child, and federal law permits prosecution of child sexual abuse at any time during the life of the accuser.

The Associated Press generally does not identify people who say they're victims of sexual abuse.

A sentencing date hasn't been set for the 72-year-old priest, who will remain at Glenmary until sentencing. The judge ordered him to be monitored electronically and said he couldn't leave except for medical appointments and meetings with his attorney, Assistant U.S. Attorney Christy Muncy said. The priest isn't allowed any contact with children, Muncy said.

Asked about the difficulty of prosecuting a 22-year-old case, Muncy said that "the facts don't change."

Muncy said she hopes the verdict will encourage any victims of this type of abuse to report it to authorities no matter when the abuse occurred.

The Glenmary religious order, which isn't associated with the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, is a society of priests and brothers who dedicate themselves to establishing a Catholic presence in rural areas and small towns. The group removed Poandl from ministerial duties last year.

The order's president, the Rev. Chet Artysiewicz, said in a statement posted on its website that he respects and accepts the jury's decision.

"My heart breaks for all those who have been impacted by this tragic situation," he said.

 


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