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Ex-priest sentenced to prison for child sex abuse

Father Robert Poandl served in Claxton, Pembroke through 2012

Ex-priest sentenced to prison for child sex abuse

Ex-priest sentenced to prison for child sex abuse

Robert Poandl

A former Catholic priest in Ohio who worked in Claxton, Pembroke and Glennville as recently as 2012 was sentenced Wednesday to 7½ years in prison for taking a 10-year-old boy across state lines for sexual purposes.

The Rev. Robert Poandl, 72, was sentenced by a federal judge in Cincinnati, nearly five months after a jury found him guilty of one count of transporting a minor across state lines with intent to engage in sexual activity, according to a Wednesday news release by the FBI Cincinnati Division.

Poandl was taken into custody immediately after the hearing to begin serving his sentence.

Testimony during the trial showed that in August 1991, Poandl — also known as "Father Bob" — transported a 10-year-old boy from Cincinnati to West Virginia and sexually assaulted him.

Case background

The victim came forward in 2009, but the case was dismissed, according to news reports. It was revisited in 2012.

"The nature and circumstances of the offense are horrendous," Assistant U.S. Attorney Christy Muncy told the court. "They involve the violent sexual and psychological assault of a prepubescent male. Poandl abused the trust placed in him by [the victim's] family."

After a federal grand jury indicted Poandl at Glenmary Home Missioners in Fairfield, Ohio, in 2012, he was placed on house arrest with electronic monitoring.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative designed to protect children from online exploitation and abuse. Led by the U.S. Attorneys Offices, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to better locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children, as well as identify and rescue victims.

"Anytime a sexual predator is in jail, that's a good thing," said Barbara Blaine, the president of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, in a telephone interview Thursday.

Church reaction

Father Chet Artysiewicz, the president of Glenmary Missioners, issued a statement following the sentencing.

"From the time I first learned of the charges against Father Poandl, my daily prayer — and that of the Glenmary community — has been for truth and a just resolution," he wrote. "Today's sentencing is another step in the legal process in which we placed our trust."

The statement continues: "I remain committed to continuing and further strengthening Glenmary's efforts to protect children and vulnerable adults and will always take any allegation of a Glenmarian's improper behavior seriously. To anyone who has been hurt because a Glenmarian did not respect and/or maintain ethical or legal boundaries, I offer my most sincere, heartfelt apology.

"It is only through God's unyielding power to heal that those involved in this case may find peace," Artysiewicz concluded. "I continue to pray for that healing to take place, especially for the victim and his family."

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Savannah, whose territory includes three Glenmary missions where Poandl served — St. Christopher in Claxton, Holy Cross in Pembroke and Our Lady of Guadalupe in Sand Hill — issued a bulletin notice for those missions after he was convicted in September.

The notice reminded parishioners of the diocesan toll-free hotline, (888) 357-5330, to report incidents of sexual abuse by a diocesan employee or volunteer, and encouraged any victims or those with knowledge of such incidents to come forward. It also said parishioners could contact their pastor, the Diocesan Office for the Protection of Children and Young People at (912) 201-4073, or police.

Glenmary relieved Poandl of his pastoral duties in Claxton, Pembroke and Sand Hill in February 2012. He was living under a safety plan at Glenmary's Cincinnati residence and not functioned as a priest since then, according to a statement by the missioners.

Barbara King, the communications director of the Savannah diocese reiterated the diocesan reminder and policy on child sex abuse by employees or diocesan volunteers.

"We constantly encourage anyone who has been the victim of sexual abuse by a diocesan employee or volunteer - in the (weekly) bulletin, the Southern Cross (diocesan newspaper) - to report it to us and simultaneously to civil authorities - or they can go directly to civil authorities," King said in a telephone interview Thursday. "We want them to tell us so we can deal with it as far as taking someone out of our employment."

She added that if someone reports sexual abuse to the diocese but not told police, it is the diocese's policy to report it to law enforcement.

After Poandl was sentenced, the diocese posted Artysiewicz's statement on its own website.

Is church doing enough?

Blaine, the SNAP president, said Catholic dioceses, including Savannah, are still not doing enough to encourage those with knowledge of sexual abuse of children by priests and other church employees or volunteers to come forward. She also said civil authorities should prosecute to the fullest extent of the law anyone who helped cover up sexually predatory activities by priests or other church officials.

She noted that Poandl had been transferred at least 30 times during his career. Priests who are sexual predators, Blaine said, tend to have much higher transfer rates than those who do not sexually abuse children.

"Let's be clear," Blaine said. "Church officials knew that (Poandl) had abused. He was indicted in 2010 on three counts of abusing a boy. Church officials reinstated him into ministry again after the charges were dismissed, and then they removed him again in 2012. ... These church officials — this is the findings that keep coming up everywhere — that they care more about protecting reputations of predators than they do about the innocence of children."

Jason Wermers may be reached at (912) 489-9431.


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