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Former Strongsville, Ohio priest sentenced to life in prison for sex crimes against juveniles

Investigators say McWilliams used ‘confession’ to extort inappropriate material from victims
Rev. Robert D. McWilliams was taken into custody Thursday morning at St. Joseph Parish in...
Rev. Robert D. McWilliams was taken into custody Thursday morning at St. Joseph Parish in Strongsville.(Cleveland Catholic Diocese)
Published: Nov. 9, 2021 at 11:24 AM EST|Updated: Nov. 9, 2021 at 4:21 PM EST
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AKRON, Ohio (WOIO) - A former priest was sentenced to life in prison in Akron Federal Court Tuesday afternoon after being convicted of numerous sex crimes involving children.

Robert McWilliams pleaded guilty on July 16 to various crimes, including production and distribution of sexually explicit images of minors and juvenile sex trafficking.

He was taken into custody on Dec. 5, 2019 at his Strongsville, Ohio church, St. Joseph.

McWilliams was also affiliated with St. Helen’s in Geauga County, Ohio.

McWilliams assembled a “disturbing” child pornography collection of over 1,000 videos and images, extorted teen victims for more graphic images, and compensated at least two other boys for sexual acts, prosecutors claimed in the pre-sentencing report.

According to the court records, McWilliams used confession as a way to extort inappropriate material from the minor victims.

“He is a consumer of child pornography, and an extortionist who violated the sacrament of confession to obtain information he later used, under aliases, to seek the production of sexually explicit material from boys he was “counseling”

Additionally, federal officials said McWilliams pretended to be a female on social media sites to contact minor male victims he knew from his parishes in Strongsville and Newbury Township.

In court, the mother of 3 young male victims addressed the court saying “Father Bobby was evil, disguised as a priest.” The mother, who did not want to be identified called McWilliams sadistic, evil and diabolical, trying to shame all of them into silence. She said her sons were suicidal.

McWilliams apologized saying he was “ashamed and sorrowful for his actions and sins.” He told the court he was “broken and afraid to go for help.” McWilliams said he longs for the days where he can receive the sacraments again.

The mother told McWilliams through the grace of God her family has forgiven McWilliams for all the suffering he put them through.

Statement from the Diocese of Cleveland on sentencing of Rev. Robert McWilliams:

“Today, with the sentencing of Robert McWilliams, let us once again, as a family of faith, offer prayers for all those impacted by his reprehensible actions and ask our loving Father to heal any and all wounds they have suffered. We also thank those in law enforcement and the judicial system who worked so hard to ensure that justice was served and that McWilliams’ wrongdoing was justly punished. Finally, let us offer our support and thanks to all the good priests of the Diocese of Cleveland who faithfully live out their promises each day in service to God’s people. For its part, the diocese continues to actively pursue the removal of McWilliams from the clerical state.”

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