Investigation of Pennsylvania clerical sex abuse produces first charges

Investigation of Pennsylvania clerical sex abuse produces first charges
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Federal prosecutors charged a former priest Thursday with lying to the FBI, the first charge in a far-reaching federal investigation into clerical abuse in Pennsylvania, the Justice Department announced.

U.S. Attorney William McSwain claimed Robert Brennan, who was a priest in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia from 1993 to 2004, lied to investigators during an April interview as to whether he knew a man who had accused him of sexual abuse and his family.

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The Philadelphia district attorney filed criminal charges against Brennan in 2013 for allegedly sexually abusing a minor, Sean McIlmail, but the charges against Brennan were dismissed after McIlmail died of a drug overdose a month later. His family settled a civil lawsuit against Brennan and the archdiocese in May 2018.

During his 2019 FBI interview, the indictment claims, Brennan falsely claimed not to have known McIlmail or his father, mother or brother before the 2013 case was filed. He was arrested in Maryland on Thursday morning, according to McSwain’s office.

“Making false statements to the FBI is a serious crime, and given the circumstances, the alleged false statements here are particularly disturbing,” McSwain said. “We will use all of the tools at our disposal to hold this defendant accountable for his alleged actions.”

“The defendant allegedly lied to the FBI to obstruct an investigation into complaints that he sexually abused a child while serving as a priest,” said Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D).

“I’m proud to work with our federal partners to hold him accountable. Our Office will investigate and prosecute anyone who abuses children, takes advantage of their position of power, or gives false statements to law enforcement, no matter who they are,” he added.

In a statement to The Hill, the archdiocese of Philadelphia noted that Brennan was laicized in 2017 and "has not been in active ministry since September of 2005" when it placed him on administrative leave over a sexual abuse allegation.

"Today’s indictment and arrest of Mr. Brennan are not due to an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor, but concern alleged false statements made by Brennan to federal investigators," the archdiocese added.

Updated: 2:51 p.m.