US investigation of priest sex abuse produces first charges in Philadelphia

AP News
September 05, 2019 - 1:00 pm
Robert Brennan lawsuit

Matt Rourke/AP, file


PHILADELPHIA (AP/KYW Newsradio) — Federal prosecutors in Philadelphia have charged a former Roman Catholic priest with lying to the FBI about whether he knew an accuser and his family.

The charges against 81-year-old Robert Brennan are the first to come from a sweeping Justice Department investigation into child sexual abuse by priests in Pennsylvania.

Authorities say Brennan was arrested in Maryland and is expected to be arraigned Thursday afternoon in Philadelphia.

The indictment says Brennan told FBI agents in April that he did not know accuser Sean McIlmail from his years at Resurrection of Our Lord Parish in northeast Philadelphia parish from 1993 to 2004.

Brennan was indicted on related state sexual assault charges in 2013, but the case was dropped when McIlmail died of a drug overdose before trial.

His family has settled a lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for an undisclosed sum.

A former lawyer for Brennan did not return calls seeking comment.


A 2005 Philadelphia grand jury report said that Brennan was repeatedly named in complaints about inappropriate behavior around children. He was suspended by the church and moved to Perryville, Maryland. He was defrocked in 2017.

Former District Attorney Seth Williams, who charged Brennan in 2013 only to drop the charges after the young man died, said he had hoped to "have brought Father Brennan to justice." However, he said he didn't have the evidence to pursue the sex abuse charges.

"It appears now that the only justice he'll have is in the afterlife," Williams said at the time.

But U.S. Attorney William McSwain sent broad subpoenas to dioceses across Pennsylvania in the wake of last year's damning grand jury report by the state attorney general. Brennan's arrest is the first to stem from that probe.

"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."

Brennan is charged with four counts of lying to authorities. He faces a sentence of up to 32 years in prison if convicted.

If convicted of making the false statements, Brennan could get up to 32 years behind bars, a $1,000,000 fine and three years supervised release.


KYW Newsradio's John McDevitt contributed to this report. 

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