Cleveland priest charged with child porn ordered to remain behind bars

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CLEVELAND (WJW) -- A magistrate ordered a Strongsville priest to be held without bond after he was charged with several federal counts related to child pornography.

Father Robert McWilliams, 39, sat in the courtroom in a green-striped prison uniform, his face flush with color, as Magistrate Judge Thomas Parker read off charges that included sexual exploitation, child pornography, and juvenile sex trafficking.

McWilliams is on administrative leave from the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland. When disturbing details of the alleged crimes came out in a law enforcement affidavit last week, the diocese issued a statement saying in part that it was "incredibly shocked and profoundly saddened by these new allegations."

The diocese went on to say that it asked its community to pray that justice may be served and healing may begin.

McWilliams already faces similar charges in state court.

At the federal hearing, McWilliams' court-appointed attorney, Robert Dixon, said that both Cuyahoga and Geauga county authorities placed Williams in protective custody. Dixon said that threats against McWilliams safety had been made after he was initially jailed in Cuyahoga County.

Magistrate Parker said he couldn't order the U.S. Marshals Service to place McWilliams in such custody, but that he should report any threats to authorities.

After the hearing, Dixon told us that no one had put hands on McWilliams behind bars, but that there had been taunts and potential threats.

The next step in the federal process is for the case to be presented to a grand jury.

McWilliams potentially faces decades in prison if convicted on all charges.

Continuing coverage, here.

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