A Catholic priest, being held in Cuyahoga County Jail on charges of child pornography, will be coming to Geauga County to face additional charges.

Rev. Robert McWilliams, 39, who was arrested Dec. 5 at St. Joseph Church in Strongsville, was charged last week in Chardon Municipal Court with sexual performance with a minor, a second-degree felony.

In Cuyahoga, Rev. McWilliams faces charges of illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material and one count each of pandering sexually oriented material involving a minor and possession of criminal tools.

An arraignment in the case has been scheduled for 8 a.m. Jan. 24 in Chardon Municipal Court.

“Given the magnitude of the potential charges in Geauga County and the charges in Cuyahoga County, we wanted to make sure of his availability,” Geauga County Prosecutor James Flaiz said last week of the recent filing.

Mr. Flaiz said he expects to convene a grand jury within 60 days and that additional charges against Rev. McWilliams will be forthcoming.

The charges stem from complaints that arose while Rev. McWilliams was serving at St. Helen’s Catholic Church in Newbury Township. According to the complaint filed in municipal court, an incident on May 17, 2018 resulted in the initial charges. Cuyahoga County officials have said the case involves incidents that occurred in 2016, 2018 and 2019.

Rev. McWilliams was arrested in Strongsville by the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force on a search warrant issued by the Geauga County prosecutor’s and sheriff’s offices. The search warrant sought electronic devices, including a cellphone, iPad and laptop at the church rectory in Strongsville.

Mr. Flaiz said previously that there is no evidence at this time that any child was physically assaulted by the priest.

Sheriff Scott Hildenbrand said sheriff deputies had arranged to transfer Rev. McWilliams to the Geauga County Safety Center last week, but Cuyahoga County officials would not release him. He said as soon as Cuyahoga officials release him, Rev. McWilliams will be brought to Geauga.

Mr. Flaiz said the investigation began after a parent discovered a suspicious text on their child’s phone and reported it. An investigator with the prosecutor’s office has been working for the past three months with a local family on the case.

The evidence recovered through the search warrant reportedly uncovered thousands of images of suspected child pornography.

Joseph Koziol Jr. started his career in journalism in 1981. He joined the Solon Times in 1992 and covered the city of Solon for 10 years. An award winning reporter, Mr. Koziol has been covering Geauga County since 2012.

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