By Rudy Miller
A former principal at Salesianum School was sentenced Monday to more than three years in prison for making thousands of attempts to search for child pornography on the internet.
William McCandless was sentenced to 37 months in prison followed by 15 years of supervised release. The sentence was confirmed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sherri Stephan and defense attorney Michael J. Diamondstein.
Court records say McCandless was living in Monaco as an advisor to the royal family in 2017 when a volunteer found thousands of images of child pornography on a church computer. The discovery came immediately after McCandless left Europe and moved to DeSales University in eastern Pennsylvania, records say.
Authorities in Monaco alerted authorities in the Lehigh Valley, but a search of computers found in McCandless’ room yielded no evidence, records say.
Local authorities did find, however, that McCandless attempted thousands of times to access child pornography websites on his iPhone.
McCandless pleaded guilty to attempting to access child pornography from his phone. Charges of possessing child pornography and importing it to the United States were withdrawn as part of a plea agreement.
“He denies any connection to the child pornography materials found in Monaco,” Diamondstein said in his sentencing memorandum.
Diamondstein’s memo says McCandless’ life shouldn’t be defined by his crimes. He served with honor for 11 years as a U.S. Navy chaplain, Diamondstein wrote. The attorney collected 55 letters from friends and family who vouched for McCandless’ character.
“Those who know Father McCandless value him as a bastion of the community,” Diamondstein wrote, adding, “That a man of Father McCandless character and lifetime of good and selfless deeds should fall so far is a reminder of the frailty of the human condition.”
Stephan wrote that McCandless was skilled at hiding his conduct.
“What people saw on the outside was not what was festering on the inside. He was hiding who he was in plain sight,” Stephan wrote.
DeSales University said McCandless worked as a counselor at the university’s wellness center from Feb. 1, 2017, until Oct. 18, 2017. He was terminated when the school first learned he was under investigation.
After the 2020 arrest of McCandless, Brendan Kennealey, then-president at Salesianum, said Father McCandless had served at the school while a seminarian and later was a guidance counselor before being named principal. He said school officials were told by U.S. Attorney’s office investigators that none of the allegations against the priest happened while he was at Salesianum and did not involve any of the school’s students.
According to Diamondstein’s memorandum, McCandless will never serve as a priest again.
After his release, McCandless will live under the supervision of the Wilmington-based Oblates of St. Francis DeSales and will be placed on a sex offender registry.
From 2010 until January 2017, as a member of the Catholic order of Oblates of St. Francis DeSales, McCandless served as parochial vicar at Paroisse Saint Charles in Monaco and was an advisor to Princess Charlene, wife of Prince Albert II, according to the Oblate of St. Francis DeSales website.
(Dialog staff contributed to this report).