Over time, I have heard a number of victim impact statements. Some are touching, others seem to miss the point. They can be rambling dissertations that make everyone in the courtroom uncomfortable or even confused. They are sometimes read by the lawyers in the case, but in those circumstances they seem more like a performance than an actual heartfelt statement. There are even times where they hurt the real effort to punish. My advice when a client asks about what to say is:
- Speak from the heart.
- Stick to what the real damage was.
- Get it down to be as succinct as possible.
I was sent the following statement recently. For background a priest named Robert Poandl was sentenced to 7 ½ years in federal prison for raping a 10-year-old boy in 1991. He was convicted by a jury in September of 2013. This is the statement that the 6’5” 280-pound former football player survivor read in court:
Victim Impact Statement
I cannot possibly convey the swath of destruction that lay in Robert Poandl’s wake. We all create ripple effects in the universe around us. These ripple effects can be negative, positive or something in between. I have no doubt Robert helped many people and did many good works, making positive ripple effects. His family and friends are convinced of his innocence which both he and I know is amazing. It attests to the power of faith and love. How anyone could sit through his trial and not be convinced of his guilt is remarkable; Robert certainly did not react when a jury of his peers found him guilty. The sad fact is his family and friends do not truly know him. No person can completely know the depths of another person but they are not even close to knowing his true nature. Unfortunately, I was exposed to his true nature in August of 1991 and have been in a living hell much of the time since. I was a kind and trusting child from a modest family, but that ended that night. He used my parents’ faith in God and Catholicism against them. They too were blinded by faith and love. He preyed on the weak and the poor. He preyed on children to satisfy his own deviant sexual desires. He dropped a nuclear bomb on my psyche. These negative ripple effects did not stop with me. They do not stop with his victims but are transferred to those around them. The angry child who felt betrayed by his parents and by God raged against those who he saw as his betrayers. He saw the world as one without meaning or God. He could not reconcile an omniscient and omnipotent God who loved him with the reality of being handed over to a servant of this God by his mother and then anally raped and told he had in some way sinned. This child who had prodigious potential both in physical and mental capacities saw a world around him devoid of love and honesty. He saw hypocrisy everywhere he looked. Give all you have to the poor and come follow me juxtaposed to jeweled golden chalices, ornate decorations and tithing. Confess your sins juxtaposed to the systematic protection of pedophiles within the Catholic Church. That which you do to the least of my people that which you do unto me juxtaposed to his rape and his parents’ admiration for the rapist. He used to love hearing his mother hum church hymns after mass but afterwards it felt like shards of glass sticking into his mind; had she known he wondered. He could not stop this cascade of negativity and hatred. He wanted to be loved and accepted but at the same time was furious with those who were supposed to provide this love and protect him. He became a fountain of misplaced rage. He found outlets for these dark and powerful feelings in football and substance abuse. He wrote dark tales and drew demons. He put tape on his helmet and wrote the word pain. He inscribed the word hate on his mouth piece. He was plagued by reoccurring nightmares of the abuse. There was no sanctuary from the mental anguish. It has been said memory says it is so; pride says it cannot be so; eventually memory yields to pride. Unfortunately for me and my family, my memory works too well for this. It is seared into my mind like a hot brand into flesh. Unfortunately for Robert’s victims, early childhood sexual abuse proves this line of logic to be fallacy. In my adolescence and until recently, I was ashamed that I had been raped. No man wants to look his father or brothers in the eyes and tell them how they were abused. People with good intentions have recommended books written by women about rape not understanding my self-image as a man was greatly damaged. I have been to one SNAP meeting and talked to another victim of his named Jeff. The things I heard; I do not know how anyone can let it go and be so positive but I am trying my best. The substance abuse spiraled out of control and in many ways stinted my potential and poisoned my soul. I came very close to blackening my own soul by seeking vengeance against him and I came close to ending my own life when I decided I could not commit cold-blooded, premeditated murder. It takes a special type of person who is twisted and evil to carry out such heinous crimes as murder or rape with such premeditation as I contemplated and he carried out. He has no idea how close I came to killing him. He has no idea what it is like for that impulse to remain. I plotted and planned a murder. I hurt my future wife and mate Lauren; she has undergone undue misdirected anger and undue stress from this process. Robert put hate into my heart.
The angry child is long gone and a jaded man is what remains. I no longer blame my parents or God; it was Robert Poandl who raped a 10 year old boy. My anger was misplaced and transferred to others and myself. My mother is a VERY good person and only made a mistake. My parents stopped being Catholic the day I told them what happened. He robbed them of their faith. They stopped going to church and stopped praying at meals. This priest, Robert Poandl, weakened my family’s faith in people, in God and in Christianity.
One of the many differences between Robert and I is that I see how my actions have affected others and I care. I have taken ownership of it and I will accept the consequences. Whether it was Robert, one of those who believe his lies or a sympathetic Catholic who reported my testimony to the Board of Pharmacy does not matter. By trying to drag me down to hell with him, he sinned in another abhorrent way. His whole life is a lie. He is twisted and turned and evil.
If there is a shred of decency left in him, Robert should come clean to his family and friends. They think he is being unjustly incarcerated and persecuted. I do not want money. I do not want money. I have no cause to lie. My legal transgressions occurred AFTER I made my initial deposition. I will accept what comes to me as a man must. His family and friends will be very angry with him if he reveals his true nature but then they will truly know him and will likely still love him. He is at the end of his rope. The reaper is coming. He should help find his likely numerous unnamed victims. He should repent.
I used to wonder how he justified it. I used to wonder if he was an atheist. He has some form of mental illness; I certainly have posttraumatic stress disorder and I am a recovering drug addict. This negative ripple effect ends here. I am choosing light and I am going forward. I have taken my lumps but he will not drag me down to hell with him. I will get married to Lauren and God willing we will have children. I see in children innocence which needs to be protected and all that is right in the world. He saw potential victims.
But he should not think by repenting this will save his soul. Does he think he can say he is sorry to another priest and all is forgiven? Say 10 hail marries and the slate is wiped clean only to find other victims and destroy more lives. Does the old fool think he can outsmart God?
Matthew 7:21-23 – “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
And now it is time for Robert to reap what he has sewn. There is no ace in the hole to play here; this is not WV. All the pain and punishment that is coming his way is well-deserved. He caused many times this pain through his negative ripple effects and heinous crimes. It is time for justice to finally be served. There is nowhere left for Robert Poandl to hide.
His judgment cometh and that right soon.
This statement hits home. As I hope for all of our clients that it really helped. That making the statement relieved him of the pain that he had suffered.
A founding partner with Bradshaw & Bryant, Mike Bryant has always fought to find justice for his clients—knowing that legal troubles, both personal injury and criminal, can be devastating for a family. Voted a Top 40 Personal Injury "Super Lawyer" multiple years, Mr. Bryant has also been voted one of the Top 100 Minnesota "Super Lawyers" four times.