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Press Release

Former Villanova University Campus Ministry Official Sentenced to 6 ½ Years in Prison for Child Pornography Offense

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Pennsylvania

PHILADELPHIA – U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain announced today that Timothy O’Connell, 52, of Drexel Hill, PA was sentenced to 78 months’ incarceration, 10 years’ supervised release, a $5,000 fine, and a $5,000 special assessment by United States District Judge Gerald J. Pappert after pleading guilty to one count of receipt of child pornography in June 2019.

In February 2018, the defendant received images depicting the sexual abuse and exploitation of pre-pubescent children. The victims depicted in the child pornography included a one-year-old child who had previously been identified by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in another child abuse investigation. At the time he committed the crime, the defendant was employed as Associate Director of Campus Ministry at Villanova University.

“Child pornography offenses are always abhorrent,” said U.S. Attorney McSwain. “But this case is particularly disturbing due to the defendant’s history as a spiritual leader at one of our region’s most respected institutions of higher education. To Villanova’s credit, they cooperated with our investigation and helped us to resolve this matter. Most importantly, we stand ready with our federal and local partners to identify and prosecute anyone who would prey upon minor children -- no matter their position in the community.”

“Those who seek out child pornography help drive a demand for such depraved images, leading to more young children being sexually exploited,” said Michael T. Harpster, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division. “The men and women of the FBI who investigate these disturbing cases are determined to bring to justice those involved with child pornography and protect innocent children from sexual victimization.”

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Villanova University Department of Public Safety, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Priya T. De Souza.


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Updated November 21, 2019

Project Safe Childhood