Monday, April 30, 2012

One Courtroom, Two Defendants and Two Cases Headed in Opposite Directions

There are two defendants on trial in Courtroom 304, Monsignor William J. Lynn and Father James J. Brennan.

Msgr. Lynn is charged with conspiring to endanger the welfare of children by covering up for abuser priests, and allowing them to remain in ministry; the main charge against Father Brennan is the attempted rape of a 14-year-old.

The back story at the archdiocese of Philadelphia sex abuse trial, now beginning its sixth week, is that the evidence against Msgr. Lynn continues to pile up every day, while the case against Father Brennan appears to be unraveling.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Monsignor Lynn Takes The Witness Stand

For more than two hours Thursday, the jury in Courtroom 304 got to hear the defendant, Monsignor William J. Lynn, testify candidly about his bumbling pursuit of a sexually abusive priest on the loose from the archdiocese of Philadelphia.

Only it wasn't the real monsignor up on the witness stand, just a man who gets paid to play him in court. As he has done several times previously, Assistant District Attorney Anthony Pomeranz took the witness stand Thursday to read another volume of Lynn's 2002 grand jury testimony to the jury in the archdiocese of Philadelphia sex abuse trial.

Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington once again reprised his role as the grand jury prosecutor, asking the questions, while Pomeranz read Lynn's answers into the record. In the past, this prosecutorial play-acting could be dull, as the monsignor pontificated about Catholic tradition and archdiocese protocol, tossing around words like canonical, laicization and Catholocity.

But the play acting turned serious Thursday as the grand jury testimony focused on what Lynn did and, far more damaging, what he failed to do while pursuing sex abusers in collars. Sadly for the monsignor, the testimony that Pomeranz read into the record did not follow the defense script in this trial, which has been to paint the late Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua as the man with the ultimate power in the archdiocese, and thus, the real villain of the story.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Sex Abuse Victim: "I Felt Betrayed"

The soft-spoken 49-year-old doctor on the witness stand said he was angry at himself, because the last thing he wanted to do was cry.

But it's not easy to sit in front of a jury of strangers and tell all the tawdry details from your worst personal nightmare. The doctor, however, pulled himself together, and described how he felt after a priest he trusted and admired had just molested him.

"I froze," the doctor said. "I felt betrayed, I felt confused."

The grown men in the front row of the jury box looked uncomfortable as the doctor shared his story. They stared straight ahead, or looked away, as if they shared his anguish. It was a powerful moment in Courtroom 304, and a bad day to be a defendant at the archdiocese of Philadelphia sex abuse trial.

No Return to the Courtroom for Father Avery

Shortly before 2 p.m., Jeff Lindy, one of Msgr. William J. Lynn's defense lawyers, stood up in Courtroom 304 of the Criminal Justice Center to announce a deal.

The Commonwealth and the defense had agreed that there would be no questions on cross-examination of the former altar boy raped in 1998 by Edward V. Avery, the former archdiocese of Philadelphia priest now serving a prison sentence of 2 1/2 to 5 years.

Avery pleaded guilty on the eve of the archdiocese sex abuse trial to charges of conspiring to endanger the welfare of a child, and involuntary deviant sexual intercourse with a 10-year-old. His former victim, now 23, testified in court Wednesday about what the priest did to him. He described two sessions of oral sex and masturbation that took place after Mass in a supply closet at St. Jerome Church in Northeast Philadelphia.

Defense lawyers seemed eager to cross-examine the former altar boy, who was tearful, and did not appear overly confident on the witness stand. But the defense decided that the price of trying to poke holes in the witness's story was too high.

Cardinal Bevilacqua Appointed A Known Pedophile As Assistant Pastor

The therapist, Dr. Thomas J. Tyrrell, warned in the secret archive files in 1989 that his patient, Father Peter J. Dunne, was "a very sick man" who should be "relieved from active ministry."

Father Dunne was, according to the archdiocese's secret files, an extremely intelligent homosexual with addictive sexual behavior. He was also an untreatable pedophile, and a narcissist with an obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. "We are sitting on a powder keg," Dr. Tyrrell warned in 1989.

Archdiocese officials had known since 1986 that Father Dunne had sexually abused a 13-year-old member of his Boy Scout troop. The archdiocese knew that the abuse went on for three years, and that the priest had paid the victim $40,000 to keep quiet. They also knew there had to be other victims. In the archdiocese's secret files, Dr. Terrell stated that he suspected the priest was guilty of being involved in a "myriad number of sexual misconduct cases."

In 1989, a second therapist, Dr. Eric Griffen-Shelley, reported to the archdiocese that Father Dunne was skipping out on his mandatory group therapy sessions. The therapist said he was "wondering if the archdiocese is putting itself at risk with someone so uncooperative on the loose."

"I believe that he [Father Dunne] is quite likely acting out sexually and needs to have firm limits set on his behavior," Dr. Griffen-Shelley concluded. On April 1, 1990, the doctor recommended removing Dunne from active ministry, adding, "A parish assignment is out of the question for a pedophile."

Yet, on May 25, 1990, Cardinal Bevilacqua wrote a letter notifying Father Dunne that he had just been appointed as assistant pastor of Visitation BVM in Trooper, Pa. In the letter, His Eminence waxed eloquent on the priestly ministry of a known pedophile.

"As an assistant pastor, you are called to know and love the people you serve, to care for the poor and needy, to teach the youth, to attend the sick and dying, and to assist in the overall maintenance of the parish," the cardinal wrote Father Dunne. "It is my fervent prayer that all of your priestly efforts will bear fruit in the hearts of God's people, and that the coming years will bring you ever closer to sanctity and salvation ... Sincerely yours in Christ, Anthony J. Bevilacqua, archbishop of Philadelphia."

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Will Father Avery Return to Court In a Jump Suit, Part 2

The issue of whether former priest Edward V. Avery would return to Courtroom 304 in a jump suit was argued again in court Tuesday, and the judge decided to keep all options open.

Avery is the defrocked archdiocese priest who pleaded guilty on the eve of the archdiocese of Philadelphia sex abuse trial to charges of conspiracy to endanger the welfare of a child, and involuntary deviant sexual intercourse with a 10-year-old boy. The jury in the case was never told why Avery suddenly disappeared from the defense table.

On Wednesday, the former altar boy that Avery raped is scheduled to appear in court as a witness. He's going to tell his story of abuse, and then the defense lawyers in the case will have to decide how hard to go after the witness in cross-examination.

As it stands now, the former altar boy poses all the risks of a suicide bomber. If the defense decides to aggressively challenge the witness's credibility, Judge M. Teresa Sarmina may grant the prosecution permission to tell the jury about Avery's guilty plea.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Will Father Avery Be Hauled Back to Court in a Jump Suit?

The judge in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia sex abuse trial left open the possibility Monday that prosecutors may be allowed to haul into court a former priest who, on the eve of trial, pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to endanger the welfare of a child and involuntary deviant sexual intercourse with a 10-year-old boy.

Edward V. Avery, a defrocked former archdiocese priest, is now serving a prison sentence of between 2 1/2 to 5 years. But his chief accuser, namely the former altar boy that he abused, is due in court on Wednesday. The question is whether defense attorneys in the case will be allowed to challenge the victim's credibility on cross-examination.

Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington told Judge M. Teresa Sarmina that if she rules that defense lawyers can challenge the victim's credibility, "We're back to square one, with Avery on trial here." That's when the judge suggested that the prosecution had the option of seeking permission to haul Avery back in court.

What the Cardinal Knew, Or How to Hoover A Pedophile

As the religion reporter at The Philadelphia Inquirer in the early 1990s, my assignment was to profile Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua.

At the time, I was negotiating with the cardinal's PR guys, Brian Tierney and his eager assistant, Jay Devine, for a face-to-face interview with His Eminence. The cardinal's men offered some suggestions. If I wanted to do a story about the cardinal, I should see him in action first. They wanted me to accompany the cardinal on one of his carefully choreographed "parish visits."

These were glorified photo-ops where Bevilacqua would visit a local parish, say Mass, and then mug for the cameras. It was all part of the cardinal's image as an energetic, charismatic shepherd out among his adoring flock. The cardinal's PR guys also suggested several priests to interview, boosters who would say positive things about what a wonderful job Bevilacqua was supposedly doing to re-energize the archdiocese.

It took months for the cardinal's PR people to settle on the right parish and the right pastor for the cardinal's parish visit, which would be the subject of photos and a big Sunday spread in the Inquirer.

There were some ground rules about my participation in the parish visit. One, I could not travel with the cardinal; I would have to follow in the car behind the cardinal's chauffeur-driven Ford Crown Victoria. Two, I could not speak to the cardinal unless he addressed me first. And last, if he did deign to speak to me, I had to refer to him as His Eminence. Not Cardinal, not Cardinal Bevilacqua, but His Eminence.

The parish visit went off as scheduled. The parish we visited was Our Mother of Sorrows, an ethnic Slovak church in Bridgeport, Montgomery County. The pastor of the parish was Father Stanley M. Gana.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Msgr. Lynn on Sex Abuse Investigation: "The Case Fell Through the Cracks"

In formerly secret grand jury testimony that was read into the court record Thursday, Msgr. William J. Lynn tried to explain back in 2002 why the archdiocese chose not to investigate when told about minors who were possible victims of sex abuse.

The issue came up when a prosecutor in the grand jury asked Lynn about an interview he had with a seminarian studying for the priesthood who came forward in 1992 to allege that he had been sexually abused as a 13-year-old by Father Stanley M. Gana.

The seminarian, who testified in court earlier this week, told Lynn back in 1992 that the abuse from Father Gana, namely oral and anal sex, continued for five years. The seminarian also told Lynn that Father Gana was living with himself and two other boys at a 110 acre farm in northern Pennsylvania that the priest owned. The priest used the boys as farm hands, and put them on a nightly rotation, so they could take turns sharing his bed.

The seminarian identified the other two boys being abused by Gana. But the archdiocese decided not to talk to either boy, Lynn told the grand jury. As a result, Father Gana continued in active ministry and the archdiocese did nothing until 1995, when a second victim came forward and essentially told Lynn the same story that the seminarian did, namely that he had been abused by Father Gana for years, including oral and anal sex, beginning when he was 14.

Lynn told the grand jury that the reason the archdiocese did nothing was because it was worried about inflicting more trauma on the alleged victims. The archdiocese decided on their non-investigation policy after conferring with psychiatrists and therapists, Lynn said. "You might re-victimize them again," Lynn told the grand jury about former minors who had been sexually abused. "They might have moved on with their lives."

Msgr. Lynn, the archdiocese's former secretary for the clergy, is the first Catholic administrator in the country to be charged with conspiracy to endanger children in connection with the pedophile priest scandal. He watched from the defense table Thursday as the prosecution reenacted his grand jury testimony.

Assistant District Attorney Anthony Pomeranz sat on the witness stand, playing the role of the monsignor, as he read Lynn's grand jury answers into the record. And Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington, playing the part of the grand jury prosecutor, read the questions to Pomeranz, for the benefit of the jury in the ongoing Archdiocese of Philadelphia sex abuse case.

In his grand jury testimony, Lynn was asked why the archdiocese didn't follow its own policies when it was notified back in 1992 about the sex abuse allegations against Father Gana, and send the priest out for psychiatric evaluation.

"The case fell through the cracks," Lynn told the grand jury.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Catholic Victim of Clerical Sex Abuse: "I Have an Emptiness Where My Soul Used To Be"

As a teenager, the witness, a bearded man in a gray suit, said he was raped and sodomized by a family friend.

He became "very despondent and depressed," so he told his mother what had happened. She advised him to go see a priest.

The priest that his mother sent him to was Father Stanley M. Gana, one of the premiere sexual abusers of minors employed by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

Soon, Father Gana was practicing "masturbation and sodomy" on the 14-year-old boy. It went on for five years, with Father Gana virtually taking over every aspect of the victim's life.

Father Gana didn't want the victim to have any friends his age. So he put the boy to work on a 110-acre farm he owned in northern Pennsylvania. Father Gana wouldn't let him go to his high school prom or senior week down the shore. Instead, Father Gana wanted the victim to spend time with him, either at his farm, or in his bedroom in the rectory, so he could abuse him.

When the victim graduated from high school, he wanted to become a Navy SEAL, but Father Gana said no, that would be evil. The priest told the boy to go to nursing school instead, which he did.

When the victim finally found the courage to break away from Father Gana, he got hooked on drugs and alcochol. He sought help from a psychologist and a therapist. Besides being a recovering addict, the victim also is disabled, and he told the jury his marriage ended in divorce.

A nun at Catholic Social Services that the victim described as "Sister Mary from hell" told him he was spending too much time in counseling. He needed God in his life, the nun said; she told him that prayer would heal his wounds. But on the witness stand Wednesday, the victim, now 48, told the jury in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia sex abuse case that he might be beyond help.

"I have an emptiness where my soul used to be," he said.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Jurors Hear About Perverted Passion Play

Jurors in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia sex abuse trial Tuesday were told about a perverted passion play where teenage boys who played Jesus were stripped naked, dressed in a loincloth, and then whipped with leather straps until they had cuts, bruises and welts on their bodies.

It was a new low of depravity as the sex abuse trial continued into its fourth week of testimony.

Detective James Dougherty of the District Attorney's Special Victims Unit dispassionately read confidential records from the archdiocese's secret archive files into the court record.

The files told the story of how Father Thomas J. Smith would personally dress one 12-year-old boy who played Jesus. The priest would bring the boy into the sacristy, lock the door behind him, and have the boy strip naked. Then the priest would kneel down in front of the naked boy, and pin a loincloth on him. Sometimes, Father Smith was clumsy and would "poke him with pins."

"This was done before every performance," the records said. The priest took at least 20 minutes to dress the boy in a loincloth and a cloak. The boy "felt uncomfortable" and "wanted to quit, but his parents wouldn't allow it." Father Smith had two other boys who played Jesus strip for the passion play. He also encouraged other boys in the play to whip "Jesus" with leather straps, to the point where the boy was bruised and felt pain.

The three boys weren't the only victims. The archdiocese review board found that the perverted passion play "occurred in multiple parish assignments with a number of different boys over a number of years."

Monday, April 16, 2012

Prosecution Puts the Archdiocese of Philadelphia On Trial

Shortly before court opened Monday, defense lawyer Jeff Lindy was trying to make a point with the judge before the jury entered the courtroom.

"The archdiocese isn't on trial, the monsignor is on trial," Lindy asserted.

At issue was whether the prosecution was justified in treating current employees of the archdiocese as hostile witnesses, as was the case last week when Bishop Robert P. Maginnis testified. The retired 78-year-old bishop, the former vicar of Montgomery County, didn't seem to have much of a memory on the witness stand. He told prosecutors he couldn't recall many details about a 1985 incident where the feds raided a rectory in Montgomery County, and arrested a priest, Father Edward DePaoli, after they found $15,000 worth of foreign kiddie porn under his bed.

You'd think an incident like that would stick in your mind. The bishop, however, said he couldn't remember; the prosecution thought he was stonewalling.

"The archdiocese is not a hostile party, the archdiocese is not a party," Lindy argued. He was talking about the case of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. William J. Lynn, Edward V. Avery and James Brennan, now playing in Courtroom 304 of the Criminal Justice Center.

Lindy is one of four defense lawyers representing Monsignor William J. Lynn. Technically, Lindy is right; the archdiocese of Philadelphia is not listed as a defendant in the case. But thanks to a favorable ruling by Judge M. Teresa Sarmina, that's exactly what the prosecution has been able to do, put the archdiocese on trial in Courtroom 304. And it was never more in evidence than on Monday.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Reporter's Notebook: Did Mom's Testimony Help or Hurt Son's Case?

"I will never really know what happened."

Those were the last words uttered on the witness stand Wednesday by the mother of Mark Bukowski, when she was asked for the final time what happened back in 1996, when Father James J. Brennan was alone in his apartment with her son, who was only 14 at the time.

The reason why the defense lawyers in the courtroom were smiling was you could almost hear the man who asked that last question, Father Brennan's lawyer, William J. Brennan, already rehearsing his closing statement.

If the victim's own mother has reasonable doubt about what happened that night in the priest's bedroom, how can you, the ladies and gentlemen of the jury, also not have that same reasonable doubt?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Canon Law Expert: Cardinal Bevilacqua Obstructed Justice

A priest who is an expert on canon law testified Thursday that in his opinion, the late Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua was guilty of obstructing justice when he ordered the shredding of a confidential memo in 1994 that listed 35 archdiocese priests accused of sex abuse.

Father Thomas P. Doyle, an outspoken advocate for victims of clerical sex abuse, was asked on cross-examination what advice he would have given Bevilacqua.

"He's got a list of 35 men who are sexually abusing children, and he's going to shred it?" Doyle asked incredulously.

"No way," Father Doyle told the jury. "That's like obstruction of justice."

Father Doyle said his advice to Bevilacqua, who died Jan. 31, would have been to take off his gold ring and bishop's robes, and go visit the families of the victims. Instead, by shredding the memo, Doyle said, the cardinal destroyed evidence.

"Those are actual records that must be investigated, those are victims in need of pastoral care," Father Doyle testified.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Mother of Alleged Rape Victim Says She'll Never Really Know What Happened Between Her Son and Her Priest

She seemed genuinely conflicted. In two hours on the witness stand, the mother of Mark Bukowski acknowledged that the defendant, Father James J. Brennan, was a gifted priest who had helped her through one of the darkest periods of her life.

"We hit it off," the mother testified at the Archdiocese of Philadelphia sex abuse trial, at the request of the prosecution. "He [Father Brennan] would come to dinner on Sunday. We became very close friends," she told the jury. The Bukowski family called him Father at first, then it was just Jim.

He became "a member of the family," the mother said. "He was like a brother to me."

But the woman from Newtown, Bucks County, is also the mother of Mark Bukowski, Father Brennan's principal accuser. In two days on the witness stand last week, Mark Bukowski charged that in 1996 when he was 14 years old, Father Brennan allegedly attempted to rape him.

After the attempted rape, Mark Bukowski told the jury, he became trapped in a downward spiral of drug and alcohol abuse, numerous criminal convictions, three suicide attempts and a discharge from the Marines for mental health reasons.

But on the witness stand Wednesday, Mark's mother said the day after the alleged attack, her son wouldn't tell her what happened, and neither would Father Brennan. It took years for her to learn the facts that her son has alleged in court. And yet on Wednesday, Mark's mother still seemed unsure about what happened 16 years ago between her son and her favorite priest.

At a 2008 canonical hearing on her son's charge against Father Brennan, the mother of Mark Bukowski testified that "And all things being equal, after all things being said about Father Brennan, he is a gifted priest ... I still till this day do not know what happened."

When confronted with that testimony by Father Brennan's attorney, William J. Brennan [no relation], Mark's mother went one step further, telling the lawyer, "I will never really know what happened."

It was the last thing she said on the witness stand, and her words left smiles on the faces of defense attorneys.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Philadelphia Catholic Priest Trial: The Cardinal, the Clergy and Kiddie Porn

In the secret files of the archdiocese, a psychologist warned church officials that Father Edward M. DePaoli was a likely repeat offender.

Father DePaoli was the priest who got busted by U.S. Postal inspectors in 1985 for hoarding $15,000 worth of foreign kiddie porn under his bed in the rectory at the Holy Martyrs Church in Oreland, Pa. The feds raided the rectory and confiscated more than 100 magazines and 14 reels. In the archdiocese's secret files, Dr. Eric Griffin-Shelley, Father DePaoli's therapist, told church officials in 1986 that the priest was "likely to repeat his past behavior and become progressively worse."

The psychologist suggested six months to one year of "intensive in-patient psychotherapy."  The major problem with letting Father DePaoli continue in ministry, the psychologist warned, was the danger that the priest might "go beyond fantasy in terms of his sexual urges toward children." There was no indication that the priest was on the road to being rehabilitated, the psychologist reported. Despite being busted by the feds, Father DePaoli was still getting porn in the mail, Dr. Griffin-Shelley told church officials.

Besides his addiction to porn, Father DePaoli had other problems, the psychologist revealed in confidential documents displayed Monday at the ongoing archdiocese sex abuse trial, now in its third week. Father DePaoli had a "narcissistic personality," the psychologist reported, plus a "compulsive personality disorder," and a habit of forming "poor relationships with other people."

Everything you'd want in a priest, right?

Monday, April 9, 2012

Priest Alleged to Have Made Hush Payments to Sex Abuse Victims

Father Thomas F. Shea was "very emotional," Msgr. William J. Lynn wrote in his secret archdiocese files. "Why now after 20 years?" the priest wanted to know.

Father Shea was upset because a former altar boy hired a lawyer in 1994 to press a legal claim against the archdiocese, saying he had had sex with the priest numerous times between 1972 and 1977.

Msgr. Lynn asked Father Shea if the young man's accusations were true.

"Maybe it might be true," Father Shea replied, according to the secret files. Then the priest changed his story. "Yes, it did happen," Father Shea confessed. The lawyer for the former altar boy had also told Lynn about a second victim who claimed to have had sex with Father Shea.

Lynn asked if there had been genital contact between the priest and the two boys. Yes, Father Shea admitted. Where did it happen, Lynn wanted to know. In a motel and the rectory, the priest responded. How many times? The priest couldn't remember.

Monsignor Lynn, the former archdiocese of Philadelphia's secretary for clergy, is on trial in Courtroom 304 of the Criminal Justice Center for allegedly conspiring to endanger the welfare of children by allowing predator priests to continue in ministry.

Friday, April 6, 2012

There's No "Normal" Way For A Clergy Abuse Or Sexual Assault Victim To Act

This post by Beasley Firm attorney Max Kennerly is cross-posted on his Litigation and Trial blog.

As Ralph Cipriano reported, the defense attorney for Father Brennan spent a lot of time cross-examining the prosecution's chief witness against Father Brennan by going into the alleged victim’s reaction to the molestation, including why the alleged victim — an adolescent boy at the time — did not call out to his mother afterwards, why the alleged victim took a subsequent motorcycle ride with Father Brennan, and why the alleged victim didn’t report the assault to authorities sooner.

Father Brennan’s attorney, coincidentally named William Brennan, has an important job to do — safeguarding his client’s constitutional rights and challenging the testimony of his accuser — so I don’t fault him for going into those issues, but these types of questions raise a common problem in both criminal sexual assault prosecutions and civil sexual abuse lawsuits:  the persistence of rape myths in society and in the courts. The term “rape myths” was coined by psychologists as a means of describing false attitudes and beliefs that serve to deny allegations of sexual abuse and to thwart accountability for abusers.
Some of these rape myths are easy to spot.  For example, many people will thoughtlessly say a victim “asked for it” by wearing the wrong clothes or by drinking alcohol, or they assume that victims are lying for attention or to cover up an affair.  Myths like these are so pernicious and pervasive that the people perpetuating them don’t realize it. Thus, even people acting in good faith can end up applying rape myths to treat allegations of sexual abuse differently from other allegations of criminal conduct and to demand more proof from sexual abuse survivors (such as corroborating evidence in addition to testimony) than they do from other crime victims.
The testimony by Father Brennan’s alleged victim, and by many of the alleged clergy abuse victims, raises one of the more common rape myths: that a victim of rape, sexual assault, or molestation will resist an attacker forcefully, will cry out for help during the attack, and will immediately report the assault to others.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Prosecution Witness Sticks to Story

He broke down several times on the witness stand. His face turned red. At times he cried so hard, he covered his face with paper towels, just to hide his embarrassment.

But when it was all over, after three hours of cross-examination, Mark Bukowski stubbornly and defiantly clung to his story: that in 1996 when he was just 14 years old, he was sexually abused by Father James J. Brennan, and that the abuse he endured haunts him to this day. And even though Brennan's lawyer, William J. Brennan (no relation), went over every aspect of the story, and found some minor discrepancies,  he could not budge Bukowski from his talking points.

"He tried to have sex with me as a kid," Bukowski yelled at the defense lawyer at one point. "It's his fault, and not mine."

The prosecution witness who had a meltdown on Wednesday, crying and getting too confused to continue, made a remarkable comeback on Thursday. "We had him yesterday," one defense lawyer was overheard lamenting. And that was bad news for Father James J. Brennan, on trial for the attempted rape of Bukowski.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Key Prosecution Witness Has Meltdown

The prosecution witness testified that he had just checked out of a recovery facility ten days earlier. On the witness stand, he admitted to a criminal past, and told a story about being sexually abused by a defendant priest, a story drastically different from the original charges in last year's grand jury report. Then on cross-examination, the witness began crying, and told the judge he was "messing up" his testimony.

Judge M. Teresa Sarmina called for a recess shortly after 3 p.m. Wednesday, about 90 minutes earlier than usual. For members of the prosecution team, it was time to regroup as the witness attempted to compose himself in the bathroom.

Day Seven of the archdiocese sex abuse trial began shortly after 10 a.m. when Mark Bukowski, 30, from Newtown, Bucks County, took the witness stand to testify against Father James J. Brennan, on trial for charges of attempted rape of a 14-year-old. Bukowski, according to Brennan's defense lawyer, is the priest's sole accuser, so the case against Father Brennan should rise or fall with Bukowski. If so, the prosecution may be in trouble.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Archdiocese's "Charitable Concern" for A Sex Abuse Victim

The man wrote the archdiocese in 1996, claiming that as an adolescent, he had been sexually abused by Father Stanley M. Gana. The man wanted the archdiocese to pay for his therapy, which he said, were a direct result of the abuse he had suffered from Father Gana.

There was a problem, however, Monsignor William J. Lynn explained in writing to the victim. The archdiocese had a policy where it would only pay the bills of alleged victims if the priest accused of abuse had confessed. Father Gana, Lynn explained, was still denying the allegations. So the archdiocese, according to its own policy, was not required to pay for the man's therapy.

However, Lynn wrote, out of the archdiocese's "charitable concern" for the victim's "emotional, physical and spiritual well-being," the archdiocese had decided to make an exception in this case, and pay the victim's therapy bills. The letter was signed, "Sincerely yours in the Lord, William J. Lynn."

Sadly, as far as the archdiocese was concerned, however, this wasn't a charity case, as was revealed Tuesday in the ongoing sex abuse trial. Father Gana had made a full confession, according to formerly confidential documents that the prosecutor entered into evidence. The documents showed that Monsignor Lynn knew about the priest's confession, but decided not to share this knowledge with the victim.

Why Msgr. Lynn chose not to tell the truth was a matter of dispute. According to the prosecutor, Lynn flat-out lied. According to Thomas Bergstrom, Lynn's defense lawyer, however, state mental health privacy laws prohibited Lynn from disclosing what he knew about the priest's condition.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Lawyers Spar over Archdiocese's Secret Archive Files

What do you do when the prosecution is using hardened police detectives to enter into evidence against your client a pile of the archdiocese's secret archive files?

Jeff Lindy, representing Monsignor William J. Lynn, went through those same files on Monday, trying to point out whatever positive things there was to say about his client.

Lindy asked Detective Joseph Walsh about the files involving Father Michael Murtha. He's the priest who was discovered in 1995 to have a large gay porno collection in his bedroom at the rectory, as well as a love letter that he wrote to a seventh-grader named Drew.

Referring to the priest's literary efforts as "that awful letter," Lindy asked, isn't it true that the priest admitted the letter was a fantasy, and that there was no allegation that the priest had ever touched the boy?

"That is correct," Detective Walsh said.

Tight Control, Few Explanations in Courtroom 304

Two jurors were dismissed without explanation Monday in the archdiocese of Philadelphia sex abuse trial. Judge M. Teresa Sarmina started court an hour late with the announcement that Alternate Juror No. 1 would be replacing Juror No. 7, and Alternate Juror No. 2 would be replacing Juror No. 9.

Why were the jurors sent packing? The judge didn't explain. There was courtroom chatter about medical emergencies and jurors who may have overheard things, but no official explanation was forthcoming.

The jury, which began with 12 regulars and 10 alternates last week, is now down to 12 regulars and 6 alternates. Two alternate jurors were also dismissed last week, without explanation. In a trial expected to last at least two months, losing two jurors a week doesn't bode well, but it's early yet.

The judge did announce that court will not be held on Fridays during the trial. Jurors have the option of going to work on Friday, but "my preference is that you don't go," the judge said. She warned jurors that if they do show up for work on Fridays, she would prefer that they wear a sign that says, "Don't talk to me." The judge was smiling when she said this, but she may not be kidding.