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Disputing ‘Penetration,’ Judge Dismisses Felony Sex Charges Against Philadelphia Priest


Disputing ‘Penetration,’ Judge Dismisses Felony Sex Charges Against Philadelphia Priest

By Tony Hanson   August 16, 2012 6:30 PM

From the link: http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/2012/08/16/judge-dismisses-felony-sex-charges-against-philadelphia-priest-disputing-penetration/

WARNING:  THE FOLLOWING REPORT CONTAINS GRAPHIC DESCRIPTIONS THAT MAY OFFEND SOME READERS.  EXTREME READER CAUTION IS URGED.

By Tony Hanson, Diana Rocco

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A Philadelphia judge today dismissed the most serious charges against a local priest after a former altar boy testified he was sexually assaulted as a fourth grader 15 years ago.

The judge ordered defendant Father Andrew McCormick to face trial on the remaining misdemeanor charges, but prosecutors say they will refile the felony charges against the priest.

The alleged victim, now 24, testified that Father McCormick took him back to the rectory after mass and guided the boy upstairs to his living quarters.

The witness testified there was touching, groping, and McCormick tried to force him to perform oral sex.

“He tested that in approximately 1997, when he was a fourth grader at St. John Cantius and an altar boy, the defendant essentially sexually assaulted him,” says prosecutor Jack O’Neill.  “Our contention is, and I think it is pretty clear, that under the case law and under the statute it is a very serious crime and obviously is a felony.”

The defense questions the victim’s credibility saying he came forward 15 years later and after the Penn State sex abuse trial, and the most recent Philadelphia priest trial involving Monsignor William Lynn and Father James Brennan.

“I think that it seems extremely opportunistic that after the Penn State case and the case that my office just handled this gentlemen pops out of the woodwork and apparently all he remembers is that it was 15 years ago and it was cold outside,” said William Brennan, McCormick’s attorney.

WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT BELOW

The victim testified that the priest’s sex organ was forced past his lips but not past his teeth, and Judge Karen Simmons ruled that the act did not meet the legal definition of “penetration” as required for a felony.

McCormick has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.  His attorney, William J. Brennan, has also challenged the credibility of the alleged victim.

Shortly after Judge Simmons’ ruling, the Philadelphia DA’s office issued the following statement:

“The District Attorney’s Office will be re-filing felony charges against 56 year old Andrew McCormick.  At today’s Preliminary Hearing Judge Karen Yvette Simmons dismissed Involuntary Deviate Sexual Intercourse (oral sex with child under age 13), Sexual Assault (oral sex without consent of person) and Statutory Sexual Assault (oral sex with child under age 16 and defendant more than 4 years older) charges.  She remanded the case for trial on the misdemeanor charges of Indecent Assault, Corrupting the Morals of a Minor, and Endangering the Welfare of a Child.

“The adult victim testified today that when he was ten years old, McCormick straddled his chest and pressed his penis through the boy’s lips and up against his front teeth twice.  McCormick was a priest at St. Cantius at the time.  According to Pennsylvania law, Involuntary Deviate Sexual Intercourse (IDSI) is defined as penetrating a child’s mouth with one’s penis however slightly.  The victim’s testimony clearly established penetration of his mouth by pushing the penis past the boy’s lips and up against his front teeth – all parts of which are described under the law as “mouth.”  The case law is clear that even if the defendant’s penis only made contact with the outside of the boy’s lips without going further, that would constitute IDSI.  For instance, the Superior Court has ruled that the lip is considered part of the mouth and that a child kissing a man’s penis is IDSI.

“The District Attorney’s Office will be filing an appeal to Motions court today.  A Court of Common Pleas Judge sitting in Municipal court will review the notes of testimony from the preliminary hearing within the next thirty days and determine whether the charge of IDSI and related felony charges should have been properly held for court based on the victim’s clear testimony that the defendant’s penis went through his lips into his mouth.  The Commonwealth is very confident that all the felony charges will be reinstated and McCormick will then be sent to trial in the Court of Common Pleas on all charges.  ADA Jack O’Neill is specially assigned to this case.”

Witness: After rape by teacher ‘I had to go’ to school


Witness: After rape by teacher ‘I had to go’ to school

Joseph A. Slobodzian, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER

Posted: Wednesday, January 16, 2013, 3:42 PM

From the link: http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20130116_Witness__After_rape_by_teacher_I_had_to_go_to_school.html

The defense lawyer for former parochial schoolteacher Bernard Shero today began trying to chip away at the credibility of a 24-year-old Northeast man who says he was sexually assaulted by Shero and two priests when he was a 10-year-old altar boy.

The witness – The Inquirer does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault – testified Tuesday in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court that the serial sexual assaults by Shero and two priests destroyed his childhood and led to his life as a drug addict.

But defense attorney Burton A. Rose, showing the jury blow-ups of the man’s report cards from 5th through 8th grades at St. Jerome’s, noted that his grades and attendance barely changed during the time of the alleged assaults in 1998 and 1999.

“So you went to school the next day after this man [Shero] anally raped you in the back of his car?” Rose asked.

“It was school, I had to go,” replied the witness, who was identified as “Billy Doe” in the 2011 county grand jury report.

Rose has argued that Shero never assaulted the witness – or caused his later problems with drugs and the law.

The witness maintained that he was afraid to tell anyone about the assaults by the two priests in the sacristy of St. Jerome’s church, or the assault by Shero, who was his homeroom and English teacher.

Shero, 49, and the Rev. Charles Engelhardt, 66, are on trial for the alleged assaults on Billy when he was in fifth and sixth grades at St. Jerome’s.

The other priest, Edward Avery, now 70, pleaded guilty last year shortly before he was to go on trial with two other priests in the investigation of clergy sex abuse of children in the Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

Avery, now defrocked and serving a 2-1/2 to five years in prison and may be called by prosecutors to testify in the trial of Shero and Engelhardt.

The pair are the last two of five people charged as a result of the 2011 county grand jury report.

Last year’s landmark three-month trial ended June 22 when the jury found Msgr. William J. Lynn guilty of child endangerment, the first church administrator convicted for a priest’s sexual abuse of a child.

Lynn, 62, who as secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004 was responsible for investigating allegations against priests, was sentenced to 3 to 6 years. He is in a state prison and appealing his conviction.

8 more sex-abuse suits filed against Archdiocese


8 more sex-abuse suits filed against Archdiocese

BY DANA DiFILIPPO
Philadelphia Daily News

Daily News Staff Writer

Posted: Wed, Sep. 19, 2012, 5:54 AM

ANDY DRUDING has a lot to say to the priest who he says repeatedly raped him when he was a middle-school choir boy.

So he wrote the Rev. Francis S. Feret a letter. He wanted to give it to him personally, but hasn’t – still scared, after 40 years, to see Feret again.

But Tuesday, Druding read his letter in the most public of venues: a news conference at which it was announced that eight more lawsuits have been filed, including one by Druding, against the Philadelphia Archdiocese, its leaders and seven priests accused of sexually abusing children.

A flushed, sweating, trembling Druding took the podium and read, as if addressing Feret, his former choir director at St. Timothy’s Catholic School in Mayfair: “You took advantage of a 9-year-old boy who loved to sing and was afraid to tell because you were a priest, God’s messenger on Earth, the most holy person in my life. But I’ve never forgotten what you did to me. I remember every day of my life, the details so graphic and so horrific. I see your face all the time in my mind, in strangers’ faces, in scary dreams and even in terrible flashbacks that I have to this day.”

The eight lawsuits filed Tuesday by attorneys Dan Monahan, Marci Hamilton and Jeffrey Anderson follow eight others the legal trio filed earlier in Common Pleas Court. Altogether, the legal team represents 17 people who say they were sexually abused as children by Philadelphia-area priests.

The cases cite Cardinal Justin Rigali, Archbishop Charles Chaput and Monsignor William Lynn, in addition to the accused priests.

In most of the cases, the victims are listed as John Does. But plaintiffs Druding and Michael McDonnell, 44, of Bristol Borough, Bucks County, attended the Center City news conference because they want their names out there.

“It’s important to put a face to the cost – show the doubting public that these victims do exist. We do live our lives. Although we struggle on a daily basis, we are real people who have countless issues,” said McDonnell, as his fiancée, Debra, cried and their 6-year-old son, Sean, sang and played with a Thomas the Tank Engine toy.

McDonnell accuses two priests, John P. Schmeer and Francis X. Trauger, of molesting him when he was an altar boy and worked at the rectory at St. Titus Catholic School in East Norriton.

Hamilton said Druding, McDonnell and the unnamed victims gained the courage to come forward after Lynn’s July conviction. Lynn, 61, who investigated abuse complaints against priests as the Archdiocese’s former secretary of clergy from 1992 to 2004, is the first U.S. church official convicted of endangering children by keeping predator priests in the ministry. He was sentenced to three to six years in prison.

The lawsuits, Hamilton said, are the only way to hold the Archdiocese accountable.

“The coverup, the incompetence in handling reports of abuse, must stop,” said Hamilton, a national expert on clergy sex abuse and law professor at Yeshiva University in New York. “No one knew more about abuse than the Archdiocese itself, and no one did less to protect children. . . . The only way to protect children is the criminal-justice system.”

In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, the Archdiocese responded: “We have not received copies of the cases . . . so we cannot provide more detailed information on those particular lawsuits at this time. We believe lawsuits are not the best mechanism to promote healing in the context of the very private and difficult circumstances of sexual abuse. We will work to assure all victims of sexual abuse receive appropriate assistance.”

Besides Feret, Schmeer and Trauger, the priests named in the lawsuits are John H. Mulholland, Robert L. Brennan, Joseph J. Gallagher and Edward V. Avery (defrocked).

 

Retrial for Fr. Brennan in Priest Child Sex Abuse Case


Retrial for Fr. Brennan in Priest Child Sex Abuse Case

Fr. James Brennan will be retried on charges that he sexually abuses a 14-year-old boy in 1996

By Karen Araiza
|  Monday, Jul 23, 2012  |  Updated 10:50 AM EDT

From the link: http://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/local/Father-Brennan-Retrial-Priest-Child-Sex-Abuse-Case-163406946.html

Father James Brennan will be retried in the landmark priest child sex abuse case.

He’s accused of sexually abusing a 14-year-old boy in 1996. Jurors could not agree on a verdict in his first trial.

On Monday morning, Philadelphia prosecutors announced they’ll put Brennan on trial again.

He was a co-defendant in the trial earlier this summer with Monsignor William Lynn. After 13 days of deliberating, jurors could not agree on verdicts for Brennan and could only agree on one of the three verdicts for Lynn. Lynn was convicted of one count of endangering the welfare of a child. He was accused of mishandling sex abuse complaints while he was secretary of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Monsignor Lynn was acquitted of a second charge of endangerment and a charge of conspiracy. He was taken straight to jail and was denied a later request to be put under house arrest until his sentencing in August.

On the day of the verdicts in that first trial, Father Brennan was elated that he got to home a free man. The jury was hung on one count of attempted rape and a second count of endangering the welfare of a child.

“My faith is what got me through all this! The prayers from family, friends that have just been constant, constant for me.”

Two jurors who talked that day told NBC10 that they couldn’t make up their minds about the charges against Brennan because they either didn’t find the witnesses credible, didn’t feel like they got enough information to make a good decision and they wanted to hear from Father Brennan.

Bishop of W.Va. Catholic diocese accused of abuse


from the link: http://www.dailymail.com/News/201204180090

Wednesday April 18, 2012
Bishop of W.Va. Catholic diocese accused of abuse

A witness in a Philadelphia clergy sex abuse trial told jurors Wednesday his abuser told him more than 30 years ago Bishop Michael Bransfield had had sex with a boy. The witness said his abuser also sexually assaulted him at Bishop Michael Bransfield's New Jersey beach house.

 

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – A witness in a clergy sex-abuse trial in Philadelphia testified that he was sexually assaulted in a home owned by West Virginia’s highest-ranking Catholic official, Bishop Michael Bransfield, and said he was told by his abuser that Bransfield had assaulted another boy.

The 48-year-old witness was on the stand Wednesday when he gave the testimony about Bransfield.

The man was testifying in a criminal trial against Monsignor William Lynn, who is accused of covering up sex abuse allegations for the Philadelphia Archdiocese.

Bransfield has not been charged with a crime.

The testimony came one day after news reports that prosecutors were having trouble getting Monsignor Kevin Quirk, Bransfield’s aide, to testify.

Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington said Tuesday that Quirk had agreed to testify in Philadelphia but had to notify Bransfield first. Then the process stalled.

The witness told the jury he saw Bransfield bring several boys to a farm owned by Stanley Gana, a former priest in the diocese, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The witness told the jury the alleged incident occurred at Gana’s Scranton, Pa., farm more than 30 years ago. He was building a flagstone wall when then Rev. Bransfield pulled up in a car with several teenage boys.

The man said Gana told him Bransfield was having sex with one of the boys.

The 68-year-old Bransfield, a Philadelphia native, was installed as the head of the West Virginia diocese in 2005, replacing Bishop Bernard Schmitt, who retired in 2003.

Bransfield came to this state from his position as the rector of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.

Bryan Minor, spokesman for the diocese, said that Bransfield was not available Wednesday and that he had yet to speak with him about the allegations.

“The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston is learning of media reports originating from legal proceedings underway in Philadelphia, and Bishop Michael Bransfield’s name was brought up in court today,” Minor said in a statement.

“Until such time that the facts and issues surrounding this testimony are made fully known to the Diocese, we cannot comment at this time.”

The diocese on Tuesday called the trial a “circus” and said Philadelphia prosecutors were trying to smear people who have never been charged with a crime.

Monsignor Edward Sadie, rector of the Basilica of the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Charleston, had not heard about the testimony concerning Bransfield Wednesday.

“I just find this beyond belief,” Sadie said. “I just hope and pray it’s not true.”

Sadie said Bransfield has been “very diligent” in keeping church officials and parishioners looking out for “deviant behavior” involving children at the church.

He said all church officials and the parishioners who work with children are taught what to look for and are made aware of how and where they should report abuse.

“We have a very strong policy,” Sadie said. “He’s been very diligent in pushing that policy.”

The witness told the jury Gana raped him for years and that Gana and Bransfield were close friends. He said Gana once sexually abused him during a visit to Bransfield’s New Jersey beach house.

Another witness testified that Bransfield had a lewd conversation with him.

Bransfield was ordained in 1971 by the late Cardinal John Krol. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Gana was ordained about the same time.

The testimony comes four weeks into the prosecution of Lynn, who is the first U.S. church official ever to be charged over the handling of abuse complaints. Lynn served as the secretary for clergy in Philadelphia from 1992 to 2004 and supervised more than 800 priests.

Prosecutors alleged that Lynn allowed dangerous priests to work with children in the parish to protect the church’s reputation.

The church also is accused of keeping secret files dating back to 1948 that allegedly show a long-standing conspiracy to protect priests and cast doubt on sex-abuse victims.

Lynn’s attorney maintained that Lynn’s job was to oversee the sex abuse complaints but that another man, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, who has since died, solely determined priest assignments and transfers.

If convicted, Lynn could serve 28 years in prison.

The other defendant in the trial is the Rev. James Brennan, who is accused of raping a 14-year-old boy in 1996.

Quirk’s testimony was sought because he served as a judge for the church’s in-house trial of Brennan in 2008. Prosecutors wanted him to testify about the accuracy of statements Brennan made during that trial.

Defrocked priest Edward Avery was the third defendant in the trial but pleaded guilty early on. Lynn and Brennan both pleaded not guilty.

Avery’s plea acknowledged that he was kept in the ministry despite an earlier complaint, for which he underwent therapy. He sexually assaulted an altar boy seven years later, he said.

Common Pleas Judge Teresa Sarmina agreed to take up the matter with court officials in Wheeling.

Bransfield has a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and a master’s in divinity from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Pennsylvania. He served as assistant pastor at St. Albert the Great Parish in Huntingdon Valley, Pa., from 1971 to 1973. He received a master of philosophy degree from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., in 1973.

He served as a teacher, chaplain and then chairman of the religion department at a Catholic school in the suburbs of Philadelphia.

He currently serves as president of the Papal Foundation of Bala Cynwyd, Pa., and is the treasurer for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Bransfield also is a member of the Knights of Columbus and the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre.

An official with the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, called on Bransfield to address the allegations Wednesday.

Judy Jones, Midwest director of SNAP, said that in light of the day’s testimony, Bransfield, not his lawyer or representative, should address the allegations immediately. She also wants him to agree to be questioned on the allegations.

“This isn’t rocket science,” Jones wrote. “For starters, there are three simple questions Bransfield should answer: Did or does he own a house with Philly’s Father Gana? If so, did he take boys there? And did he molest any of them?

“This notion that Bransfield somehow can’t respond to the testimony today in Philly, as his lawyer claims, is bogus.”

Jones also took issue with Bransfield’s apparent refusal to send Monsignor Quirk to Philadelphia.

“Msgr. Kevin M. Quirk has a sworn obedience to Bransfield,” Jones wrote. “Bransfield can order Quirk to appear in court. Bransfield should do that immediately. If he doesn’t, that will only add to the doubts about Bransfield.”

Founded in 1988, SNAP is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. It has more than 12,000 members.