Former FBI Agent Jack Rossiter told jurors Monday about his interview with Father James J. Brennan, on trial for the attempted rape of a 14-year-old-boy.
The jury has now heard three versions of the story. First, the former alleged victim, Mark Bukowski, testified about he was allegedly sexually assaulted by the priest during a 1996 sleepover at Father Brennan's apartment in West Chester. Bukowski also told the jury that three years later, the priest allegedly exposed himself and masturbated in front of Bukowski while standing in a shed outside Father Brennan's church. At the time, Bukowski told the jury, he was doing community service, and that as part of a jail sentence after being arrested, Father Brennan was allowing him to mow church lawns.
Msgr. Kevin Quirk, who presided over a 2008 church inquiry into the alleged attempted rape, then told the jury Father Brennan's version of the story, namely that he he never sexually assaulted the boy or exposed himself. Quirk also told the jury that Bukowski had backtracked on the alleged 1999 masturbation incident, saying, "the accused had withdrawn that part of the allegation."
In court Monday, Rossiter gave jurors a third version of the story, as he recounted his efforts to investigate the priest on behalf of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Rossiter told the jury that Bukowski's parents had asked Father Brennan to take the boy for a weekend, because he was angry and exhibiting "anti-social behavior." The parents told Father Brennan that he had a good relationship with Mark, and that maybe after spending a weekend with the boy, he could figure out what was wrong with him.
Rossiter told jurors that according to Father Brennan, Mark Bukowski acted strangely when he entered the priest's apartment. The boy took off his underwear, and walked around in loose gym shorts, "holding his boxers in his hand," was how Father Brennan described it to Rossiter.
The boy then initiated a wrestling match with the priest. The match came to a halt when Father Brennan said he wanted to watch golf on TV. Mark went upstairs and got on the priest's laptop, Rossiter said. The boy yelled down that he wanted the priest's access code, so he could visit porn websites. And if he didn't get what he wanted, Mark Bukwoski threatened to throw the priest's laptop out an "open window," Father Brennan told Rossiter.
The priest told Rossiter he relented, and Mark Bukowski was allowed to view one pornographic website. "In hindsight, he should not have watched" porn with the boy, the priest told
Father Brennan told Rossiter that he offered to sleep on the floor but that the boy wanted Father Brennan "in bed with him." The priest did not take off his clothes, and did not intentionally touch the boy during the night, although he conceded to Rossiter that some "unintentional contact could have incurred."
Rossiter testified that Father Brennan told him that Mark Bukowski slept over a second night, and this time, at the boy's request, Brennan slept on the couch, while the boy slept in the priest's king-size bed. But upon further questioning, Father Brennan told Rossiter that, "To be honest, he [Brennan] does not have a clear recollection of the sleeping arrangements."
Father Brennan told the FBI agent that during the weekend, Mark Bukowski called his family several times.
After the alleged attack, the priest said he met with the parents of Mark Bukowski during a "Sunday brunch sit-down" at the Mariott Hotel in Conshohocken. Brennan described the parents to Rossiter as upset, but insisted that "They believed him," and invited him over to their house for Sunday dinner.
Father Brennan told Rossiter that three years after the alleged attack, Bukowski called him and asked for help after he had been arrested for drugs. The priest arranged for Bukowski to mow church lawns as part of community service for his sentence.
The priest told Rossiter that the alleged exposure and masturbation incident in the church shed was "completely bogus."
On cross-examination, Father Brennan's defense attorney, William J. Brennan, came out swinging, and told the jurors a few new facts about the Bukowskis that had the prosecutor objecting, and the judge sustaining nearly every objection.
Defense attorney Brennan, who is not related to his client, elicited from Rossiter that he had never investigated any sex crimes during his 30-year tenure with the FBI. Rossiter's instructions from the archdiocese came in a single 30-minute meeting with the archdiocese's law firm, Stradley, Ronan Stevens & Young.
Was Father Brennan cooperative with you, defense attorney Brennan wanted to know.
"To a degree," Rossiter said, adding that the priest showed up for his interview with a lawyer.
Defense attorney Brennan got into Father Brennan's explanation for what happened with the Bukowskis, namely that they were in financial trouble, and needed money. Defense attorney Brennan asked Rossiter if he had ever investigated whether the Bukowskis were in financial trouble, as evidenced by a 2005 bankruptcy filing. That brought an objection from the prosecutor that was upheld by the judge.
When Brennan kept hammering away at the Bukowskis' alleged financial troubles, Rossiter replied that the Bukowskis "were not under investigation."
Defense attorney Brennan asked Rossiter if he had investigated whether Mark Bukowski was a credible witness, after an arrest in 2000 for "lying to the police, and making up stories to the police." That brought another objection from the prosecution sustained by the judge.
Brennan, in another question that was objected to by the prosecution, and sustained by the judge, also mentioned that Mark Bukowski was suing Jack Rossiter. That drew looks of surprise from jurors, who turned to see Rossiter's lawyer sitting in the courtroom, as pointed out by defense attorney Brennan.
Mark Bukowski's arrest record "weighed partly in my analysis," Rossiter told Brennan. On redirect, Rossiter told the jury that in spite of Bukowski's credibility problems, "I believed him."
The jury was left to ponder why Bukowski was suing a guy who believed him.