It's the tighty-whitie defense.
When the prosecution presented its case against "Father Andy" McCormick, the alleged victim testified that the priest wore "blue plaid boxers" under his black cassock. The alleged victim, now 26, said he got a good look at those boxers 17 years ago in 1997. That's when Father Andy allegedly attacked the victim, then a 10-year-old altar boy, in the priest's bedroom in the rectory at St. John Cantius Church in Bridesburg.
Today, the defense called two witnesses who testified that Father Andy always wore white briefs.
First, Father Andy's 87-year-old mother told the jury that she's been buying the priest's underwear for decades, and she always bought white briefs.
Then the longtime maintenance man at the church, Mark Pasternak, testified that for years he had seen the woman who did the priests' laundry lay out all their clean underwear in piles on a table in the basement of the rectory. Each pair of underwear had a priest's name tag on it. "It was just lined up there," Pasternak said of the piles of priests' underwear. There were no boxer shorts on that table. Pasternak told the jury that Father Andy, as well as the other two priests living and working at St. John Cantius, all wore "tighty-whities."
But on a day when Father Andy testified in his own defense, he was upstaged by what longtime maintenance man Pasternak had to say out in the hallway to reporters. The jury didn't hear a word of it.
"I sent a priest to jail," Pasternak told reporters. So he wouldn't hesitate to send Father Andy to jail, Pasternak said, if he knew the priest was guilty.
"If a kid's molested, I don't care who you are, you're going to jail," Pasternak said.
There's a reason why Pasternak looked familiar today to reporters covering Father Andy's trial. The 55-year-old longtime maintenance man at St. John Cantius was Juror No. 5 in the 13-week trial of Msgr. William J. Lynn.
Pasternak was one of 12 jurors who convicted Lynn on June 22, 2012 of one count of endangering the welfare of a child. Lynn, Pasternak said, "didn't do enough to supervise that priest," referring to Father Edward V. Avery. In the Lynn case, it was former priest Avery who pleaded guilty on the eve of trial to conspiracy to endanger the welfare of a child and involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with the victim in that case, another former 10-year-old altar boy dubbed "Billy Doe."
At the Lynn trial, the judge allowed in as supplemental evidence 21 previous cases of sex abuse dating back to 1948, three years before Lynn was born.
"I saw the monsters," Pasternak said of his 13 weeks of hearing testimony about the worst sexually abusive priests in the history of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. "I saw what they did."
As he testified in court today, Pasternak was the full time maintenance man at St. John Cantius for 12 years. His son, now 28, was an altar boy under Father Andy's care. Pasternak was at the church every day for 12 years. He saw Father Andy interact with lots of boys, including his son, and his son's friends.
"It's not there," Pasternak told reporters about the evidence against Father Andy. Pasternak said he talked to his son about the priest, and whether Father Andy had ever done anything over the years to raise suspicions about being a molester.
"No way," was his son's response, Pasternak said. His son's friends said the same thing, including one who was a state trooper.
When he was on the witness stand, Pasternak testified that he was the church's full-time maintenance man from 1990 to 2002, where his tenure coincided with Father Andy's. After he got another job, Pasternak stayed working at the church as a part-time maintenance man until 2009. For the last five years, he continued to work part-time at the church for free, doing the same job he used to get paid for.
Pasternak testified that besides doing electrical work, plumbing, snow plowing and maintenance at the church, he also bought supplies in bulk, including soda.
The alleged victim testified that prior to being attacked by Father Andy in the priest's bedroom, the victim had helped himself to treats at the rectory that included "two cookies and a Dr. Pepper."
Pasternak testified that for years, based on the tastes of the three priests who lived and worked at St. John Cantius, he bought Coke, Pepsi and Stewart's Root Beer. But he never bought Dr. Pepper.
The other "tighty whitie" defense witness was Irene McCormick, Father Andy's 87-year-old mother, who testified that she bought "all his [the priest's] underwear most of his life."
Mrs. McCormick told the jury she bought her son underwear on the same day every year, Jan. 7th, the date of the Russian Christmas.
On cross-examination, Assistant District Attorney Kristen Kemp got Mrs. McCormick to tell her that when the alleged attack took place, her son, now 57, was in his 40s. Kemp asked Mrs. McCormick if a man in his 40s might have bought some of his own clothes, including, presumably, some underwear.
Yes, Mrs. McCormick testified.
It was after lunch when Father Andy stood in the courtroom, while the jury was in the back room, and told the judge he wanted to take the witness stand in his own defense.
"I wish to testify," the priest told Judge Gwendolyn N. Bright. He admitted to being nervous, but insisted the decision to take the stand was his.
The direct testimony of the priest took only a few minutes.
Defense Attorney William J. Brennan asked the priest if he had heard the victim's testimony about how Father Andy had allegedly attacked him and molested him in the rectory. Is that true, Brennan asked.
"I never molested" the alleged victim, the priest testified. The priest started to talk about how the victim's accusations had "certainly been a devastation to me," but the prosecutor objected, and the judge sustained the objection.
Did you ever sexually abuse anybody, Brennan asked.
"Never," the priest said.
"That's all I have," Brennan said.
On cross-examination, Assistant District Attorney Kemp asked Father Andy if he'd heard all the details of the alleged attack, as testified to by the victim.
"Yes I did," the priest said. "I didn't do that to him."
Kemp asked about the testimony of Adam Visconto, another altar boy who testified that Father Andy had showered him with unwanted attention. Even though Visconto's mother told you to stay away from her son, the prosecutor said, didn't you send him a card and a present, a statute of the Blessed Virgin?
"At that time they stopped talking to me," the priest told the jury about Adam Visconto and his mother. "I was never told to stay away from him."
The priest said he sent Adam Visconto a card and a present because "I thought he was angry at me."
Weren't you reprimanded by the archdiocese twice for having children in your room, the prosecutor asked.
"It was not a policy" at the time to keep children out of a priest's living quarters, the priest told the prosecutor.
The priest tried to explain that one of those reprimands was for a boy who was helping him move. But he did have to admit that yes, he was twice reprimanded by the archdiocese for having children in his room.
The prosecutor questioned the priest about who paid for the trips he took to Poland with several altar boys. Those trips were "privately funded by you," the prosecutor asked.
Yes, the priest said.
During a courtroom break, when the judge was conferring in chambers with lawyers in the case, a red-faced Father Andy drained his water cup, and stared straight ahead, with his arms folded. "Explain yourself," the angry looking priest had told the prosecutor before the break, when one of her questions didn't make sense to him.
When court resumed, defense lawyer Brennan asked Father Andy how many altar boys he had supervised during his 14 years at St. John Cantius. About 50 a year, the priest estimated. That means, Brennan said, that you supervised about "700 altar boys" over 14 years.
Did any of these other altar boys ever accuse you of sexually abusing them, Brennan asked.
"None whatsoever," the priest replied.
When it was her turn, the prosecutor asked Father Andy if he paid more attention to just a few altar boys when he pulled them out of class to serve at funerals.
The priest responded that he typically called out of class the oldest altar boys, those in the seventh and eighth grades. The prosecutor said she didn't have any questions. After just 15 minutes on the witness stand, Father Andy sat down.
On Ash Wednesday in court, four former altar boys showed up to testify in Father Andy's defense. The former altar boys said the priest was a stand-up guy who took them to restaurants and movies, and even on trips to Poland, but he never touched them inappropriately. Meanwhile, a dozen of Father Andy's supporters with ashen crosses on their foreheads sat behind the defense table.
Philip Blazejeweski told the jury about his trip to Poland with Father Andy.
Blazejewski was the former altar boy who went on the trip to Poland with Father Andy, after Adam Visconto's mother told the priest that her son wasn't going.
Blazejewski, who was an altar boy from 4th to 8th grade under Father Andy, said the priest never touched him.
Did he ever do anything that made you feel uncomfortable, defense attorney Brennan asked.
No, Blazejewski said.
Blazejewski testified that he gave an interview to the archdiocese in 2004, and that's why he didn't respond to a request for an interview from the district attorney's office.
"I already said it once," said Blazejewski, who had to be subpoenaed by the defense to tell his story.
On cross-examination, Assistant District Attorney Kemp asked Blazejewksi if it was true that his mother, who sat in on his 2004 interview with the archdiocese, was an "avid supporter of the defendant."
"Correct," Blazejewski said.
Michael O'Brien was another former altar boy who testified in Father Andy's defense.
He went with Father Andy to Poland, along with O'Brien's parents.
What did he and the priest do in Poland for a week, the defense attorney asked.
They went to visit Polish churches, O'Brien said. They went to see Auschwitz and other former concentration camps. They went to see the town where Pope John Paul II grew up.
Another former altar boy who testified for the defense was Michael Paluch. Paluch told the jury that besides being an altar boy he also worked at the rectory for years, answering phones, and greeting visitors who showed up at the door.
Paluch told the jury he never saw Father Andy molest anybody, or act weird. He never saw the priest undress in front of anybody, or do anything that made Paluch feel uncomfortable.
"Everybody loves him," Paluch said of Father Andy.
After the defense rested, the judge scheduled closing statements for 9:30 a.m. Thursday, after which the case will go to the jury.