Father Andy's defense lawyer put the district attorney on trial today, arguing that in order to put a Catholic priest in jail, the D.A. had decided that the ends justified the means.
Trevan Borum, Father Andy's lawyer, ripped the D.A.'s office for not doing their homework. Instead of old-fashioned detective work, Borum said, the D.A. relied on a blatant appeal to emotion.
"Do not decide this case based on sympathy," Borum told the jury. He asked the jury to recall how many times he had objected to questions from the prosecutor "designed to evoke an emotional response" from a witness.
Borum asked the jury to recall how many times they had to leave the courtroom because a witness started sobbing after being asked an "improper question" by the prosecutor.
The capper came when Assistant District Attorney Kristen Kemp did her closing and seemed to be going out of her way to prove Borum's point. Only a guilty verdict, she told the jury of ten women and two men, would take away the alleged victim's pain. Only a guilty verdict, she said, would assuage the guilt of the victim's mother and father, who wouldn't let the victim quit being an altar boy because they didn't know what Father Andy had done. And what about the alleged victim's cousin, Kemp asked. How do you think she feels? When the cousin was 11 years old, Kemp said, the altar boy told her about the abuse. Eighteen years later, Kemp said, the cousin still feels guilty about not telling anybody.
Holy guilt trip! In the front row of the jury some women looked stricken; one juror dabbed her eyes. Meanwhile, Juror No. 2 was watching the victim, his head bowed, sitting next to his sobbing mother.
Borum began his closing argument by posing a question to the jury: "How do you defend a case like this?"
It's a defense lawyer's nightmare. Start with a accusation about an act of perversion behind closed doors that dates back 18 years. At the time of the alleged crime, the alleged victim was a 10-year-old altar boy. And the defendant was a Roman Catholic priest.
Father Andy, Borum said, has been a priest for more than 30 years. He's been in contact with "hundreds, if not thousands of altar boys." But only one altar boy has accused him of sex abuse.
The district attorney, Borum said, took the witnesses in this case at their word. "Instead of vetting anybody, they decide to run with it," Borum said, because, "We're gonna convict a priest."
"It doesn't matter how we do it," Borum said. "The ends justify the means."
To prove his point, Borum asked the jury to recall the testimony of a couple of prosecution witnesses: Adam Visconto, a former altar boy, and his mother, Kathleen.
Kathleen Visconto had testified that back when her son was an altar boy, he came running in to see her "as pale as a ghost," Borum recounted.
Here's the story the Viscontos told: at a funeral Mass, Father Andy tried to talk Adam Visconto and another altar boy, Steve Dozier, into meeting him in the church basement at St. John Cantius in Bridesburg.
Instead of obeying the priest, Borum said, Kathleen Visconto told the two altar boys to "run home, close the door and turn out the lights."
The D.A. knew about Steve Dozier two years ago, Borum said. Yet, they never went to interview him to see if Adam Visconto's story checked out. Thank God we did, Borum said.
Steve Dozier, now a Pennsylvania state trooper, testified to the jury that he didn't recall any such panicked flight from Father Andy.
Why didn't the district attorney go see Trooper Dozier, Borum asked. He wasn't hard to find.
"I'll tell you why, the ends justify the means," Borum said.
Borum told the jury he had problems with the alleged victim's story, which he said sounded like a "slow-motion technicolor movie."
The Commonwealth ran with that movie, Borum said. But it doesn't square with how a child remembers things, Borum argued.
The alleged victim, Borum reminded the jury, told a story about how he ate two cream-filled vanilla cookies and drank a Dr. Pepper before he went upstairs in the rectory to see Father Andy's living quarters.
Then, according to the alleged victim, Father Andy attacked without warning. When the priest closed the door after fumbling with the lock, the alleged victim testified, he fondled the altar boy and tried to jam his penis past the boy's clenched teeth.
Fourteen years went by before the victim came forward to accuse the priest.
Do any of you remember what you ate 14 years ago, Borum asked the jury. "I can't remember what I had yesterday."
The alleged victim's mother, father and grandfather believe his story, Borum said. That's as it should be. But Borum didn't think that that jurors should believe the alleged victim.
Because he wasn't telling the truth, the defense lawyer said. Why would the victim lie, he asked.
"Does he want attention?" Borum asked. "I don't know."
Does he have a grudge against the church? "I don't know," Borum said.
Borum brought up the alleged victim's testimony from the first trial. He claimed that after Father Andy allegedly abused him in 1997, he never again served as an altar boy with the priest.
But Borum's investigator found a 2000 yearbook from the parish school. And the yearbook showed the alleged victim in a group photo of altar boys posing with Father Andy three years after the alleged attack.
"He misled you," Borum told the jury.
Borum went through the rest of the details from the alleged attack: the 10-year-old altar boy "zoning in" on the priest's cassock, specifically the 32 buttons that the priest supposedly unbuttoned one by one. And how during the attack all the altar boy could do was count those buttons.
It's just not how a kid remembers things, Borum argued to the jury. To prove his point, Borum recalled the scariest moment from his own childhood.
He was at a beach and got caught in a riptide. A lifeguard saved him, Borum said.
"I don't remember what I ate when I got in the water," Borum told the jury. He doesn't remember what color bathing suit he was wearing. The only thing Borum remembers was the water, and that he was scared out of his mind.
"Memory doesn't work like a movie camera," the defense lawyer said.
Borum reminded the jury that the alleged victim told his grandfather that the priest took off his boxer shorts. But when he told his story to a detective, Borum said, the alleged victim claimed that the priest took off all his clothes except for his boxer shorts.
"The story changed every time he told it," Borum argued. So don't believe it.
Borum questioned the testimony from the mother of the alleged victim, about how her son had supposedly attempted to hang himself in a closet every week. Borum reminded the jury that when he asked the alleged victim about it, he claimed he tried to hang himself several times a week.
But the alleged victim was never taken to a doctor or a hospital, Borum said.
About the alleged hanging, "There's no evidence of that," Borum said.
"He tried to mislead you," Borum said. "I don't know why but he did."
"It doesn't make it right," the defense lawyer said.
Borum talked about the opening statement by Assistant District Attorney Kemp.
"She constructed a house of cards," he said. "You poke it and breathe on it, and it falls apart."
He showed the jury some photos a character witness for Father Andy had brought to court. She was a former member of the Children of Mary. The pictures were of the priest posing with his arm around the witness's sister at her First Holy Communion. And Father Andy posing with altar boys and girls from the Children of Mary that he took to an amusement park.
"This is Father McCormick," Borum told the jury. Father Andy built a good reputation as a priest for more than 30 years, Borum said. "And it can be taken from you in an instant."
He asked the jury to find the priest not guilty.
When it was Assistant District Attorney Kemp's turn to speak, she compared Borum's argument to a snow globe. The defense lawyer, she said, was trying to stir up all kinds of snowflakes so that the real picture would be obscured.
He's trying to deceive you, she said about Borum. He wants to stir up so much stuff that "you don't remember" the pain of the alleged victim.
Kemp took Borum to task for accusing her of baiting witnesses to cry with "improper questions" designed to evoke emotion.
Remember the question she posed to the alleged victim, she asked the jury. The question that prompted the alleged victim to start crying?
It was right at the beginning of his testimony, Kemp reminded the jurors.
She was showing the alleged victims photos from inside the rectory. Then she asked, "Can you describe the kitchen?"
That's when the alleged victim started crying and the judge had to ask the jury to clear the room.
Just the sight of that kitchen, she told the jury, "broke him in a manner of seconds."
She was back to the snow globe. Borum, she said, was trying to "shake it up" so much that "you won't pay attention," to what happened to the alleged victim. You won't "see what happened" to him.
If you're paying attention to the snow job from the defense lawyer, Kemp told the jury, you won't remember why Father Andy targeted a 10-year-old altar boy.
"Because he wouldn't tell," she said. Because he was gay.
The prosecutor ripped Borum for criticizing the alleged victim because he remembered too many details from the attack.
Why does the alleged victim remember all those precise details, Kemp asked the jury. Because for him, the movie's still playing.
"He replayed it over and over again in his mind," she said. "This is normal, how some people react to trauma."
Father Andy, she said, used to have a "big body" when he was 30 pounds heavier.
What was the victim staring at during the attack, she reminded the jury. "That belly covered by those buttons."
Instead of getting caught up in a snow job, she said, just remember the testimony of the alleged victim.
"Did that feel real to you," she asked. That's because "What he described to you was real."
Did it feel real to you when his mother was telling you her story, she asked. His father?
Their stories felt real because "they lost him," she said of their son.
Kemp attacked Borum for trying to cast doubt on the alleged victim's suicide attempts, because he didn't end up in the hospital or dead.
Just because he wasn't successful, she said, "That doesn't count for something?"
She talked about how the alleged victim "blamed himself for years" after the attack because he was gay.
"He picked the perfect victim," she said about Father Andy.
She talked about the guilt the alleged victim's parents felt because their son wanted to quit being an altar boy, and he wanted to leave the church.
"His parents forced him to stay," she told the jury. She asked the jurors to consider how the parents felt after they found out what Father Andy had done to their son.
She asked jurors to consider how the alleged victim felt when Father Andy told him homosexuality was a sin, and that masturbation was a sin. As if it was the altar boy's fault for what happened behind closed doors with Father Andy.
The question you should be asking yourselves, she told jurors, is when the alleged victim testified, did it feel real to you? And if it felt real to you beyond a reasonable doubt you should vote to convict Father Andy.
She brought up more details from the attack.
"That belly pushing him down on the bed," she said. Remember how the alleged victim turned to drugs and alcohol and trying to hurt himself. Remember how right in front of you, when he was talking about the attack, how, "He just shut down. He just went back to being that 10-year-old kid. Pulling out his hair. Hiding in his bedroom."
"He couldn't even talk," she said of the alleged victim. "He couldn't look at him," she said, pointing toward Father Andy at the defense table.
Think about his father's testimony, she said; think about his mother's testimony.
"You saw it from the witness stand and I ask you, did it feel real?"
In the second row of the courtroom, the alleged victim's mother dabbed her eyes with a tissue.
It was D.A. Kemp's turn to talk about an incident from her past.
She was being trained by a senior prosecutor, she told the jury. The prosecutor told a group of young assistant district attorneys to remember their first sexual experience because in 30 minutes, they were going to have to stand up in front of the entire group and tell that story.
She was overcome with panic, she said. She wasn't going to do it. And then, a half hour later, the senior prosecutor told them she wasn't going to make them do it. She just wanted them to get a feel for what a sex abuse victim goes through.
The alleged victim in this case, she said, has had to tell you about "the most vile experience of his life." He's not alone, she said of the alleged victim. "His family is in this with him."
Why would he put himself through this, she asked, why would he put his family through this "if it didn't happen?"
He didn't file a civil lawsuit against the church, Kemp said. He's not after money. "He wants nothing from this man."
Why's he dong this? He told you why.
"He doesn't want this to happen again," she said. "He's done being silent. He wants nothing from this process except a chance for justice."
She went through the first three charges against the priest: involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, indecent assault, corruption of a minor. She talked about "what feels real to you" again as one juror wiped her eyes.
"Tell [the alleged victim] the pain is over," she implored the jury. Tell his parents, "They don't have to feel guilty any more." Tell his cousin "she did the best she could do at 11."
"Find him guilty."
After a break, the judge took an hour to charge the jury, going through each of five charges against the priest. Then she gave the case to the jury to begin deliberations.
Within moments the jurors were back with their first question. They wanted to see a defense exhibit, a black cassock with 33 buttons on it.