Tuesday, March 3, 2015
It's a real dog of a case but the district attorney seems intent on retrying it.
On June 22, 2012, in the case of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Father James J. Brennan, a jury deadlocked 11-1 in favor of acquitting Father Brennan of attempted rape.
The same jury convicted Msgr. William J. Lynn on one count of endangering the welfare of a child.
The historic conviction of the monsignor became the show pony for D.A. Seth Williams, as Lynn was the first Catholic administrator in the country to go to jail for the sexual sins of the clergy. Meanwhile, the dog in the D.A.'s dog and pony show -- the Father Brennan case -- had to disappear for a few years.
Yesterday in Courtroom 1102 of Common Pleas Court, Judge Gwendolyn N. Bright set a retrial date for the Father Brennan case of Jan. 4, 2016. None of the lawyers involved in the case are talking publicly in the event that the judge may restore a former gag order. But with all the delays and credibility problems with the D.A.'s star witness, you have to wonder whether the retrial in the Father Brennan case will ever really happen.
The irony is that of the defendants in the archdiocese sex abuse cases who actually went to trial, Father Brennan is the only one who admitted to misconduct. And he's the only guy who's gotten to enjoy his freedom for the past three years.
Msgr. Lynn had his conviction overturned on Dec. 26, 2013 by the state Superior Court, which ordered him to be "discharged forthwith." But more than a year later, he remains on house arrest.
In the second archdiocese sex abuse trial on Jan. 30, 2013, Father Charles Engelhardt and Catholic teacher Bernard Shero, both of whom pleaded innocent to any wrongdoing, were convicted of sex abuse. Engelhardt died in jail last November; Shero remains in prison pending an appeal.
In the Brennan case, the priest admitted to getting into bed with 14-year-old Mark Bukowski after letting the boy view several porn sites on the priest's laptop. Two female jurors, however, told Fox 29 that they didn't view Bukowski as a credible witness, saying it seemed like he was making up his testimony on the witness stand.
The jury foreman said that Bukowski's mother further muddied the waters by telling the jury, "I will never really know what happened" the night Father Brennan wound up in bed with her son.
It's hard to convict somebody when even the alleged victim's mother publicly doubts her son's story.
"I'm really tired, I'm really grateful, I'm really blessed," Father Brennan told reporters before disappearing from the public stage. The former priest reportedly went back to work in construction.
The Brennan case has been bungled since Day 1. In the 2011 grand jury report, the district attorney stated 12 times that Father Brennan had anally raped 14-year-old Mark Bukowski, and that the alleged victim peed his pants and cried himself to sleep that night while still under attack.
"Mark fell asleep that night with Father Brennan's penis still in his buttocks," the grand jury report stated on page 12.
The D.A. apparently had forgotten the grand jury testimony of the alleged victim, where he stated that he still had his boxer shorts on during the alleged attack. At trial, the rape charge against Father Brennan was reduced to attempted rape with no official explanation while a gag order was up.
At trial, Bukowksi went one step further, saying both he and the priest wore t-shirts and boxer shorts the night of the alleged attack. Defense attorney William J. Brennan dismissed the attempted rape as a "pelvic bump" or a "savage spooning."
The grand jury on page 40 also stated that three years after the rape, "Father Brennan exposed himself to Mark at a time when Mark's life was already spiraling out of control."
But when Brennan was tried, Msgr. Kevin Quirk showed up to testify that during a church inquiry into Bukowski's charges, "The accused has withdrawn that part of the allegation."
Mark Bukowski, the D.A.'s star witness in the Father Brennan case, has a history of criminal arrests and drug problems. As a Marine he was discharged after he went AWOL. His own mother accused him of stealing from her and her husband. She also told authorities that she was suspicious of Mark's claim to police that he had been the victim of a violent home invasion.
Bukowski pleaded guilty in 2006 to filing a false report, furnishing authorities with false information, forgery, identity theft, and driving without a license. He was sentenced to up to 18 months in jail. In 2011, Bukowski pleaded guilty to charges of forgery, theft, and identity fraud. He was sentenced to three years in jail.
In the absence of official comment, there's a rumor making the rounds that the reason for the far-flung future trial date is that the D.A.'s star witness needs some time to recover from injuries incurred during his latest misadventure.
You have to wonder by the time next January rolls around whether the D.A.'s dog of a case will still be barking.
Or whether somebody will finally do the decent thing and put the mutt out of its misery.