|D.A. Gives Up|
District Attorney Seth Williams has decided not to retry Father Andrew McCormick a third time for the alleged attempted rape of a former 10-year-old altar boy.
In a brief appearance today before Judge Gwendolyn N. Bright, Assistant District Attorney Kristen Kemp tersely announced that the D.A. would not retry the case.
Twice in the last 14 months, the district attorney had brought the case to trial. And twice the end result was a mistrial after both juries wound up hopelessly deadlocked.
At today's brief hearing, Trevan Borum, Father Andy's defense lawyer, asked the judge to lift a gag order in the case. But even though there's no future jury pool to worry about tainting, the judge told Kemp and Borum that she wanted her gag order to remain in efffect until April 16th. Later the judge changed her mind and announced she would rule Monday on Borum's motion to lift the gag order.
In the absence of official comment, one loyal member of the "Friends of Father Andy" support group said the D.A.'s decision to finally give up was a "long time coming, especially when there is no evidence."
In a last desperate move while the jury was still deliberating, ADA Kemp had offered Father Andy a sweetheart deal. If the priest would plead guilty to a single charge, corrupting the morals of a minor, he would receive no jail time, four years probation, and not even have to register as a sex offender under Megan's Law.
Corrupting the morals of a minor was the least of the five charges that D.A. Williams had filed against Father Andy. The priest was also charged with: involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, sexual assault, endangering the welfare of a child, and indecent assault on the child.
If convicted on all the charges, the 59-year-old priest was looking at 25 to 50 years in jail. But Father Andy turned down the deal, according to sources, telling Kemp that pleading guilty to any of the charges would be a lie because he was innocent.
There was no physical evidence in the case nor any corroborating witnesses. Only the accusations of a former altar boy who came forward 14 years after the alleged crime to accuse the priest of attacking him in the rectory of St. John Cantius Church in Bridesburg.
The most effective prosecution witness was a retired Philadelphia police detective who took the first statement from the victim in the case; a retired detective who was also the former altar boy's grandfather.
Father Andy did not take the stand during his most recent trial that ended in a deadlocked jury on March 11. In the previous trial that deadlocked on March 12, 2004, the priest did take the stand, but the result was a disaster. Willliam J. Brennan, the priest's defense lawyer at the time, admitted to the jury that Father Andy was an awkward guy who turned beet red on the witness stand and generally looked like a deer caught in the headlights.
Before the accusation against Father Andy became public in 2011 the priest had been pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Swedesburg, Montgomery County, since 2004. He remains on administrative leave, meaning he can't administer the sacraments publicly or present himself as a priest in good standing. The archdiocese didn't contribute a dollar to Father Andy's defense, leaving the priest and his family to fend for themselves.
But on every day of both trials, Father Andy's support group was there, loyal former parishioners and a couple of nuns in full habit who often prayed the rosary.
In the most recent trial, the alleged victim's grandfather looked weary when asked whether his family was willing to deal with rigors of a third jury trial.
On the witness stand, the alleged victim had testified that his sole reason for coming forward against Father Andy was to spare another boy the trauma of what he went through. He was not in it for the money, he said.
The D.A.'s last attempt at a plea bargain, however, made a mockery of any claim that the D.A. was prosecuting Father Andy to protect the safety of children. The priest could have copped a plea that would have resulted in no jail time and he wouldn't have even had to register as a sex offender.
But to D.A. Williams, the case against Father Andy wasn't about protecting children. It was about political grandstanding, and winning at any cost.