The defense lawyer for Father Andrew McCormick today accused the district attorney's office of prosecutorial misconduct for trying to put a Catholic priest in jail "by any means necessary."
The D.A.'s office "took every witness at their word no matter how fantastical the story was," Trevan Borum complained to reporters outside the Criminal Justice Center.
Borum, a former prosecutor himself, said that the D.A.'s office didn't do their homework, but "Thank God we did." Speaking moments after a judge lifted a gag order, Borum told reporters about how the defense went out looking for witnesses to refute the prosecution's case.
"They were easy to find," Borum said, including a former altar boy now a state trooper who discredited a key prosecution witness. That's how Borum managed to thwart a district attorney's office that he said was "looking to convict a priest at all costs."
After two heavily publicized trials in the last 14 months, however, both of which ended in deadlocked juries, "Father Andy" faces "an uncertain future," his lawyer said. The priest is on administrative leave with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and still has to face a church hearing over alleged boundary violations. Then there's the matter of his reputation, his lawyer said, after being accused in the media and the courts of something he didn't do, an attempted rape of a 10-year-old altar boy.
"How do you get your reputation back," Borum asked.
The day began in Courtroom 1102 where Common Pleas Court Judge Gwendolyn N. Bright was asked to rule on a motion by Borum to lift the gag order. Without looking up, the judge who presided over two mistrials granted Borum's request.
The first combatant to speak with reporters was Assistant District Attorney Kristen Kemp, who prosecuted both trials. Kemp, reading from a prepared statement, said the D.A. decided not to prosecute Father Andy again because it was "simply too much to ask the victim to endure a third trial."
The prepared statement claimed that the district attorney vigorously prosecuted all sex crimes. But if this was true, she was asked, why did the D.A. offer Father Andy such a sweetheart plea deal? If the priest would have pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor, corrupting the morals of a minor, he would have gotten no jail time, four years probation, and not even have to register as a sex offender under Megan's Law.
Father Andy's response to the deal, according to sources, was, if it's God's will for me to go to jail for the rest of my life for something I didn't do, then I will. But I'm not pleading guilty to something I didn't do.
Kemp didn't have anything else to say other what she read in the prepared statement. When challenged again about the proposed plea deal with Father Andy, two of her superiors conferred for a few minutes in a separate room. Then they came out to tell reporters they too wouldn't have anything to say besides the prepared statement, which said nothing.
Outside the courthouse, however, Borum, had plenty to say. At no time, he said, was "Fr. McCormick going to plead guilty to something he didn't do."
Asked about the motivation of the alleged victim in the case, Borum declined to comment, other than to say, "What I do know was that his testimony wasn't true."
Borum disclosed that his client passed a polygraph test about the alleged victim's allegations.
Borum, who served as a Philadelphia assistant district attorney for 10 years in the homicide, habitual offenders and major trials units, said he was appalled by prosecutor Kemp's blatant appeal to the jury's emotions.
"It was completely inappropriate," Borum said. Kemp's message in her closing, Borum said, was "forget the facts," just find Father Andy guilty to ease his family's guilt.
If the D.A. had decided to retry Father Andy a third time, Borum said, he was going to state Superior Court to file a motion claiming double jeopardy, a motion that would have charged that Father Andy was denied a fair trial because of the D.A.s blatant "emotional plea to the jury's sympathy."
Borum also disclosed that the judge turned down his motion during the trial to allow an expert on false memory syndrome to testify. The expert would have told the jury that the story told by the alleged victim in the case is now how children process memories.
The alleged victim in the case, Borum said, came forward 14 years later. And yet he could remember such precise details such as the flavor of the cookie he was eating moments before the attack. And every one of the 32 buttons on the priest's cassock as he slowly unbuttoned them.
The alleged victim recalled so many precise details that his story came across like a "slow-motion technicolor movie," Borum told the jury.
"Come on, that's got to raise a red flag," Borum said.