Monday, May 7, 2012

Ex-FBI Agent Tells About His Interview With Father Brennan

Former FBI Agent Jack Rossiter told jurors Monday about his interview with Father James J. Brennan, on trial for the attempted rape of a 14-year-old-boy.

The jury has now heard three versions of the story. First, the former alleged victim, Mark Bukowski, testified about he was allegedly sexually assaulted by the priest during a 1996 sleepover at Father Brennan's apartment in West Chester. Bukowski also told the jury that three years later, the priest allegedly exposed himself and masturbated in front of Bukowski while standing in a shed outside Father Brennan's church. At the time, Bukowski told the jury, he was doing community service, and that as part of a jail sentence after being arrested, Father Brennan was allowing him to mow church lawns.

Msgr. Kevin Quirk, who presided over a 2008 church inquiry into the alleged attempted rape, then told the jury Father Brennan's version of the story, namely that he he never sexually assaulted the boy or exposed himself. Quirk also told the jury that Bukowski had backtracked on the alleged 1999 masturbation incident, saying, "the accused had withdrawn that part of the allegation."

In court Monday, Rossiter gave jurors a third version of the story, as he recounted his efforts to investigate the priest on behalf of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Rossiter told the jury that Bukowski's parents had asked Father Brennan to take the boy for a weekend, because he was angry and exhibiting "anti-social behavior." The parents told Father Brennan that he had a good relationship with Mark, and that maybe after spending a weekend with the boy, he could figure out what was wrong with him.

Rossiter told jurors that according to Father Brennan, Mark Bukowski acted strangely when he entered the priest's apartment. The boy took off his underwear, and walked around in loose gym shorts, "holding his boxers in his hand," was how Father Brennan described it to Rossiter.

The boy then initiated a wrestling match with the priest. The match came to a halt when Father Brennan said he wanted to watch golf on TV. Mark went upstairs and got on the priest's laptop, Rossiter said. The boy yelled down that he wanted the priest's access code, so he could visit porn websites. And if he didn't get what he wanted, Mark Bukwoski threatened to throw the priest's laptop out an "open window," Father Brennan told Rossiter.

The priest told Rossiter he relented, and Mark Bukowski was allowed to view one pornographic website. "In hindsight, he should not have watched" porn with the boy, the priest told

Father Brennan told Rossiter that he offered to sleep on the floor but that the boy wanted Father Brennan "in bed with him." The priest did not take off his clothes, and did not intentionally touch the boy during the night, although he conceded to Rossiter that some "unintentional contact could have incurred."

Rossiter testified that Father Brennan told him that Mark Bukowski slept over a second night, and this time, at the boy's request, Brennan slept on the couch, while the boy slept in the priest's king-size bed. But upon further questioning, Father Brennan told Rossiter that, "To be honest, he [Brennan] does not have a clear recollection of the sleeping arrangements."

Father Brennan told the FBI agent that during the weekend, Mark Bukowski called his family several times.

After the alleged attack, the priest said he met with the parents of Mark Bukowski during a "Sunday brunch sit-down" at the Mariott Hotel in Conshohocken. Brennan described the parents to Rossiter as upset, but insisted that "They believed him," and invited him over to their house for Sunday dinner.

Father Brennan told Rossiter that three years after the alleged attack, Bukowski called him and asked for help after he had been arrested for drugs. The priest arranged for Bukowski to mow church lawns as part of community service for his sentence.

The priest told Rossiter that the alleged exposure and masturbation incident in the church shed was "completely bogus."

On cross-examination, Father Brennan's defense attorney, William J. Brennan, came out swinging, and told the jurors a few new facts about the Bukowskis that had the prosecutor objecting, and the judge sustaining nearly every objection.

Defense attorney Brennan, who is not related to his client, elicited from Rossiter that he had never investigated any sex crimes during his 30-year tenure with the FBI. Rossiter's instructions from the archdiocese came in a single 30-minute meeting with the archdiocese's law firm, Stradley, Ronan Stevens & Young.

Was Father Brennan cooperative with you, defense attorney Brennan wanted to know.

"To a degree," Rossiter said, adding that the priest showed up for his interview with a lawyer.

Defense attorney Brennan got into Father Brennan's explanation for what happened with the Bukowskis, namely that they were in financial trouble, and needed money. Defense attorney Brennan asked Rossiter if he had ever investigated whether the Bukowskis were in financial trouble, as evidenced by a 2005 bankruptcy filing. That brought an objection from the prosecutor that was upheld by the judge.

When Brennan kept hammering away at the Bukowskis' alleged financial troubles, Rossiter replied that the Bukowskis "were not under investigation."

Defense attorney Brennan asked Rossiter if he had investigated whether Mark Bukowski was a credible witness, after an arrest in 2000 for "lying to the police, and making up stories to the police." That brought another objection from the prosecution sustained by the judge.

Brennan, in another question that was objected to by the prosecution, and sustained by the judge, also mentioned that Mark Bukowski was suing Jack Rossiter. That drew looks of surprise from jurors, who turned to see Rossiter's lawyer sitting in the courtroom, as pointed out by defense attorney Brennan.

Mark Bukowski's arrest record "weighed partly in my analysis," Rossiter told Brennan. On redirect, Rossiter told the jury that in spite of Bukowski's credibility problems, "I believed him."

The jury was left to ponder why Bukowski was suing a guy who believed him.


  1. I think one of the more important Church reforms to come out of the past decade is that priests are probably never well-advised to meet with anybody alone outside of a formal office or counseling setting. The type of setting described today surely qualifies as a ‘boundary setting’ rife with possibilities of the now formal “boundary violation” stricture.

    The trial process now reaches the point where the actual gravamen of the Charge, and the testimony relevant to it, comes into play.

    The trial judge is certainly exerting every effort to avoid bringing the accuser’s past into the case, although there is the thorny issue (especially, I would imagine, for the jury) of credibility. But defense counsel managed to make some clear points in that regard. And I am myself surprised that the accuser has initiated a civil suit against the former FBI agent who rather clearly seems to be on his side and believes him.

    This type of trial, and especially if it is ‘historical’, so often leads to an accuser-says/accused-says situation.

    It puts a great strain on all the participants, not least the judge and the jury.

    Mr. Cipriano is clearly up to the task, however, and for that I am thankful indeed.

    1. To you and Catholics, allowing an unrelated 14 year old boy

      - to take off his underwear in your apartment
      - parade around in loose shorts
      - insist on watching porn from your paid priest porn account
      - threaten to throw your computer out the window
      - sleeping in the same bed with him

      is just a "boundary violation". That's all, Catholic style.

      For the normal men and women in the world, it is bizarre child sex behavior, and if Brennan admitted to that, the rest of us know he's lying.

      Of course, Cardinal Bevilacqua thought Brennan was a liar, too, and Bevilacqua was a liar and a perjurer.

  2. Who else but a Catholic priest would require hindsight to say “I should not have watched porn” with a 14 year old boy?

    Who else but a Catholic would believe Brennan’s side of the story:

    - a 14 year old boy comes into a grown man’s apartment and takes off his clothes and you do nothing??
    - he insists on watching porn, and you let him (of course, he is a Catholic priest, so he does have passwords to paid porn sites, of course)?
    - remember that this is 1996 with slow dial up, so this was a half hour process.
    - the 14 year old threatens to throw your computer out the window, and you say, “I’m watching golf”??
    - after all that, you sleep in a bed with him, and that’s what the 14 year old boy wanted??
    - of course, some unintentional contact may have happened

    Even Cardinal Bevilacqua didn’t believe Fr Brennan, as you can see if you read the grand jury report:

    - Fr Brennan was a liar according to his own Cardinal, Cardinal Bevilacqua. And Cardinal Bevilacqua perjured himself in the grand jury report, as we now know.
    - See the Grand Jury report at
    - On pg 20, Cardinal Bevilacqua noted in a memo to the priest’s file, “My interview with Father Brennan has raised certain doubts in my mind about his honesty”
    - On pg 20, Father Brennan told Msgr Lynn that he himself had been sexually abused, but later denied it.
    - Pg 19 ” One afternoon, Dr. O’Brien heard noises coming from inside Father Brennan’s office, and then watched as the priest and David tumbled out of the office, wrestling with one another. In the words of other staff members at Cardinal O’Hara, including Dr. O’Brien’s secretary, the relationship between Father Brennan and David was “not healthy.”
    - Pg 21 Fr Brennan was living with that student, named David, as reported through channels by the religious sisters at Divine Providence Village, who had observed the situation firsthand
    - Pg 18 In both posts, Father Brennan was known to have inappropriate relationships with minors.

    All this, and Rossiter says under oath that he believes the victim, even though the victim is suing him. Rossiter is honest, which you could never say about a Catholic priest.

    1. mark's own mother testified that she did not know what to believe..well, it appears that he has possibly lied all his life not just in his later years with the crime he has committed etc. it is unfortunate that his credibility is in question and also the motives of his financially strapped parents....misters omalley,allen and pato, etc. why do you twist all the facts with your hatred of catholics. it has nothing to do with the justice system or the purpose of this forum. i don't know why it gets posted.

  3. Mom: I think my son my be disturbed and or have anti-social behavior; is there anything that you can do to help? I think that you are the right guy seeing that you are struggling with your own alcohol problem and are estranged from your family

    Brennan: Well, I could refer him to one of the catholic charities that makes child therapists available; or contact his school to see the district has resources, but you know what would be better,a good old fashioned slumber party in my one bedroom apartment with only a single bed. Tell him not to bother with a sleeping bag or air mattress.

    Mark-14 y/o: your apartment is great, I am going to slip out of my boxers and get into something more comfortable. Oh, let's wrestle.

    Brennan: Well, I am supposed to be figuring out what is wrong with you because your Mom is concerned but how do I tell a 14 year old potentially mentally disturbed kid freebirding in boxers that I shouldn't wrestle? Ok, Mark, we'll wrestle but I am doing this under duress and I have to watch the golf channel later because god knows, nothing a 14 year old problem child like better than roaming around a priest's apartment while the adult watches the golf channel.


  4. Mark-14 y/o; If you aren't going to wrestle and just watch golf, I am going to surf some porn; give me your access code.

    Brennan: For the love of god, Daly is set to make this 1 putt, you can't watch porn

    Mark-14: Then I am going to throw your laptop out the window.

    Brennan-relenting: Oh, well, I don't want to miss the back 9; Ok, even though you are walking around my house holding onto your underwear, you can see one porn site, but that's it. I'm really serious

    Mark-14: Ok, you can come back after this modem connects to your dial up ISP, and then you access the internet through AOL, and then I will wait the 20 minutes for a page or two of porn to load.

    Brennan: Alright, I'll be back in an hour, let me know when its up because then I'll watch with. This is exactly what your mom had in mind when she dropped you off so I could figure out what is wrong with you.

    Mark: Don't sleep on the floor, nothing I like better than snuggling and spooning with a middle aged priest

    Brennan: Well, I let you run around freebird, wrestled with you with your underwear off, and surfed some porn with you; now I've got to share a bed with you too? Ok, just this once. It will be like the old travelling salesman joke and the farmer's daughter but the cliche will be even more modern and creepier; the middle aged priest and the troubled adolescent boy.

    Mark: let's do it again tomorrow night.

    Brennan to Mom: Well, your son ran around with no underwear, wrestled with me, threatened to throw my laptop out the window, made me share a bed with him; and I had no control over him. Normally, I would think that maybe he should see a psychiatrist and get on some meds and start therpy. But I am thinking a nice meal at the Conshy Marriott might be a better approach.

    Mom to Fr. Brennan: Of course I believe you Father, Mark is just an excitable boy, they all said.

    1. Well done, Kopride.

      Only Catholics would believe that this story could be possible.

  5. Nothing strange about this story at all. Sounds like a perfectly appropriate relationship for a Priest to have with a 14 year old boy

  6. Great reporting as usual, Ralph.

    Why doesn’t the judge shut the defense down when it keeps bringing up these facts that are objected to and are sustained? If the judge continually allows that tactic, the defense gets to say whatever they want to the jury.

    Isn’t that like the prosecution saying, “It took Fr Avery 30 years to admitted that he had sex with a boy, but at least we got him to plead guilty”
    Defense: “Objection!”
    Judge: “Sustained”

  7. "Why doesn’t the judge shut the defense down when it keeps bringing up these facts that are objected to and are sustained?"

    Well, the remedy is a mistrial. Lawyer Brennan is baiting the prosecution to move for a mistrial. It is a very high risk tactic because the lawyer starts to lose credibility if the jury thinks the judge is being fair. The overall picture is a defendant with a lawyer who doesn't follow the rules and that outweighs the minor back door stuff you get in. Lawyer Brennan thinks he is back-dooring a lot of helpful stuff in but he is pissing off the law and order types on the jury even more. And he needs the folks on the jury that will follow the law of reasonable doubt, and will not draw an adverse inference against him failing to testify since clearly Brennan defendant is going nowhere near the witness stand with that crazy story. It is hard for a lawyer who has continuously defied the judge to stand up and say, "follow the judge's instructions on these important points." It is difficult for him to argue that the prosecution is being unfair if they see him being unfair. Lawyer Brennan is considered to be a very good criminal defense attorney but the chief tool of a Philly defense lawyer is attacking the cops and the lack of CSI evidence, which almost never exists for the typical state prosecution. And for the most part, the victims and witnesses in a typical case are dirtbags themselves. This is a different type of defendant and witness. You can't attack the investigation of the crimes because Lynn was the investigator and he never called the cops. If Lawyer Brennan has no credibility because of these tactics, then they are going to disregard the stuff he is trying to get in.

    "If the judge continually allows that tactic, the defense gets to say whatever they want to the jury."

    It puts the judge in a very bad position. She can declare a mistrial, but defense mistrial is very rare. She can admonish him in front of the jury but then the jury starts to root for him if they think the judge is unfairly trying to keep him from bringing in relevant evidence. if the jury thinks the judge is fair, then he is killing his client because the jury will think that Lawyer Brennan does not play fair and will stop believing anything he says. if the jury thinks that the judge is unfair, then this tactic works.

    Personally, I have lost most trials where I defied the judge even where the judge was grossly unfair. In a case that was reversed on appeal because the judge unfairly precluded evidence, I continuously used the tactic of the question that would be subject to a sustained objection to at least let the jury hear the precluded evidence from my mouth. The jury wasn't digging the tactic. They didn't think I was clever or the victim of an unfair judge, they just saw a lawyer who didn't play fair.

  8. Are there that many law & order types on the jury, and do they understand what he is doing? Shouldn't the judge warn him harshly?

    Regardless, I love your insight. Thanks.


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