Prosecution Witness Sticks to Story
By Ralph Cipriano
Philadelphia Priest Abuse Trial Blog
April 6, 2012
But when it was all over, after three hours of cross-examination, Mark Bukowski stubbornly and defiantly clung to his story: that in 1996 when he was just 14 years old, he was sexually abused by Father James J. Brennan, and that the abuse he endured haunts him to this day. And even though Brennan's lawyer, William J. Brennan (no relation), went over every aspect of the story, and found some minor discrepancies, he could not budge Bukowski from his talking points.
"He tried to have sex with me as a kid," Bukowski yelled at the defense lawyer at one point. "It's his fault, and not mine."
The prosecution witness who had a meltdown on Wednesday, crying and getting too confused to continue, made a remarkable comeback on Thursday. "We had him yesterday," one defense lawyer was overheard lamenting. And that was bad news for Father James J. Brennan, on trial for the attempted rape of Bukowski.
The story that Bukowski told was when he was 14, he visited Father Brennan at his apartment in West Chester. Bukowski was eating Captain Crunch cereal; Father Brennan was drinking Scotch.
Bukowski took some crunch berries and arranged them in the shape of a penis on a glass coffee table. Attorney Brennan asked why Bukowski would do such a thing.
"I was an immature kid," Bukowski explained, before returning to his main point. "That man molested me."
Bukowski said that after he made the Captain Crunch penis, he and Father Brennan got on the priest's computer and went to several sex chat rooms and pornographic websites. When attorney Brennan pointed out that in some accounts he gave to authorities, Bukowski referred to the priest's computer as a laptop, and in another account, as a desktop, Bukowski said, "I'm here today because the man molested me. It's not about computers."
The story Bukowski told about the alleged sex abuse was the same, that the priest took him to bed, and while both were wearing t-shirts and boxer shorts, the priest put his arms around the boy to restrain him, and then he jammed his erect penis into the boy's butt cheeks.
When attorney Brennan tried to downplay the incident by saying things like Bukowski was "savagely spooned," the witness angrily retorted, "His penis was in my ass."
"I cried and pissed myself to sleep," Bukowski said. "When I woke up, my ass was killing me ... That man molested me and he knows it."
When attorney Brennan kept challenging the victim's account, Bukowski had an appropriate retort on Holy Thursday: "The Lord Jesus Christ knows I'm telling the truth and he's lying."
"I'll pray for you," Bukowski told the attorney. "Good," Brennan retorted. "I need all the prayers I can get."
Attorney Brennan asked Bukowski about the bills the archdiocese had paid on his behalf. They included a Sprint telephone bill, an electric bill for Bukowski's father, and nine months of treatment for Bukowski in a recovery facility, and a year in what Bukowski described as a "sober house."
"They paid my bills," Bukowski admitted. "I never asked for one cent."
Bukowski told the lawyer he was here in court because he wanted to "get him [Brennan] off the streets so he can't hurt another child like he did me."
Brennan pointed out that Bukowski had also filed a civil suit against the archdiocese.
"Expecting a big pay day?" he asked.
"Yes," Bukowski said.
After Bukowski appeared before the grand jury, a subsequent report said the priest had anally raped the boy. Father Brennan was originally charged with rape. Later, the charge was downgraded to attempted rape. Attorney Brennan asked why. Bukowski explained that a detective had mistakenly told him you didn't need penetration to charge the priest with rape. Brennan replied that detectives should refrain from giving legal advice.
When attorney Brennan asked why Bukowski was still so upset over the incident, the witness replied, sobbing, "I still remember every sensation ... I know what it means to be held by another man when you don't want to."
In the courtroom Thursday, Bukowski said that when he went to bathroom after the alleged attack, he saw blood. Attorney Brennan pointed out that in his interviews with the grand jury, church officials, and also in his civil suit, Bukowski had never mentioned blood before.
"Yes, that's true," the witness admitted.
Brennan pounced on a prior statement to church officials that as a boy, Bukowski had been jealous of Father Brennan. The priest came over his house nearly every weekend, the witness had testified, and often got drunk with Bukowski's mother.
Brennan quoted Bukowski's comments to church official during a canonical inquisition: "I felt like my mom was giving him [Father Brennan] too much attention," Bukowski told church officials. "I did not like the way they behaved."
The attorney tried to suggest that Bukowski had retaliated against the priest by making up a story about sexual assault, but Bukowski would have none of it.
"I was jealous of the attention he was giving my mom," Bukowski explained to attorney Brennan. "I thought it was unhealthy." Then he reiterated that the priest had abused him.
When it came time for rebuttal, the prosecutor asked Bukowski to read the statement he made about the alleged attack to the canonical court, and the statement he gave to the grand jury. They were remarkably similar. And so was Bukowski's reaction as he read the statements. He cried, dabbed his eyes, broke down sobbing, and then finally covered his face with paper towels.
While the jury appeared sympathetic to Bukowski, the sobbing witness got no such treatment from Judge M. Teresa Sarmina. Maybe she wanted to leave behind a trial transcript that would leave no room for a defense appeal.
"Nobody's asking you to talk,"the judge told Bukowski, when he was trying to make his own point, without the benefit of a question. When it happened again, the judge said, "Right now, you're not under questioning so be quiet."Bukowski also made the mistake of thanking the judge every time she sustained an objection in his favor. "Don't be thanking me for the rulings I make," she snapped.
When the judge heard a report from courtroom personnel that Bukowski may have attempted to speak to the jury during a break, she told him, "You're not to address the jury; you're not to address anyone."
As the jury was filing out for a break, she told the witness, "You stay right there; don't say a word."And when Bukowski shouted at defense attorney Brennan, the judge told the witness, "Be quiet, sir. You're not here to battle an attorney, you're here to answer questions."
After Bukowski left the courtroom, the prosecution called as a witness a 42-year-old police detective, who, at the request of the district attorney's office, asked not to be identified in the press, for fear that the publicity would harm his career.
The detective was a former altar boy who testified that when he was 12, after playing basketball, Father Francis X. Trauger took him the shower at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. The detective was composed as he began his testimony. He described how in the shower, the priest soaped up his back, and fondled his penis.
When the priest brought him home, "I felt nauseous," the detective said, and then he began crying. After he regained his composure, the detective described another incident later that year when Father Trauger took the boy on a ski trip to the Poconos. They ended up naked together in a queen-sized hotel bed.
The detective described how, as a 12-year-old boy, he tried to protect himself by rolling over on his side, with his back on the priest. For the jury, the story was eerily similar to the story Bukowski had told over the past two days.
After the abuse, Bukowski said he began a downward spiral. He abused drugs and alcohol, got arrested numerous times, was discharged for mental health reasons from the Marines, and tried to commit suicide three times. It was a record that made him an easy target for defense attorneys.
But here was a detective with a presumably clean record telling the jury a similar story. And though he came across at first like a hardened cop, as he told the story, the detective behaved much like Bukowski did, as he broke down and started crying.
The priest reached over and "fondled my penis," the detective testified. Then the priest got behind him and "he was like spooning me," the detective testified. "He kept rubbing up behind me. It went on for hours. I don't know if he anally raped me. When I woke up his hand was still on my penis."
Like Bukowski, the detective didn't remember anything about the day after the attack. The detective testified that he never told his parents because, "I was scared." The detective described how he was mowing the lawn when his late father asked him about what happened with Father Trauger.
"My father had a look about him," the detective said, and then he began crying again.
As a detective, he investigated sex crimes against children, and, "It got difficult," the witness told the jury.
The detective testified that he was so ashamed about the abuse that when he got married in 1993, he never told his wife, until a detective from the archdiocese showed up at his door in 2002. The detective from the archdiocese was not particularly sympathetic, the witness said.
He made me feel like I was "the bad guy," the witness said. "I was the one who needed to defend myself." But the detective from the archdiocese called back, and said the account of abuse had been deemed credible by the church, and that Father Trauger had been removed from ministry.
When it came time for cross-examination, none of the defense attorneys had any questions.
The archdiocese sex abuse trial will resume its third week at 1 p.m. Monday in Courtroom 304 of the Criminal Justice Center.