One Courtroom, Two Defendants and Two Cases Headed in Opposite Directions
By Ralph Cipriano
Philadelphia Priest Abuse Trial Blog
May 1, 2012
There are two defendants on trial in Courtroom 304, Monsignor William J. Lynn and Father James J. Brennan.
Msgr. Lynn is charged with conspiring to endanger the welfare of children by covering up for abuser priests, and allowing them to remain in ministry; the main charge against Father Brennan is the attempted rape of a 14-year-old.
The back story at the archdiocese of Philadelphia sex abuse trial, now beginning its sixth week, is that the evidence against Msgr. Lynn continues to pile up every day, while the case against Father Brennan appears to be unraveling.
Father Brennan's main accuser is Mark Bukowski, who claims that back in 1996, when he was 14, Father Brennan attempted to rape him at the priest's apartment in West Chester. The problems with the case began with a 2011 grand jury report, where Father Brennan was originally charged with anally raping Bukowski.
The grand jury report had graphically stated that the 14-year-old victim pissed his pants and cried himself to sleep, with Father Brenan's penis still inside him. By the time the case went to trial, however, the rape charge had been downgraded to attempted rape, or what the priest's lawyer, William J. Brennan [no relation] dismissively referred to as a "pelvic bump" or a "savage spooning."
Bukowski testified three weeks ago that both the alleged victim and abuser were wearing t-shirts and shorts at the time of the alleged attack.
The waters were muddied further when Bukowski's mother testified that even she has reasonable doubt about what happened that night in West Chester between her son and her favorite priest. The last words the alleged victim's mother uttered before leaving the witness stand was, "I will never really know what happened."
In court Monday, the case against Father Brennan unraveled further, when Msgr. Kevin Quirk showed up to read a 55-page transcript of a 2008 ecclesiastical inquest of Father Brennan into the record. Msgr. Quirk, a West Virginia priest with a doctorate in canon law, was the canonical judge. He told the jury in Courtroom 304 that he was the one who had questioned Father Brennan, when the priest voluntarily submitted to the inquest.
In the transcript, Bukowski backed off of a second charge he made three weeks ago at the archdiocese sex abuse trial, that in 1999, three years after the alleged attempted rape, Father Brennan had subsequently exposed himself to Bukowski.
At the time, Bukowski, who had been arrested several times, testified that he had sought Father Brennan's help because he needed to do 30 hours of community service. The priest helped Bukowski line up a gig at his new parish, Assumption BVM in Feasterville, where Bukowski was scheduled to mow the lawn.
On the witness stand in Courtroom 304, Bukowski charged that the priest had called him over to a shed, and when he got there, he saw the priest with his pants down, fondling his own penis. Bukowski told the jury that when he saw the priest masturbating, he ran away.
But in the transcript of the church investigation, the alleged alleged exposure incident was never mentioned, even though Msgr. Quirk had already heard Bukowski's testimony.
Why didn't you question Father Brennan about the alleged exposure, defense attorney Brennan asked Msgr. Quirk. And then the defense attorney turned his back, and walked away from the witness stand, awaiting the monsignor's answer.
"The accused had withdrawn that part of the allegation," the monsignor finally replied. Msgr. Quirk testified that Bukowski told him his mind was "scrambled" about the alleged exposure incident, adding, "I'm just saying I don't remember."
But what the jury may remember is that four years later, at the archdiocese sex abuse trial, Bukowski's memory had improved to the point where he could again bring up the alleged incident. Especially after defense attorney Brennan on cross-examination had Msgr. Quirk read a portion of Mark Bukowski's canonical testimony, where the alleged victim was asked if there were any problems when he was doing his community service at Father Brennan's parish.
"It was fine during community service," Bukowski was quoted as saying in the canonical transcript read into the record by Msgr. Quirk.
In the canonical transcript, Father Brennan made his position clear on Bukowski's allegations. The alleged attack never happened, the priest told the monsignor. Neither did another incident that he's been accused of.
A former Little League coach has testified in Courtroom 304 that he once saw the priest massaging Bukowksi's bare shoulders, Father Brennan told the canonical inquest the massage never happened. "No, I'm Irish," Father Brennan was quoted as saying. "I'm not tactile."
Father Brennan told the church inquest that in the summer of 1996, Bukowski's mother called him and asked if he would take Mark for a weekend. The boy had been having "crazy mood swings," and wasn't getting along with his family, the priest said. Bukowski's mother told Father Brennan, "Maybe you can figure out what's wrong with him."
That night in the priest's apartment, Father Brennan told the church inquiry, he drank three beers. Meanwhile, Mark Bukowski took off his boxer shorts and ran around the priest's apartment in a pair of loose gym shorts. That struck the priest as weird, but he said Mark Bukowski told him his mother let him run around like that all the time.
The priest told the church inquest that Mark Bukowski went upstairs and was using the priest's laptop. The boy said he wanted the priest's password so he could go on the internet and look at some porn sites. When Father Brennan said he didn't think that was a good idea, Mark Bukowski got angry and threatened to throw the priest's laptop "out the window," Father Brennan told the church inquest.
Father Brennan said he ran upstairs and, after an argument, reluctantly gave Mark the password. The boy went on a couple of porn sites, the priest said, before Father Brennan decided to shut down his computer.
The two then ended up sharing the priest's king size bed. Msgr. Quirk asked Father Brennan if during the night if it was possible that he touched Mark Bukowski.
No, the priest said. Did you attempt to hug him in bed? Not that I recall, the priest said.
When Father Brennan was told of Mark Bukowski's allegations, he told the canonical inquest, "You may as well beat me over the head with a baseball bat. I have no clue about this. Where the hell did this come from? I was just devastated."
After Bukowski made his allegations, Father Brennan said he was told by a monsignor that he had two days to pack up and leave his parish. During the archdiocese investigation, the priest told the church inquiry, that the charges against him went "very public."
"It was on TV. It was in the newspapers," Father Brennan told the monsignor. And, he said, the archdiocese mailed out "10,000 letters" to parishioners and former students of Father Brennan, trying to find out whether there were any other victims.
And did they find any other victims, Father Brennan was asked in the church transcript.
"Nope," he said.
Father Brennan told the church inquiry that he decided to fight the charges against him because, "I don't want another priest to have to go through this." The battle would be worth it, he said in the transcript, if he could "save one priest, then I'll go to calvary."
In addition to the attempted rape charge, Father Brennan is also charged with conspiracy to endanger the welfare of a child, and endangering the welfare of a child. The priest and his lawyer have sat silently at the defense table during most of the past five weeks of trial, as 90 percent of the evidence has had nothing to do with him, but is part of the case against Msgr. Lynn.
It's a daily courtroom ritual that still gets smiles and chuckles from jurors. After every witness testifies against Msgr. Lynn, on cross-examination, defense attorney Brennan will stand and ask the prosecutors if they can stipulate that none of the evidence just entered into court has anything to do with his client. When the prosecutor agrees, Brennan says then he has no questions for the witness.
It happened two more times Monday when the prosecution brought two former victims into court to testify against Msgr. Lynn. Once again, these witnesses had nothing to do with the case against Father Brennan, or even the case against Father Edward V. Avery, the third defendant in the case who, on the eve of trial, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to endanger the welfare of a child, and involuntary deviant sexual intercourse with a 10-year-old boy.
As part of the case against Msgr. Lynn, Judge M. Teresa Sarmina has allowed the prosecution to introduce evidence regarding 21 additional abuser priests dating back to 1948, to show a pattern in the archdiocese of shuffling abusers from parish to parish, without notifying parishioners or doing anything to protect children.
On Monday, a 43-year-old Levittown man testified that he was abused as a school boy during the early 1980s by Father David Sicoli, one of those 21 additional priests. The victim testified that Father Sicoli was always putting his hands on him.
"I was 11 or 12 years old," the victim testified. "I didn't see what was wrong and what was going on. My parents welcomed and relished that attention," he said, adding that his family believed that "priests walked on water."
But in retrospect, he realized the warning signs about the undue attention Father Sicoli showered on him were "signal flares shooting off left and right."
"The guy had really big hands and had physical control over where I was going," he testified. The priest took the victim and other boys to his beach house in Sea Isle City, where he always served them liquor.
"To this day I can't drink Amaretto," he said. The priest also lined up paying jobs at the rectory for his favorite boys, whom he treated like girlfriends. But Father Sicoli was a manipulator who kept the boys in line because they were afraid of his volcanic temper.
The victim recalled one incident where Father Sicoli approached him in the rectory, where he was doing his homework, and insisted they wrestle. The priest, who wore tight pants, pinned the boy down on the ground and with a "full erection," was "grinding me," the victim testified.
"It felt so disgusting," the victim told the jury. "Like a slime on you, and you just want to get it off."
The victim testified that upon his eighth grade graduation, Father Sicoli had gotten permission from the boy's parents to take him to Disney World. But as the trip got closer and closer, the victim became more worried. "It was gonna be like a honeymoon," he testified.
The victim said he told his father he didn't want to go. The victim's father called the priest, and said his son wasn't going. When the priest started screaming, the father said, "He's not gonna be your girlfriend," and then he hung up.
In 2004, more than 20 years after he had been abused by Father Sicoli, the victim was interviewed by a detective from the archdiocese. The archdiocese had had the names of numerous victims, including the man on the witness stand, for more than 20 years, but had done nothing to investigate the allegations, nothing to protect children. That included Msgr. Lynn, who served as secretary for clergy from l992 to 2004, and had the responsibility of supervising abuser priests.
Finally, in 2004, the archdiocese review board found "multiple substantiated allegations" of abuse against Father Sicoli involving 11 minors between 1977 and 2002. The review board recommended that Father Sicoli be stripped of his ministry.
A second 47-year-old victim from Levittown testified Monday that he had been among the first victims to be sexually abused by Father Sicoli back in the late 1970s. The white-haired witness, whose pregnant sobbing wife was watching from a front-row seat, said that Father Sicoli took him to the shore and served him drinks.
"There was always alcohol, that's the key to this," the victim testified. "He always wanted to wrestle. He always had his shirt off. He was hairy like a bear."
Father Sicoli performed oral sex on the boy, and masturbated him. Then he taught the victim to reciprocate. It went on for three years, the victim testified, until one day, he told the cook in the rectory that he didn't want to go to the priest's shore house any more.
"A man should not touch a child," the victim sobbed on the witness stand while his wife cried along with him. "He wouldn't let us talk to girls," the victim told the jury. The victim testified that after the Boston sex abuse scandal of 2002, " he wondered every day, "When was this guy finally gonna get his?"
The archdiocese did nothing about the abuse for 35 years, the crying victim told the jury. He tearfully spoke about one priest at archdiocese headquarters who was "the only one who apologized" for the abuse.
Sadly for Msgr. Lynn, the victim wasn't talking about him, but another priest in the chancery office. "They waited 35 years," the victim kept crying. "This is all you get."
As the victim walked out of the courtroom, comforted in the arms of his sobbing wife, two male jurors dabbed their eyes. And over at the prosecution table, it was another solid day of racking up points against Msgr. Lynn.