Judge dismisses sexual assault charges against priest; indecent assault charges remainOnline Only, Top Highlights Friday, August 17th, 2012
PHILADELPHIA (CNN) – A judge Thursday dismissed felony sexual assault charges against a Roman Catholic priest arrested in July on allegations of sexually abusing a 10-year-old boy in 1997.
At Thursday’s preliminary hearing, Philadelphia Municipal Court Judge Karen Yvette Simmons dismissed felony involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and sexual assault charges against Andrew McCormick, 56.
Simmons still remanded the case for trial on the misdemeanor charges of indecent assault, corrupting the morals of a minor and endangering the welfare of a child, according to the Philadelphia district attorney’s office.
The district attorney’s office will re-file the felony charges against McCormick as well as file an appeal to determine if the felony charges should have been properly held for court based on the alleged victim’s testimony.
“The Commonwealth is very confident that all the felony charges will be reinstated and McCormick will then be sent to trial in the Court of Common Pleas on all charges,” Tasha Jamerson, district attorney spokeswoman said in a statement.
McCormick befriended the former altar boy, now 25, while he was a pastor St. John Cantius Church in Bridesburg, Pa., District Attorney Seth Williams said in July following his arrest. The man alleged that the abuse occurred in the church rectory and involved one incident of “sexual contact.”
The alleged victim testified Thursday that the sexual activity occurred when he was 10 years old, according to the district attorney’s office.
“It was a huge win today,” said defense attorney William J. Brennan. “I believe his (complaining witness) motives are suspect. Father McCormick has overwhelming support from the community. He’s innocent until proven guilty.”
Barbara Blaine, president of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, expressed disappointment that the felony charges were dropped.
“It’s tempting to be complacent, do nothing, and assume that McCormick will get convicted on the remaining charges. But that’s irresponsible. We must all do all that we can to protect kids. Every single victim, witness and whistleblower must summon the strength and step forward so that predators will be kept from children,” Blaine said in a statement.
Ordained in 1982, McCormick was one 21 priests placed on administrative leave by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in March of 2011 in response to a grand jury report. McCormick’s most recent post was Sacred Heart Parish in Swedesburg, Pa., from 2004 to 2011.
As a result of the administrative leave, McCormick has not been permitted to exercise his public ministry, administer any of the sacraments, or present himself publicly as a priest, according to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
McCormick was arrested after he was taken into custody outside of Philadelphia, where he was living with his parents. He was released on $150,000 bail.
The court took away his passport and he is not allowed contact with the alleged victim, or with children or youth involved with the ministry, volunteer work or any charities, according to the district attorney’s office.
In December of 2011, the complainant reported the alleged incident to the police department’s Special Victims Unit after seeing news coverage of the sexual abuse scandals at Penn State and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, said Police Capt. John Darby of the Special Victims Unit.
McCormick’s arrest in July came in the wake of the landmark priest sexual abuse trial in Philadelphia, the result of a 2011 grand jury report that led to criminal charges against three Philadelphia priests and a parochial school teacher for allegedly raping and assaulting boys in their care, and charges against Monsignor William Lynn who was accused of allowing the priests to have access to children.
Lynn, 61, was convicted in June of one count of child endangerment, a third-degree felony, the first time a U.S. church leader has been convicted on such a charge. He was given just under the maximum sentence he faced, which was three-and-a-half to seven years in prison.
The same jury that convicted Lynn was unable to bring a verdict against his co-defendant, the Rev. James Brennan, who was accused of the attempted rape of a 14-year-old.
The trial marked the first time U.S. prosecutors have charged not just the priests who allegedly committed abuses, but also church leaders for failing to stop them. Lynn is the highest-ranking cleric accused of covering up allegations of molestation and rape against priests by transferring them to unwitting parishes.
Last month, the Philadelphia district attorney’s office announced it would retry Brennan. Defense attorney William J. Brennan, no relation, also represents Rev. Brennan.
“Enough is enough,” Brennan said of the dropped charges and the district attorney’s decision to retry the case against the reverend. “It’s time to pack it in.”
Defrocked priest Edward Avery was due to also go on trial with Brennan and Lynn, but pleaded guilty in March to involuntary sexual deviate sexual intercourse after admitting to sexually assaulting the 10-year-old altar boy during the 1998-1999 school year.
The victim, who testified in April, also alleges abuse by the Rev. Charles Engelhardt, who was a priest at the same parish, as well as by Bernard Shero, a teacher at the school. Engelhardt and Shero go on trial in September.
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