DA to retry Rev. Brennan after trial deadlock
PHILADELPHIA - July 23, 2012 (WPVI) -- Philadelphia prosecutors announced plans Monday to retry an ousted priest on an attempted rape charge after a jury deadlocked on the case last month.
The Rev. James Brennan, 49, is accused of trying to rape a 14-year-old boy in 1996 at the priest's apartment.
Brennan has admitted in a church trial that he wrestled with the boy, slept with him and let him watch porn, according to trial testimony. But he denies molesting him.
"I feel horrible that all of this has to get ripped open all over again. It's like a wound that just started to heal," Brennan said outside the courthouse Monday. "Not just for me, but more importantly, ... my family and friends."
The retrial isn't expected until early next year because of scheduling issues, and may go before a different judge. Brennan returns to court Aug. 14 for a scheduling hearing.
Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington, the lead trial prosecutor, did not explain the decision to retry the case, and declined to comment after the hearing.
The retrial should last only a few days, even though Brennan had spent months on trial with Monsignor William Lynn this year. The Brennan charges were only a fraction of the broader case against Lynn, the first U.S. Catholic church official convicted for his handling of abuse claims.
Lynn, 61, faces up to seven years in prison when he is sentenced Tuesday for felony child endangerment. Defense lawyers have asked Common Pleas Judge M. Teresa Sarmina for probation or house arrest, but she has taken a tough stand toward him already, revoking bail and sending him to prison immediately after the June 22 verdict.
Brennan's lawyer believes that 11 of 12 jurors voted to acquit his client, based on recent online posts from one juror. The deliberations had stretched on for weeks.
"When it's 11-1 to acquit, and there's an acquittal on another charge, it puzzles me that the Commonwealth thinks there's a need to go forward," said lawyer William Brennan, who is not related to his client. "(But) we're ready to go."
His client was acquitted of conspiring with Lynn to endanger children, while the jury also deadlocked on a separate count of felony child endangerment.
The lawyer does not plan to change his trial strategy, which chiefly cast doubt on the credibility of the accuser, a young man with a long history of drug and criminal problems.
He reported in 2006 that the Rev. Brennan, a close family friend and his mother's drinking buddy, had sexually assaulted him a decade earlier. James Brennan, questioning his religious calling, was on leave from the church.
Prosecutors initially charged him with rape, but lowered the charge to attempted rape before trial, a decision they have yet to explain.
William Brennan challenged the troubled accuser during a long, combative cross-examination. The young man's criminal history includes lying to police.
"That's his M.O. He's a serial confabulator. He makes up stories," the lawyer said Monday.
James Brennan took a second leave from the archdiocese in 2000 to spend time at an abbey, after sharing with the church a diary entry that said: "Deep within me is the primordial struggle being lived out in a tormented state of unbridled passion."
He came back seven months later, and was assigned to a Feasterville parish from 2001 to 2006, the year his accuser came forward.
The archdiocese restricted his ministry and initiated a canonical investigation and trial. His status as a priest is still pending at the Vatican.
philadelphia, philadelphia archdiocese, local/state
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