Crime is a problem in every city in America.
In Camden, New Jersey, the city’s economic woes have forced the city government to consider folding what’s left of its police force into a county department. Residents there are concerned about their safety, and criminals seem to conduct themselves with increasing impunity. It’s even worse in Chicago, where recently 19 people were shot in one weekend; 13 of them within just a few hours.
Then there’s Philadelphia, a city seemingly caught in a kind of purgatory between hell, where it’s as bad as it could get — and an urban heaven, where violent crime has been successfully and significantly reduced. Repeat offenders cycle through the city’s justice system; the recidivism rate is high, and employment opportunities aren’t plentiful. Conditions seem to invite a return to prison and for many, that’s just what happens — usually within two years of release.
This week, District Attorney R. Seth Williams spoke to the Tribune about his views regarding what drives violent crime in Philadelphia and what can and should done to prevent it. Since he became the first African-American district attorney in Philadelphia, his office successfully prosecuted and convicted Monsignor William Lynn, the first Catholic Church official to go down for allowing known child sexual predators to remain serving as priests. His assistant district attorneys built a case against former police officer Frank Tepper and convicted him of murder. They’re building cases against other police officers who dishonored their badges selling drugs, for manslaughter and other criminal acts. Most significantly, the highest profile criminals in the city right now are Rafael Jones and Chancier McFarland, both charged with murder in the slaying of police officer Moses Walker Jr. Both have preliminary hearings coming up next Wednesday.
Williams spoke at length about how to better prosecute the city’s worst criminals, but also how to save those who genuinely want to become a part of building up the community. He has no illusions about the depth and complexities of the problem and the limited resources at his disposal with which to do the job.
“I like to compare our prosecutors to the 300 Spartans,” he said. “You could argue that the odds are stacked against us, and even that we’re outnumbered. But eventually the Greeks beat the Persians — in the end, they won and so will we. The reality is I ran on a platform of reforming this office, which had the lowest conviction rate of the forty largest urban areas. At one time 59 percent of the felony cases were being thrown out at the preliminary hearing. It wasn’t that the ADAs weren’t working hard enough, but that the system was broken — and some people were angry just making those statistics public. Now, economically speaking, the budget for this office is less than when Lynn was district attorney. At her zenith, the were about 330 ADAs; we’re down to 290 now; so we have a smaller budget and fewer ADAs, but we’ve dramatically increased our efficiency, especially in how we hold cases for prosecution. We revamped the Charging Unit and tripled the number of ADAs that review cases. It’s not just enough to arrest someone; the police can make an arrest, but unless there’s a solid case against a defendant that case is going to get thrown out. We get our legitimacy from the community — if they know we’re fair — and for a long time this office was seen as an oppressor and not a protector. People need to know that we’re not going to just prosecute Pookie and Man-Man for selling weed or crack. If you’re a police officer and you do something wrong, or a Catholic Church official that knows about pedophile priests and you do nothing, or a Dr. Gosnell allegedly murdering eight people — you’re going to be charged. There’s the same standard of justice from one end of Germantown Avenue to the other end.”
In terms of what produces violent criminals and drives crime in Philadelphia, Williams said a number of different factors are at work, but he was quick to point out what he believes is the single most important contributing factor.
“It’s a connection of things — which is why we have to have a holistic approach. But most problematic is the high school dropout rate,” he said. “It’s close to 50 percent. When I talk to kids in schools or to people at community meetings and I ask that question they’ll raise their hands and say the criminals are Black. Yes, a disproportionate number of our criminals and victims are Black and brown people — but the number one commonality for criminals in this city is they didn’t finish high school. That’s across all demographics. My father used to take me to Sulzberger Junior High with him at night sometimes to play checkers. I never knew why, but I later found out that he did that on the parent-teacher night. He took me along because no parents were coming to meet him; but they would come on report card night to cuss him out. That’s the next big factor: a lack of parental involvement. When it comes to crime in this city, it’s a combination of economic development, education, public health and public safety.”
Williams said the number one mental health provider in the United States is the Los Angeles County Prison System. The second largest is the New York City prison system and the third is Cook County in Chicago. The nation used to provide more mental health services in its communities, he said, and then budget cuts under President Ronald Reagan shut down much of it.
“Take drug addicts — we have to treat them as addicts, not necessarily as criminals, but to get them help for their illness,” he said. “To make the city safer it’s not just about going after drug dealers. For every dealer there are about 50 or 60 addicts. To reduce crime, we have to keep kids in school and reduce truancy. Drug addicts need treatment; we have to improve literacy. Now that might not sound as sexy as more jail time, but the reality is that we have seven times the number of people in Pennsylvania’s prisons today than 30 years ago — but we’re not seven times safer. We have to have the right people in prison.”
Williams said he would like to see more diversionary programs, particularly for non-violent criminals and juveniles. You don’t want to put someone in prison for a small amount of marijuana, he said. Why spend thousands of dollars prosecuting someone who had $10 worth of marijuana, he questioned, when the resources could be better spent.
The district attorney also spoke candidly about the recent murder of police officer Moses Walker Jr. Walker was laid to rest on Monday, a day after the second suspect in the case, Chancier McFarland, turned himself over to the FBI after having gotten as far south as Mobile, Alabama. The alleged shooter in the murder, Rafael Jones, was arrested a few days after Walker was slain on August 18. Questions were raised as to how Jones, a man with a significant criminal history, was not already behind bars for violating his probation.
“All of the people who have killed police officers over the last several years all began their criminal careers as truants,” Williams said. “The system isn’t perfect, but at the same time people want due process, they want and expect checks and balances. We can’t just have someone make an allegation and then lock them away. The police just can’t enter your home without a warrant and you have the right to face your accusers. We can’t just point the finger of blame in this or any other case and say, ‘Well, if this had happened, maybe Officer Walker would still be alive.’ We have to do more to ensure that violent criminals have to be dealt with expeditiously, but we also have to adhere to our laws. Part of what we’re doing is called GunStat.”
GunStat, Williams said, is a collaborative effort using crime analysis methods already employed by law enforcement. By targeting high violence areas, police and the district attorney’s office are able to identify who the violent criminals in a neighborhood are — and where they are.
“We work with the captains of a particular district to identify who certain offenders are and then build real cases against them, rather than waiting for them to shoot someone and then specially assign a case,” Williams said. “We have these individuals under surveillance, observe them and build a case from that.”
As the Catholic priest sex abuse trial continued into its third week, one of the aspects of the testimonies from the victims attacked by defense attorneys was the fact that the victims, and their families, continued to maintain contact with the abusers for years.
On Wednesday, the mother whose son testified last week that he had been sexually abused by defendant James Brennan, also took the stand, saying she regretted maintaining contact with Brennan for several years. The woman told the jury that Brennan was like a brother to her and a spiritual adviser at a vulnerable time in her life. She testified that she remained friendly with him even after her son told her what happened on an overnight trip with Brennan.
But why would a victim of sexual abuse, or their parents, maintain contact with the abuser? And beyond that, what kind of a person takes a sexual interest in a child? Kenneth V. Lanning, a former FBI agent who is now a consultant on crimes against children, said in a recent report for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that many adults who abuse children sexually were abused themselves when they were children. He also said they operate in environments where they have easy access to children. According to prosecutors, the Philadelphia Archdiocese transferred pedophile priests from one parish to another, knowing they were putting children at risk.
In his report, Lanning said that it is common for large organizations like the Catholic Church to simply remove the accused, spin the issue for the media, or perform damage control and then forget about the problem.
“Acquaintance molesters often gain access to children through youth-serving organizations,” Lanning said. “The acquaintance molester, by definition, is one of us. He is not simply an anonymous, external threat. He cannot be identified by physical description and, often, not even by ‘bad’ character traits. Without specialized training or experience and an objective perspective, he cannot easily be distinguished from others. These kinds of molesters have always existed, but society, organizations, and the criminal justice system have been reluctant to accept the reality of these cases. When such an offender is discovered in our midst, a common response has been to just move him out of our midst, perform damage control, and then try to forget about it.”
According to Lanning, victims who are seduced or apparently complied with the abuser are less likely to disclose their victimization, and more likely to voluntarily return to be victimized again and again. Their frequent cooperation in their victimization must be viewed as an understandable human characteristic.
“Whether or not the child resisted, said, ‘No,’ was overpowered, immediately reported it, or even enjoyed the sexual activity are not necessarily elements in determining if a child was criminally sexually victimized by an adult. Those children who nonviolently initiate the sexual activity with an adult can be victims. It is the adult who has the legal obligation and maturity to say ‘No’ to such advances,” Lanning said.
James Brennan, a Roman Catholic priest has been charged with attempted rape, endangering a child and conspiracy. The co-defendant, Monsignor William Lynn, was secretary for the clergy and has been charged with endangering a child and conspiracy. Both have pleaded not guilty. Lynn is the first Roman Catholic official in the United States charged with endangering children. He allegedly shifted priests accused of molesting children from parish to parish without warning anyone of prior sex abuse complaints.
Brennan’s accuser is now 30 years old and testified that the molestation began when he was 14. During his mother’s testimony, she told jurors that her son emotionally shut down. When she questioned him, the response was that he and Brennan slept in the same bed. When she and her husband questioned Brennan, he allegedly didn’t elaborate.
“He said something inappropriate happened, and it will never happen again,” the mother said. “It was a stalemate, nothing more was said, and the meeting ended.”
Defense attorneys for Lynn have argued that the monsignor repeatedly attempted to remove the pedophile priests but was prevented from doing so by his superiors — among them the late Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua.
According to Lanning, children who have been sexually abused often experience a range of difficulties throughout their lives. In his report he stated that some form of child abuse is reported every ten seconds, and about 30 percent of abused and neglected children will later abuse their own children, continuing the cycle. He said that 14 percent of all men in prison in the nation were abused as children.
“Another piece of this is that society doesn’t want to accept the fact that the danger isn’t some scary unknown person but someone who is close to the child; it’s someone that they know,” said Nancy McBride, national safety director of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. “What signs can parents or guardians look for to indicate maybe their child has been molested? Look for changes in behavior, say if your child is an extrovert and suddenly they seem to be more introverted. Parents should always do their due diligence regarding people who have contact with their kids. Not to disparage the many, many people who do work with children and genuinely care about them. But we need to be aware that the danger isn’t the scary person hiding in the shadows.”
It’s difficult for me to summon up any sympathy for Monsignor William J. Lynn, the high-ranking Roman Catholic priest convicted of child endangerment in a landmark case.
Lynn, as everyone in Philly, and around the country, surely knows by now, was the Philadelphia Archdiocese point man for investigation and action in the clergy sex scandal. Instead of protecting children from these predatory monsters, Lynn protected the church — by transferring the pedophiles to other parishes and sweeping the evidence under the rug.
Now facing the distinct possibility of spending his golden years behind bars, the 61-year-old cleric’s lawyers pleaded with Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina to allow Lynn to remain free, albeit on house arrest, until his scheduled Aug. 13 sentencing.
Sarmina denied that request this week, taking prosecutors’ fears into account that Lynn could be a flight risk. Turns out, there is some interesting evidence to back this up. Some 35 American priests accused of child sexual abuse have fled to Rome in recent years, where they have enjoyed the protection of the Vatican, and rest easy knowing that the Vatican has no extradition treaty with the United States — meaning those runaway pedophiles could conceivably never be forced to return to America to face their crimes.
Lynn, on the other hand, has been tried and convicted, and should be treated like every other convicted criminal. Since his conviction last month, Lynn has been awaiting his sentencing hearing, along with the city’s other miscreants, at the Curran-Fromhold detention center in Northeast Philly.
It can’t be pleasant.
A man in his 60s, never in trouble with the law before, a non-violent pacifist, suddenly finds himself in a very, very unfamiliar environment — and one of the scariest situations imaginable.
His fellow inmates surely know who he is, and why he’s there. They followed his three-month long trial on television, and read the news reports. And even if you’ve never been on the other side of the bars yourself, we’ve all seen enough prison movies to know the other residents do not receive child molesters kindly.
I’m betting Lynn hasn’t had a wink of sleep, or even one restful moment, since he was led from the court in handcuffs three weeks ago. I imagine he spends every moment of every day scared out of his wits, and flinches reflexively if another inmate even comes within arm’s reach.
Years ago, I spent the night in the holding cell at the Roundhouse — strictly as a reporter, of course. I wanted to get a real feel of the sights, the smells, and the overall gloom of the place. I can tell you this: it was far, far more ugly than you can imagine. The stench was incredible – a potent combination of urine, body odor, and unidentified stink that made your eyes water and forced you to suppress the natural gag reflex.
The shouts, screams, and general din are even more distracting. Inmates argue loudly with each other, and with themselves, often yelling at unseen demons both internal and imagined.
And his was only the overnight lockup, not Curran-Fromhold, where the city’s worst offenders — not the most gentlemanly bunch to begin with — wait to learn how long they’ll spend in the penitentiary.
For a man like William Lynn, it must be a nightmare.
But if it is a living hell, it is one of his own making, and I agree with Judge Sarmina in letting him sit it out in a lonely cell, as opposed to relaxing at home with friends and family. Sure, he’s looking at some long, sleepless nights, but how many victims of abusive priests have trouble sleeping, even years later? A good number of them, I’ll wager.
No one accused Lynn of being a child molester himself. He simply aided and abetted child molesters, foisting them on unsuspecting parishes, ignoring the very real danger that more kids would have their innocence stolen by these monsters.
In some ways, what Lynn did was worse.
Having him sweat it out in a cell doesn’t bother me one bit. Neither does the fact that after sentencing, it’s likely that Lynn will spend the rest of his life locked away with very dangerous people. Although he’s not a murderer, or rapist, or an armed robber, Monsignor William Lynn is just as dangerous as the men he’ll spend the rest of his days avoiding like the plague.
It may not be justice, but under the circumstances, it’s as close as we can get.
Daryl Gale is the Philadelphia Tribune's city editor.
Man, 30, describes abuse; defense cites inconsistencies
Angry comments and snarling back and forth between attorneys and Judge Theresa Sarmina accompanied the emotional testimony of a young man who allegedly he was sexually molested by one of the defendants in the landmark Catholic priest sex abuse trial.
This week, testimony was heard from one of the alleged victims in the case. The 30-year-old victim (name withheld) told the jury that James Brennan, a Roman Catholic priest, sexually abused him when he was 14 years old. Brennan has been charged with attempted rape, endangering a child and conspiracy. His co-defendant, Monsignor William Lynn, has been charged with endangering a child and conspiracy. Both have pleaded not guilty.
The alleged victim told the court that because of the sexual assaults he endured from Brennan, his life descended into a maze of mental illness, drug abuse, crime and attempted suicide. He testified that in the summer of 1996, when he was in the eighth grade, Brennan allegedly took him to his apartment where he was shown online pornography. Brennan allegedly masturbated in front of him, and other acts of sexual abuse allegedly took place.
Brennan’s defense attorney, William Brennan, tore into the victim’s testimony, repeatedly attacking his credibility and challenging him on previous testimony given to the grand jury — dates, incidents and whether or not the priest had a desktop or a laptop computer in his apartment.
“So, do you or do you not recall whether or not Father Brennan had a laptop or a desktop computer in his home?” Brennan angrily demanded.
“Why are you asking me about computers?” the witness shot back. “Look, maybe it was a desktop; maybe it was a laptop, I don’t know, I’m not here about computers, I’m here because he molested me.”
“Maybe I made a mistake, that’s what erasers are for,” he said, his voice cracking with emotion. “But a mistake is not a lie, and I wasn’t lying when I said that man sexually abused me. None of that has changed, ever. That’s what I told the grand jury, it’s what I said during the Church’s investigation, and it’s what’s I’m saying now. That man raped me and he knows it, that’s why he’s in here today. He knows it. He knows it. He knows it.”
The prosecution has argued that officials within the Philadelphia Archdiocese knew about the reports of ongoing sexual abuse for decades. But rather than dismiss the accused priests, they were shuffled from parish to parish.
The victim was only nine when he first met Father Brennan, who became a close friend of the family and often visited at their home.
“When the victim was 14, in 1996, Father Brennan was finally ready to make his move,” said the Grand Jury report. “He arranged with Mark’s mother for a ‘sleepover’ at an apartment the priest was renting.
“Once he had the boy there, Brennan showed him pornographic pictures on his computer, bragged about his penis size, and insisted that the victim sleep together with him in his bed. Then he lay down behind the boy and put his penis into the boy’s buttocks.
“The victim told his parents what happened, and they confronted Brennan, but he denied it and they believed the priest. From that point, Mark suffered depression, dramatic weight loss and drug and alcohol addiction. Ultimately, he attempted suicide. These are sordid, shocking acts.
“There was at least one person, though, who could not have been the least bit surprised by what happened, Monsignor William Lynn, Secretary for Clergy under Cardinal Bevilacqua. In that position, he acted as the personnel director for priests. It was his job to review all reports of abuse, to recommend action, and to monitor the abuser’s future conduct.”
The 30-year old victim is one of several who have taken the stand so far. His testimony of Brennan’s alleged sexual assaults was graphic and disturbing — and the defense attorney’s attack on his credibility was relentless. He was asked about his criminal past, his drug use and some inconsistencies in his statements to investigators.
“That man touched me in ways he wasn’t supposed to touch me, and he raped me,” the victim said. “I blocked it out because my doctor told me to. Through cognitive therapy, I remembered it. This will be with me until the day I die.”
A status hearing was held yesterday in the Catholic priest sex abuse scandal with Monsignor William Lynn asking Court of Common Pleas Judge Teresa Sarmina to limit testimony against co-defendants who allegedly raped the same boy.
Lynn, 61, has been accused of covering up the actions of Bernard Shero, Charles Englehardt, Edward Avery and James Brennan, three priests and a former parochial school teacher who have been charged with rape, indecent sexual assault and related offenses.
Lynn, a secretary for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia under retired Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, has been charged with two counts of endangering the welfare of a child in connection with the assaults. All of the defendants have pleaded not guilty.
The grand jury investigation into the allegations said the assaults had been going on for years – and that church officials knew about them and took no serious actions beyond shuffling the problem priests from parish to parish.
“The rapist priests we accused were well known to the secretary of clergy, but he cloaked their conduct and put them in place to do it again,” said District Attorney Seth Williams in a previous interview. “The procedures implemented by the Archdiocese to help victims are in fact designed to help the abusers, and the Archdiocese itself. Worst of all, apparent abusers remain on duty in the Archdiocese, today, with open access to new young prey.”
The allegations are extremely graphic and disturbing. According to the grand jury’s investigation, the case began with a victim who so far is known only as “Billy.” Billy was 10 years old when his alleged sexual abuse by Catholic priests started. He was a student in Barbara Mosakowski’s fifth-grade class at St. Jerome School when two priests allegedly molested him during the 1998–99 school year. When Billy entered the sixth grade, he encountered Bernard Shero, who also allegedly forced him to engage in inappropriate sexual acts.
As a result of these encounters, when Billy grew older, his behavior began to change significantly.
“Although Billy was too frightened to directly report the abuse as a child, he experienced otherwise unexplained physical problems that corroborated his testimony before the grand jury,” the report said. “Billy’s mother, Sheila Gallagher, testified that in the fifth grade, Billy complained of pain in his testicles. In the sixth grade, Billy went through an extended period when he would cough, gag and vomit for no reason. Gallagher testified that she took Billy to doctors for both conditions, but there was never a diagnosis. Billy’s mother also told of dramatic changes in his personality that coincided with the abuse. His friends and their parents also noticed this personality change. Billy’s mother watched as her friendly, happy, sociable son turned into a lonely, sullen boy. He no longer played sports or socialized with his friends. He separated himself, and began to smoke marijuana at age 11. By the time Billy was in high school, he was abusing prescription painkillers. Eventually he graduated to heroin. It was at an inpatient drug treatment facility that Billy first told someone about his abuse. Billy’s mother testified that she probably should have suspected something before then, because she found two books about sexual abuse hidden under Billy’s bed when he was in high school. She asked him about the books at the time, but he covered up for his abusers by telling her that he had obtained the books for a school assignment.”
Jury selection in the case is expected to begin in February with the trial beginning in March. The trial is anticipated to be a lengthy one.
As the Catholic priest sex abuse trial entered into its fifth week, testimony focused on Edward Avery, who pleaded guilty before the proceedings started, and is now serving a sentence of two-and-a-half to five years.
Repeatedly during the proceedings, one aspect of the case remains the consistent focus of the prosecution — namely that ranking Catholic Church officials knew all about Avery, James Brennan and several other priests who were accused of sexually abusing children. Not only was the abuse well known, but Church officials allegedly worked strenuously to cover it up and moved the pedophile priests from one parish to another while downplaying the victim’s complaints — or simply not following up on them.
“They fell through the cracks,” Monsignor William Lynn allegedly told investigators. Lynn is on trial for conspiracy and endangering the welfare of children in the case. As the secretary for the clergy under Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua from 1992 to 2004, he was charged with investigating the allegations, among his other duties.
Avery admitted that he engaged in sexual relations with a 10-year-old boy while the victim was in school in 1998-1999. He pleaded guilty to involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and conspiracy to endanger the welfare of a child.
One of the victims told the court that while he was at St. Jerome’s Parish in 1999, he served a Mass with Avery. Afterwards, Avery took him into the sacristy, turned on some music and forced the victim to perform a striptease and then performed oral sex on him. Lynn interviewed Avery and the victim in 1992, and he denied the allegations.
Prosecutors alleged that Lynn could have acted in the best interests of children but time and time again failed to do so.
“Time after time, Lynn abdicated this responsibility,” the Grand Jury report said. “He did so not through negligence or simple incompetence, but purposefully. He did so with Cardinal Bevilacqua’s knowledge and at the Cardinal’s direction, as part of a knowing practice — continued over decades — of placing sexual predators in positions where they would have easy access to trusting minors, just as long as the Archdiocese was spared public exposure or costly lawsuits.”
According to prosecutors, whenever victims would come forward, Lynn allegedly recommended that the offending priests be transferred to new parishes where the accusations weren’t known. In short, they were allowed to continue their behavior with new victims.
“In this way, Lynn effectively shielded the predator priests from accountability and ensured them a continuing supply of victims,” the Grand Jury report said. “The Secretary for the Clergy could, at any time, have referred serious allegations to law enforcement officials, who could have conducted proper investigations. It was just not his priority. Based on the evidence before us, it is clear that [Lynn] was acutely interested in shielding abusive clergy from criminal detection, in shielding the Cardinal from scandal, and in shielding the Archdiocese from financial liability. He showed no interest at all in defending the Archdiocese’s children. On the contrary, he consistently endangered them.”
Lynn’s defense attorney, Thomas Bergstrom argues that Lynn tried to have the pedophile priests removed from active ministry, but that Bevilacqua overrode his recommendations and allegedly had the lists of the accused shredded.
“Despite receiving reliable reports that Avery had sexually abused a boy and should not be permitted to engage in any ministry involving working with adolescents, Lynn recommended him for assignment to a parish with a school, and then ignored repeated warnings that he was engaged in unsupervised activities in which he could victimize for children,” the investigative report said. “Soon after learning that Brennan was suspected of hosting parties where he allowed students to drink and was even living with one of them, Lynn conducted no investigation. He did not call law enforcement or take action to keep Brennan away from adolescents.”
Prosecuting attorneys in the Catholic priest sex abuse trial continued to lay out their case against Monsignor William Lynn on Thursday, eliciting testimony from witnesses and investigators regarding ongoing sexual abuse of children by certain priests.
The mood in the courtroom was somber as Detective James Dougherty, an investigator with the Special Investigations Unit of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office, continued answering a host of questions regarding one of the worst offenders known to the hierarchy of the Philadelphia Archdiocese, the Rev. Raymond Leneweaver.
Leneweaver, who was named in the 2005 grand jury report, allegedly admitted in the 1970s that he raped three eighth-grade boys in one year alone. Yet he was allowed to remain in ministry up to 1980. As the jurors looked at the documents — documents that detailed the Church hierarchy’s knowledge of the abuse by Leneweaver and other priests — their anger over the abuse of the children was evident.
Monsignor William Lynn has not been charged with sexually assaulting any children at any time. Lynn is charged with child endangerment for allegedly keeping Leneweaver and other accused pedophile priests in the ministry.
Over and over, in the letters between Lynn and Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua and Cardinal John Krol and examining physicians, prosecutors pointed out a constant concern over the risk to the Church. But at no time was there any mention of the potential risk to children, or that the offending priests should be arrested.
According to the 2005 Grand Jury report, while he was assigned to Saint Monica parish in South Philadelphia, Leneweaver named a group of altar boys the “Philadelphia Rovers.” Investigators learned that Leneweaver took the 11- and 12-year-olds on outings and, when he was alone with them, allegedly sexually assaulted them.
Each time the priest’s crimes were reported to the Archdiocese, he admitted his offenses. By 1975, he had confessed to sexual activity with at least seven named children with whom he was “seriously involved.” He told Archdiocese officials of others he was involved with “in an incidental fashion.” Cardinal Krol transferred this chronic abuser four times after learning of his admitted abuses. Leneweaver continued to abuse boys in his new parishes.
In 1980, Leneweaver requested a leave of absence from ministry, but in 1998 he requested that he be allowed to return to ministry — a request that was refused.
“His problem is not occupational or geographical and will follow him wherever he goes,” said Detective Dougherty as he read a memo in court from Cardinal Krol on Leneweaver’s request. “He should be convinced that his orientation is an acquired preference for a particular method of satisfying a normal human appetite — an appetite which is totally incompatible with vow of chastity and his commitment to celibacy.”
The archdiocese’s response, written by the Stradley Ronon Stevens and Young law firm, and posted on the archdiocesan website, said the archdiocese would have welcomed constructive criticism, but the report is one-sided and “unfairly judges policies and practices in place decades ago through the lenses of today’s advanced knowledge.”
It said the report launched a “gratuitous attack” on Cardinal Krol, reading “between the lines” of archdiocesan documents and speculating on the cardinal’s underlying motives, “undeterred by the fact that Cardinal Krol is no longer alive to defend himself.”
“Perhaps the report’s cruelest treatment of any archdiocesan witness is reserved for Cardinal Bevilacqua,” it said. “The report takes excessive liberties with the facts, places unwarranted interpretations on the written documents, tortures Cardinal Bevilacqua’s live testimony and ignores much of what he said to cast him in the role of a leader insensitive to children and preoccupied with issues of legal liability. ... The view of Cardinal Bevilacqua is so distorted and so unfair that those who know him or were influenced by his ministry cannot help but be offended.”
Accused of conspiracy, Lynn claims Church didn’t ‘follow through’
As the Catholic priest sex abuse trial entered into its fourth week, testimony was heard by the jury from more victims, implicating a newly installed West Virginia Catholic bishop and outlaying more facts that Church officials knew about the abuse and did little to remove those accused of having inappropriate sexual relations with minors.
On Thursday, testimony from Monsignor William Lynn was read detailing a priest’s sexual abuse of a minor that went on for several years. Complaints from the victims were made to the Church but, according to Lynn’s testimony, those accusations “fell through the cracks” and were never followed up.
Lynn testified that Fr. Stanley Gana had sex with a minor, Robert Karpinski, who later became a priest himself. Gana was described as a “serial predator” and Karpinski and a second victim testified in lurid detail of how they were in “rotation” to have sexual contact with predator priests. Gana has not been charged in the case.
Lynn was the secretary for clergy for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia, a position that made it his duty to investigate allegations of sexual abuse. He is charged with conspiracy.
Karpinski testified that Gana had sex with him throughout his high school years, and that he reported it to Lynn in 1992. Lynn told the grand jury that Gana was not sent in for psychiatric evaluation because the case “fell through the cracks.”
According to the investigation, Gana allegedly sexually abused different boys at different parishes for years.
“He took advantage of altar boys, their trusting families and vulnerable teenagers with emotional problems. He took groups of adolescent male parishioners on overnight trips and would rotate them through his bed. He collected nude pornographic photos of his victims. He molested boys on a farm, in vacation houses, and in the Church rectory. Some minors he abused for years,” the report stated.
Prosecutors allege that Lynn knew about the allegations against Gana, but “thwarted efforts to have him removed from active ministry.”
In his grand jury testimony, Lynn was asked about memorandums regarding the predator priests, he stated they were in the Secret Archives.
“Robert Karpinski signed a complaint against Gana. Where is it?” Lynn was asked.
“I don’t know,” Lynn told the grand jury in his statement read in court on Thursday. “I presume it’s in the Secret Archives.”
According to Lynn’s grand jury testimony, Church officials knew about the problem priests — they were suspicious of Gana and that the allegations might be true. But investigators alleged that Lynn “took no steps to have him removed.”
“Quite the opposite, as documented by the previous grand jury, Msgr. Lynn spent a decade improperly investigating Gana’s victims, rather than Gana, misleading the priests treatment team so its members would not know the full extent of his criminal misconduct; and explicitly supporting Gana’s successful efforts to remain in active ministry, where he continued to perform Mass with altar boys,” the report said.
Earlier testimony by victims implicated West Virginia Roman Catholic Bishop Michael Bransfield, a colleague of Gana’s. In a prepared statement, released through the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, Bransfield denied the accusations, saying he had “never sexually abused anyone.”
“Over the years, I have felt devastation for both the victims and the Church as I learned about the terrible actions they took with innocent victims,” Bransfield said. “To now be unfairly included in that group, and to hear the horrific allegations that are being made of me is unbelievable and shocking,” Bransfield said. “I was in Rome attending meetings at the Vatican when this false story about me was publicly released by the media without my knowledge or input. To say I was shocked and saddened would be an understatement.”
Ex-priest and ex-teacher face sex assault charges
Jury selection begins on Tuesday in the trial for two more Catholic Church officials who were charged with raping children in the landmark sex abuse scandal prosecution.
Former priest Charles Engelhardt has been charged with rape, sexual assault, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and related offenses. The co-defendant, former Catholic schoolteacher Bernard Shero has also been charged with rape; involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, sexual assault and related offenses.
The cases built against Englehardt and Shero follow closely on the heels of the successful prosecution of Monsignor William Lynn, who was convicted of felony child endangerment this year. Lynn, who allowed pedophile priests to move through different church parishes, was sentenced to 3 to 6 years. His attorneys are in the process of appealing his conviction.
According to the Grand Jury investigation, Engelhardt had an encounter with a 10-year-old victim referred to as “Billy” in the report. Engelhardt and Shero have been charged with raping the same boy in the late 1990s. Their accuser was a key witness at Lynn's trial. In June, a jury convicted Lynn of child endangerment for failing to oust then-priest Edward Avery after a 1992 complaint. Avery admitted to sexually assaulting the boy in 1999.
Billy assisted in serving morning Mass. Engelhardt allegedly showed the victim pornographic magazines and told him that it was “time for him to become a man and that sessions with him would begin soon.”
Billy was subsequently sexually abused by Fr. Frank Avery and Bernard Shero, who learned of the encounter with Engelhardt. Shero, the co-defendant was a sixth grade teacher.
Shero, according to Billy was “kind of a creep.” He touched students when he talked to them and would put his arm around them and whisper to them. Different students reported that he had conversations with them that were inappropriate. Billy, who is now an adult, told the Grand Jury that one day Shero offered him a ride home from school. Instead he drove them to a nearby park where a sexual encounter took place. The Grand Jury’s report stated that lax practices within the Philadelphia Archdiocese allowed Shero to harass students for years.
“We found evidence of lax practices in parish schools as well,” the report said. “The only evident action taken was to protect the teacher from a vigilant parent. Msgr. Richard Powers, at the time pastor at St. Michael the Archangel School in Levittown, went out of his way to intimidate and humiliate a mother, who, frustrated with the failure of the school to curb Shero’s inappropriate behavior with children, reported the teacher to police.”
As part of the ongoing investigation and prosecution of the alleged pedophile priests, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office will also be retrying James Brennan for attempted rape and related offenses for the 1996 sexual assault against a 14-year-old victim. During Lynn’s trial, a jury was unable to reach a verdict on Brennan.
“James Brennan used his position as a priest to prey upon and victimize this young man,” said District Attorney Seth Williams. “It is extremely important that Brennan be held accountable for his crime, not just for his victim but for all victims of sexual abuse.”
The District Attorney will also begin proceedings soon against another alleged pedophile priest, Andrew McCormick, 56. McCormick has been charged with involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, statutory sexual assault, sexual assault and related offenses for the alleged sexual assault of a ten year old boy in 1997. The victim was silent about the abuse for years but in December 2011 filed a complaint with the Special Victim’s Unit. McCormick was arrested on July 26.
Avery sentenced to two and a half to five years
One of the co-defendants scheduled to be tried next week in the Catholic priest sexual abuse scandal has pleaded guilty in the case.
Edward Avery, who has been accused of sexually assaulting at least one male victim, reached a plea agreement on Thursday, March 22 and was immediately sentenced to begin serving a 2 ½ to 5-year prison term. Avery, along with William Lynn and James Brennan were awaiting trial and proceedings were set to begin on Monday, March 26.
Avery pleaded guilty to one count of sexually assaulting a boy under 13 years of age, and one count of conspiring to endanger the welfare of a minor. He also told the court that Lynn, a ranking official within the Philadelphia Archdiocese, knew about his behavior with children and still allowed him to remain a priest.
Lynn, 61, has been accused of covering up the actions of Bernard Shero, Charles Englehardt, Avery and Brennan, three priests and a former parochial school teacher who have been charged with rape, indecent sexual assault and related offenses. Lynn, a secretary for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia under Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, has been charged with two counts of endangering the welfare of a child in connection with the assaults. All of the other defendants have pleaded not guilty.
The Grand Jury investigation into the allegations determined the assaults had been going on for years — and that Church officials knew about them and took no serious actions beyond shuffling the problem priests from parish to parish.
In an unrelated criminal investigation, authorities continue working the case of two shootings in South Philadelphia this week that police strongly believe were connected and happened within hours of each other.
It all began around 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, when an unidentified Black male pulled up in a gold colored auto in the vicinity of Fifth and Pierce streets. The still unidentified male fired several shots at a 19-year-old Black male, who ran south on Fifth Street and then onto Pierce Street, according to police. The unidentified shooter pursued him, still firing and striking two men, ages 51 and 52, who were bystanders. The victims were hospitalized in stable condition.
That same evening just before 9 p.m., gunfire exploded again inside a playground near Fourth and Washington where at least 60 people were gathered. An unidentified gunman fired several shots into the crowd, striking a 12-year-old boy and a 15-year-old girl. The boy suffered a graze wound to the ankle and the girl was struck in the thigh. Both were rushed to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania where they were treated and released.
Anyone with information that could help police identify the shooters should call 911. You don’t have to give your name.
In another criminal investigation, federal agents are trying to determine the identity of two men who robbed a Sovereign Bank branch on March 20.
According to the Philadelphia Police Department and the FBI Violent Crimes Task Force, the robbery occurred at the Sovereign Bank at 8310 Stenton Avenue at 12:23 p.m. Two suspects dressed in female Muslim garb entered the bank and presented a threatening demand note to the teller. After obtaining an undisclosed amount of cash, the subjects fled the area on foot in an unknown direction.
They are described as two Black males with thin builds and approximately 5 feet 10 inches in height. Both were wearing Black outfits that covered their faces, heads and bodies.
Anyone with information can contact the FBI Violent Crimes task Force at 215-418-4000.