Priest declares innocence, lawyer rips judge on radio show

The Rev. James Brennan leaves the Criminal Justice Center after a hearing where prosecutors argued for going straight to trial. (Sarah J. Glover / Staff Photographer)
The Rev. James Brennan leaves the Criminal Justice Center after a hearing where prosecutors argued for going straight to trial. (Sarah J. Glover / Staff Photographer) (Bob McGovern)
Posted: March 15, 2011

A priest charged in the latest sex abuse scandal vowed on a morning radio show to fight the allegations, while his attorney raised questions about the honesty of the lone accuser - and the behavior of a Common Pleas judge.

"I'm not looking for a plea deal, not in any way, shape or form," the Rev. James Brennan told talk-show host Chris Stigall of WPHT (1210 AM).

Brennan was charged, following last month's grand jury report, with raping a 14-year-old boy in Chester County in 1996. Another priest, an ex-priest and a teacher face other sexual assault charges, while a prominent church official is accused of endangering children by protecting accused priests.

The Grand Jury essentially found the allegations made by Brennan's accuser to be true and said the Archdiocese of Philadelphia knew Brennan was a "troubled priest with a history of inappropriate relations with minors."

Still, Brenan asserted his innocence today and both he and lawyer Richard DeSipio questioned the motivation of his alleged victim.

When Stigall asked why a teenager would level such accusations, Brennan said, "I have no idea, Chris. And that is a great, great question. I can't speak to that because I don't know what's going on inside his mind."

The priest acknowledged that he had a close relationship with the boy's family.

DeSipio, at the same time, strongly took issue with the mention of a possible plea deal by Judge Renee Caldwell Hughes, as well as other remarks she made during a pretrial hearing Monday.

"You lied to me! You jerked me around!" she reportedly said to the priest, asserting his hiring of two attorneys showed he didn't need court-appointed counsel during the grand jury investigation.

Only after Brennan was charged did friends, family and other supporters step forward to help him financially, DeSipio said.

"That doesn't make him a liar," the attorney told Stigall. "He certainly didn't deserve to be screamed at like that in open court. It just wasn't right."

"The way she spoke to Father Brennan yesterday was wholly improper," DeSipio said.

He said he was "outraged" that the prosecution asked to skip a preliminary hearing, where Brennan would get to confront his accuser. Hughes is expected to rule on the issue March 25.

DeSipio questioned the accuser's state of mind in 2005, around the time the allegations surfaced.

A police report, DeSipio said, shows that the boy fabricated a tale about two home invaders stealing $675 and various items. The family also had financial troubles, filing for bankruptcy and seeing the father lose his job in New Jersey, the attorney said.

"There's your motivation," DeSipio said.

The attorney also argued that the case belongs in Chester County, where the alleged attack occurred in an apartment rented by by the priest, not Philadelphia.

An assistant district attorney said in court Monday that Chester County gave Philadelphia permission to try the case.

"No, I don't think the Chester County DA has done anything wrong at all," DeSipio said. "I think the Philadelphia DA is beyond wrong. The Philadelphia DA has no jurisdiction whatsoever in this case. . . . I have no idea what Seth Williams' office is thinking."

"We're not asking that the case be thrown out," he added. ". . . We're not saying let him off on some technicality, because the Philly DA doesn't apparently know how to read a map."


Contact staff writer Peter Mucha at 215-854-4342 or pmucha@phillynews.com.

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