Mistrial declared for Catholic priest accused of molestation

MATT ROURKE / ASSOCIATED PRESS The Rev. Andrew McCormick gets into a car last Thursday outside the Criminal Justice Center.
MATT ROURKE / ASSOCIATED PRESS The Rev. Andrew McCormick gets into a car last Thursday outside the Criminal Justice Center.
Posted: March 14, 2014

SOME MEMBERS of a Philadelphia jury answered the prayers yesterday of a Philadelphia Catholic priest on trial for allegedly molesting a 10-year-old altar boy in the late 1990s.

After deliberating 4 1/2 days, an unknown number of jurors refused to convict the Rev. Andrew McCormick, 57.

Common Pleas Judge Gwendolyn N. Bright declared a mistrial after the jury forewoman reported that the nine women and three men were hopelessly deadlocked on five of the seven charges.

Assistant District Attorney Kristen Kemp announced that her office intended to retry McCormick, and Bright set a scheduling hearing for April 28.

During jury deliberations - which began last Thursday - McCormick at times was spotted in the courthouse hallway praying with other priests, nuns and supporters.

Always dressed in his black priestly garb and white clerical collar, McCormick often occupied his time reading from spiritual books and chatting with people who could be heard referring to him as "Father" and "Father Andy."

His accuser, now 26, was stoic, remaining at the end of the hallway with his family and supporters. Although his name was said in court, the Daily News is not reporting it due to the graphic nature of the allegations.

McCormick, who is free on bail, was one of 26 priests placed on administrative leave by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in March 2011 in response to allegations of sexual misconduct with minors.

But it wasn't until December of that year that his accuser told police and church officials that McCormick tried to force him to perform oral sex in 1997 when he was a 10-year-old altar boy at St. John Cantius Church in Bridesburg.

McCormick was arrested in July 2012 and charged with involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, sexual assault, child endangerment and related counts.

The district attorney's case showed signs of trouble long before it got to trial.

In an August 2012 preliminary hearing, Municipal Judge Karen Yvette Simmons dismissed the three most serious felony charges against McCormick after defense lawyer William J. Brennan argued that his client's actions did not warrant the charges.

The felony charges were reinstated two months later by Common Pleas Judge Paula Patrick following an appeal by the district attorney.

Brennan told the Daily News after Patrick's ruling that the need for two preliminary hearings could indicate that the prosecution may have trouble proving its case at trial, where the burden of proof is much higher.

"If the commonwealth is on the ropes in round one, perhaps they should reconsider this prosecution," Brennan had said in October 2012.

The trial lawyers are barred from speaking to reporters by a gag order imposed by Bright.


On Twitter: @MensahDean

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