Judge tosses felony charges against Bridesburg priest

The Rev. An­drew Mc­Cormick, who has served in Brides­burg and Port Rich­mond, now faces only mis­de­mean­or charges after a former al­tar boy test­i­fied that Mc­Cormick sexu­ally ab­used him. The dis­trict at­tor­ney's of­fice, though, has filed an ap­peal.

The Phil­adelphia dis­trict at­tor­ney’s of­fice has vowed to fight a Mu­ni­cip­al Court judge’s dis­missal of felony charges against a former Brides­burg-based priest ac­cused of sexu­ally ab­us­ing an al­tar boy in a par­ish rect­ory 15 years ago.

Dur­ing a pre­lim­in­ary hear­ing last Thursday, Judge Kar­en Yvette Sim­mons tossed all felony charges against the Rev. An­drew Mc­Cormick and re­manded him for tri­al on only mis­de­mean­ors in­clud­ing in­de­cent as­sault, cor­rupt­ing the mor­als of a minor and en­dan­ger­ing the wel­fare of a child. Sim­mons is­sued her rul­ing after the ac­cuser, who is now 24, test­i­fied that Mc­Cormick forced him to en­gage in or­al sex after a Sunday even­ing Mass in 1997.

The DA’s of­fice, in a prin­ted state­ment re­leased pub­licly via the news me­dia later Thursday, con­ten­ded that Sim­mons dis­reg­arded case law and the leg­al defin­i­tions of the ap­plic­able of­fenses in dis­miss­ing them.

Sim­mons re­fused the pro­sec­u­tion’s re­quest to re­con­sider her own rul­ing im­me­di­ately fol­low­ing the hear­ing, stat­ing, “I heard the facts. I am fa­mil­i­ar with the law,” ac­cord­ing to one pub­lished re­port.

Pro­sec­utors have a very low bur­den of proof at a pre­lim­in­ary hear­ing in com­par­is­on to a tri­al. They must demon­strate to the court only that enough evid­ence against a de­fend­ant ex­ists to war­rant a full tri­al. Vic­tim or eye­wit­ness testi­mony gen­er­ally ful­fills that bur­den.

Yet, Sim­mons dis­missed charges of in­vol­un­tary de­vi­ate sexu­al in­ter­course, sexu­al as­sault and stat­utory sexu­al as­sault against Mc­Cormick, who was pas­tor of St. John Can­ti­us Church at the time of the al­leged at­tack.

“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,” the DA’s state­ment said.

With­in hours of the pre­lim­in­ary hear­ing, the DA filed an ap­peal of the rul­ing in mo­tions court. A Com­mon Pleas Court judge is ex­pec­ted to hear the ap­peal with­in 30 days.

In the mean­time, Mc­Cormick re­mains free on $150,000 bail and sus­pen­ded from pub­lic min­istry as a res­ult of pri­or al­leg­a­tions against him in­volving un­spe­cified mis­con­duct.

Ac­cord­ing to the DA’s of­fice and pub­lished re­ports, the vic­tim test­i­fied that he was 10 years old when Mc­Cormick in­vited him back to the St. John Can­ti­us rect­ory after one even­ing Mass. Mc­Cormick fed the boy cook­ies and Dr Pep­per, then led him to a bed­room, the vic­tim said.

Mc­Cormick al­legedly re­moved his cler­ic­al robe and, wear­ing only blue-plaid box­er shorts, fondled and groped the boy. The priest then straddled the youth and twice at­temp­ted to in­sert his ex­posed penis in­to the youth’s mouth, ac­cord­ing to testi­mony.

Ac­cord­ing to the DA’s of­fice, in­vol­un­tary de­vi­ate sexu­al in­ter­course is defined as or­al sex with a child un­der age 13, sexu­al as­sault is or­al sex without the con­sent of a per­son, while stat­utory sexu­al as­sault is or­al sex with a child un­der age 16 while the de­fend­ant is more than four years older.

Pro­sec­utors con­tend that Mc­Cormick’s al­leged be­ha­vi­or fits all three charges. As­sist­ant Dis­trict At­tor­ney Jack O’Neill is as­signed to the case.

De­fense At­tor­ney Wil­li­am J. Bren­nan re­portedly ar­gued on Thursday that the vic­tim’s ac­count of events did not con­sti­tute or­al sex un­der the law and that his testi­mony was sus­pect, con­sid­er­ing the vic­tim did not res­ist the in­vit­a­tion to Mc­Cormick’s bed­room, did not call for help, did not re­port the in­cid­ent un­til re­cently and does not re­call the spe­cif­ic date or month that it oc­curred.

The vic­tim chose to re­port his ab­use to po­lice in the af­ter­math of the Penn State Uni­versity sexu­al ab­use scan­dal and the sexu­al ab­use cases in­volving oth­er Phil­adelphia priests.

Mc­Cormick spent three more years at St. John Can­ti­us. He was or­dained in 1982 and served at St. John Can­ti­us from 1986 to 2000. He served at St. Adal­bert in Port Rich­mond from 1982 to 1986; at St. Bede the Ven­er­able in Hol­land, Bucks County, from 2000 to 2004; and at Sac­red Heart in Swedes­burg, Mont­gomery County, from 2004 to 2011.

Oth­er ac­cus­a­tions against Mc­Cormick were in­cluded in the Feb­ru­ary 2011 re­port is­sued by a Phil­adelphia grand jury in­vest­ig­at­ing clergy ab­use throughout the Arch­diocese of Phil­adelphia. Mc­Cormick was among dozens of priests sus­pen­ded as a res­ult of the re­port, al­though he was nev­er charged crim­in­ally with pri­or mis­con­duct.

Po­lice ar­res­ted Mc­Cormick last month at his par­ents’ home in the Pott­stown area.

Re­port­er Wil­li­am Kenny can be reached at 215-354-3031 or wkenny@bsmphilly.com.

You can reach at wkenny@bsmphilly.com.

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