"You lied to me! You jerked me around!" an indignant Common Pleas Judge Renee Cardwell Hughes yelled yesterday at the red-faced, trembling Rev. James Brennan, a Catholic priest and one of five churchmen accused of raping boys or covering up the crimes.

Hughes, who had appointed an attorney for Brennan during the preceding grand-jury investigation because he cried that he had no money, became furious when she learned he had since hired two private attorneys who were expecting that Brennan would be reimbursed by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

That arrangement could be a conflict of interest for Brennan should he decide to negotiate a deal with the state and testify against his co-defendants and the Archdiocese, Hughes told him.

Brennan and the other defendants were in court for yesterday's hearing.

"There is not going to be any negotiation with the District Attorney's Office because he is innocent," blurted out A. Charles Peruto Jr., representing Brennan with attorney Richard DeSipio.

When further questioned, Brennan told Hughes that he recently got the money to pay his attorneys from a monthly stipend from the Archdiocese and from assistance from his brother.

She ordered him to reimburse the court system for his initial attorney fees.

"You are not indigent," she snapped. "The Archdiocese has no obligation to reimburse you. Do you understand?"

"Yes," said Brennan, who is accused of anally raping a 14-year-old boy at his Chester County apartment in summer 1996.

The scene played out in a courtroom designed for 71 people but packed with about 100, and a swollen media delegation that included journalists from national outlets including CNN and the New York Times, with Times columnist Maureen Dowd among them.

After the hearing, Peruto and DeSipio slammed Hughes, claiming she disrespected Brennan, who is still a priest although not active since 2006.

"It's a shame you didn't have [your cameras and recorders] in the courtroom because she screamed at that man," DeSipio said. "First, she addressed him as Mr. Brennan, deliberately. He's a priest; it's Father Brennan. Secondly, she had him trembling."

Following last month's release of a graphic 124-page grand-jury report, the D.A. charged Brennan with raping the boy, who is now 29 and in trouble with the law.

Also charged were the Rev. Charles Engelhardt, 64, former priest Edward Avery, 68, and former Catholic schoolteacher Bernard Shero, 48. They were accused of a raping a boy during a period from 1998 to 2000, beginning when the boy was 10.

Monsignor William Lynn, the secretary for clergy for the Archdiocese under former Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, is accused of covering up the attacks and charged with two counts of endangering the welfare of a child.

Lynn is on leave from his duties, while the other priests are no longer active, their attorneys said.


THE CASE

Common Pleas Judge Renee Cardwell Hughes ordered the five defendants and their attorneys back to court on March 25 when she will decide on a D.A. motion to bypass preliminary hearings, given the depth of detail in the grand-jury report.

All of the defense attorneys said they would argue for preliminary hearings so they could cross-examine their clients' accusers.

Hughes will also rule on a joint defense motion to quash conspiracy charges filed against Rev. James Brennan and Msgr. William Lynn on Friday and whether it is legal to try Brennan in Philadelphia, given that the allegation against him took place in Chester County.

Assistant District Attorney Evangelia Manos told Hughes the Chester County D.A. gave her permission to prosecute Brennan. Defense attorneys maintained that no law allows the passing of such authority.

-Mensah M. Dean