CALLING THE recently deceased man who alleged he had been sexually abused by a former Philadelphia Catholic priest a "champion" for victims of child sexual abuse, District Attorney Seth Williams yesterday said he had no choice but to drop criminal charges against the ex-priest.
With the Oct. 13 drug-overdose death of Sean Patrick McIlmail, 26, there "was not enough independent evidence - circumstantial or direct - to continue with the successful prosecution of Father Robert Brennan," Williams said at an afternoon news conference.
McIlmail's mother, Deborah, brother Michael and sister Kaitlyn joined Williams but did not speak at the news conference.
"I would have hoped that we could have brought Father Brennan to justice," Williams said. "It appears now the only justice he'll get will be in the afterlife, unless we have other victims."
McIlmail alleged that Brennan, now 75, raped and molested him from 1998 to 2001, starting when he was an 11-year-old altar boy at Resurrection of Our Lord Parish in the Northeast.
On Oct. 13, he was found dead in a parked car in Kensington, the victim of a drug overdose following years of addiction.
"Like many victims of child sexual abuse, unfortunately, Sean did not get counseling until it was too late," Williams said. "He found his own way of self-medicating, which ultimately, unfortunately, led to his early death."
Williams said he and McIlmail's family hoped that McIlmail's decision to report Brennan would serve as a "beacon of hope" to other victims and that they would report their abusers and get counseling.
If not for McIlmail's death, Williams said, his office was prepared to prosecute Brennan for stealing McIlmail's "innocence and . . . childhood."
McIlmail reported the alleged abuse in January, leading to Brennan's arrest last month. McIlmail was supposed to testify against Brennan during a preliminary hearing last Thursday.
Now, all charges against Brennan will be formally dropped at his next scheduled court date Nov. 14, Williams said.
"We're obviously very upset and saddened that someone had to die, but we're also disappointed that Father Brennan won't have a chance to vindicate his name through a jury trial . . . because these allegations are not true," defense attorney Trevan Borum said.
Brennan, who is free on bail and living in Maryland, was an assistant pastor at Resurrection at the time of the alleged abuse.
The abuse allegedly took place in the sacristy of the church, in Brennan's rectory bedroom, in a parish storage area and in a movie theater, Williams said at the time of Brennan's arrest.
Brennan sexually or inappropriately touched more than 20 boys at the various parishes where he worked, according to a 2005 grand-jury report.
Brennan was removed from active ministry in September 2005 after the report was released and is in a canonical process aimed at his laicization, according to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
* The D.A.'s Office sexual abuse line: 215-686-8019;
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* The Philadelphia Police: 215-686-TIPS
* Department of Human Services: 215-683-4347
* Philadelphia Children's Alliance: 1-800-932-0313
* Women Organized Against Rape: 215-985-3333
* Congreso De Latinos Unidos: 215-763-8870
* Children's Crisis Treatment Center: 215-496-0707