It took 12 long years for Sean McIlmail to find the courage to bring charges against the Catholic priest who he said sexually abused him.
It took less than two weeks after Sean’s death for those charges to be dropped.
Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams announced yesterday that without his chief witness, the rape and sexual assault charges against 75-year-old accused pedophile priest Robert Brennan just won’t stick. So he is letting Brennan walk free.
“In many cases of sexual assault whether they be victims or adults or children, really the testimony of that victim is paramount to getting a conviction,” said the D.A., at press conference alongside McIlmail’s family members.
McIlmail, 26, died on Oct. 13 of an accidental drug overdose, just four days before a preliminary hearing in the case against Brennan where McIlmail was supposed to testify.
He came forward with his charges in January, telling authorities that Brennan abused him over a period of three years, starting when McIlmail was 11 years old. But the hearing would have been the first time he showed his face and name in public with his charges against Brennan.
His family is convinced that his death had nothing to do with his scheduled testimony.
“A month or so ago, he actually said, ‘I’m ready for my name to be put out there,’” recalled his sister Kaitlyn McIlmail, 24, in an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer. “I think he thought if other people could see his face and his name and recognize his courage, that maybe they too would get the ability within themselves to come forward.”
Brennan was named in a 2005 grand jury report as a serial pedophile who raped and molested more than 20 boys over a 15-year span at several different diocese. But the statute of limitations on those crimes ran out, so Brennan never faced any charges.
McIlmail accused Brennan of abusing him in church and at several other sites including a movie theatre and the priest’s own bedroom.
“We have lost a wonderful man who overcame great odds and made it through college, battling his demons all the way — demons that came into his life as he sought escape from the abuse he suffered at the hands of Fr. Brennan while he was an altar boy,” said his lawyer, Marci Hamilton.
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia offered no comment or response to the charges against Brennan being dropped.
The photo above shows Brennan with McIlmail at the boy’s 8th grade graduation.
Sources: Philadelphia Inquirer, CBS Philly, 6ABC Action News, NBC 10 Philadelphia