A Cook County judge Friday ruled that convicted child molester Daniel McCormack is a sexually violent person, setting up the former Chicago priest for a possible long-term stay at a state facility for sex offenders.
Judge Dennis Porter’s ruling comes some eight years after McCormack finished a five-year prison sentence for molesting five boys while serving as a priest in St. Agatha’s parish, and followed two days of testimony by a pair of state experts on the psychology of sex offenders.
“I have to say, Mr. McCormack, that every one of those dynamic risk factors pushes you up the scale” as a likely offender, Porter said. “I have no reasonable doubt that you will engage in future acts of sexual violence.”
Leaning back in his chair beside his two court-appointed lawyers, McCormack showed little reaction as Porter announced his ruling.
The 48-year-old defrocked priest walked out of the courtroom with his head bowed.
Porter said he would rule in November on whether McCormack will have to remain in custody at the state facility in downstate Rushville where the ex-priest has been detained since completing his prison sentence in 2009.
Glenn Guth, an attorney who has represented 10 boys who have sued the Archdiocese of Chicago over allegations of abuse by McCormack, was one of only a half-dozen people in the courtroom gallery.
McCormack was a “father figure” the boys he abused, most of them the children of single mothers from impoverished neighborhoods on the near West Side.
Court records list at least 32 boys who made allegations against McCormack, dating back to 1999. The archdiocese has paid out $10 million in just the last year to settle lawsuits involving claims against McCormack.
“My clients, today, don’t have any love lost for Dan McCormack,” Guth said. “I think they will be pleased with what happened today.”
In his criminal cases and in church investigative files, the allegations against McCormack followed a pattern: the priest approached boys ranging from the fourth to eighth grades that he knew from the church or in his role as a basketball coach; several victims were altar boys.
McCormack – who also ran an after-school program called SAFE out of Our Lady of West Side – plied the children with gifts, cash and trips to White Sox and basketball games, with one boy saying he saw the priest remove cash from a safe that held collection plate donations.
No victims testified during the three-day bench trial, and the courtroom gallery was nearly empty during the proceedings, save for a handful of legal assistants and a pair of lawyers for the arch diocese.
The only witnesses to take the stand were a state psychiatrist and a psychologist who had evaluated McCormack, and their testimony was narrowly focused on the vagaries of research surveys of sex offenders and probabilistic models of whether someone fitting McCormack’s profile would molest children again, if given the chance.
McCormack, citing pending civil lawsuits and criminal charges against him, has never answered questions from state psychiatric evaluators. That left state experts to examine court records and a report from the archdiocese as a basis for determining his likelihood of offending.
The two experts who took the stand at his trial were split: Raymond Wood, former head of the state’s Sexually Violent Persons programs, was called by the defense, and concluded that McCormack was a minimal risk of reoffending. Angeline Stanislaus, the state’s witness, opined McCormack was an “above average” candidate to molest again. A third expert, who found McCormack a minimal risk of reoffending, was not called to testify.
Assistant Attorney General Mary Lacy said Wood showed himself to be a “numbers guy,” who weighted actuarial tables too heavily when he calculated the odds.
“This is not car insurance,” she said. “We’re talking about the safety of our community.”
Defense lawyer Matthew Daniels called Stanislaus’ opinion a “gut decision” based on the unsettling details of the case files.
Porter sided with Stanislaus, saying he was troubled by the way McCormack groomed the boys with attention and gifts, and that McCormack had continued to abuse his victims, and even targeted a new victim, after being arrested in 2005. Charges were dropped shortly after that arrest, but the priest was arrested again in 2006, after more boys complained.
“He did not learn from being caught,” Porter said.
The archdiocese has paid out more than $20 million to settle lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by McCormack, and a review by the church lists 65 priests with verified complaints of abuse, dating back to 1950.