Expert: ‘Actuarial’ model says ex-priest unlikely to molest again

SHARE Expert: ‘Actuarial’ model says ex-priest unlikely to molest again
Daniel McCormack in 2007, as he was headed into a Cook County courtroom to plead guilty in his child sex abuse case.

Daniel McCormack file Photo by Brian Jackson/Sun-Times

Sun-Times file

Daniel McCormack, a former priest convicted of molesting children in his Chicago parish, is a minimal risk to abuse children if released from a state mental institution, a state psychologist testified Thursday.

Raymond Wood, the former clinical director for the state’s Sexually Violent Person program, was the lone witness called by lawyers for the defrocked priest, who has been held at a state mental hospital since he was released from prison in 2009 after serving a sentence for sexually abusing five boys while he was pastor of St. Agatha’s Church.

Wood’s testimony set up a duel of experts for Judge Dennis Porter, who will have to rule on whether McCormack, who has been accused of abusing dozens of young boys in civil lawsuits, can be held in state custody indefinitely even after completing his sentence for aggravated criminal sexual abuse.

Wood, an expert on statistical evaluations on the likelihood that sex offenders will repeat their crimes, said that he is often outraged by what he reads in case files detailing their crimes, but believes that “actuarial” models are better predictors of future behavior than other methods.

“My wife complains that I’ll say as I read [files] ‘This is a really bad guy,'” Wood said. “But as a professional, I want to be engaging in the best professional standard that I can.”

Wood took the stand a day after a psychiatrist had testified for the prosecution, stating that McCormack was likely to victimize other children if released without court-ordered supervision, citing a long history of McCormack groping younger men and boys dating back to before his ordination and continuing even after he was arrested in 2005.

Assistant Attorney General Joelle Marasco questioned whether Wood had factored in the large number of victims, and the fact the priest continued to molest multiple boys even though he’d been confronted by parents, then arrested, and told by supervisors that he was not to have contact with children or even continue his work as a teacher and basketball coach.

Wood was the third person to evaluate McCormack’s risk factors for harming more children, though the ex-priest has refused to answer questions citing pending civil and criminal cases against him, leaving his evaluators with only reports from Chicago Police investigations and an internal review by the Chicago archdiocese.

Before he was charged criminally, McCormack was sent by the church to a mental hospital for sex offenders in Maryland, where he denied being sexually attracted to children.

None of McCormack’s victims have taken the stand in the trial, and the courtroom gallery was all but empty save for a lawyer from the Chicago archdiocese, which has paid out millions to settle lawsuits brought on behalf of children who say they were molested by McCormack.

Closing arguments are scheduled for Friday at 2 p.m. If Judge Porter rules that McCormack is a “sexually violent person,” he will be committed to a state facility for sex offenders indefinitely.

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