EarthLink – News
Trial to begin in 9-year-old’s killing that shocked Chicago
By DON BABWIN | Sun, September 8, 2019 09:19 EDT
CHICAGO (AP) — It stands as one of Chicago’s most horrific crimes, in large part because of small details that are impossible to shake: The promise of a juice box that lured the 9-year-old boy off a playground and into an alley, and the basketball he dropped when he was shot and killed there.
Jury selection will begin Friday in the murder trial of two of three men charged with carrying out the November 2015 attack on Tyshawn Lee, a smart fourth-grader who prosecutors say was killed by gang members to send a message to his father, a purported member of a rival gang.
“It was one of the most evil things I’ve ever seen,” said the Rev. Michael Pfleger, a Roman Catholic priest who presided over the boy’s funeral Mass. “I was over there and to see a young boy laying in an alley next to a garbage can with his basketball a few feet away, this assassination of a 9-year-old child took violence in Chicago to a new low.”
Dwright Boone-Doty, who will represent himself, and Corey Morgan will be tried together but before separate juries, each of which will only consider the evidence as it pertains to one of the defendants. The third man accused in the attack, the alleged getaway driver Kevin Edwards, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in exchange for a 25-year prison sentence.
The story that prosecutors will tell at the trial is at once unimaginable and all too familiar in pockets of Chicago that have been plagued by gang warfare for years: The shooting was the result of a feud between the defendants’ Bang Bang Gang/Terror Dome faction of the Black P Stones and the Killa Ward faction of the Black Gangster Disciples, which the slain boy’s father, Pierre Stokes, allegedly belonged to.
According to prosecutors, Boone-Doty and Morgan believed that Stokes’ faction was responsible for an October 2015 shooting that killed Morgan’s 25-year-old brother, Tracey Morgan, and wounded his mother. That his mother was shot may have been even more significant to Corey Morgan than the killing of his brother, who was in the same faction, as it was a breach of gang etiquette that led Corey Morgan to seek revenge on the innocent family members of his rivals, prosecutors allege.
What happened next followed the deadly playbook of so many Chicago shootings. A few days after Morgan’s brother was killed, Boone-Doty allegedly fired into a car occupied by a rival gang member. As happens in so many of these shootings, the rival survived his injuries but the woman who was sitting beside him, 19-year-old Brianna Jenkins, was killed. Boone-Doty has pleaded not guilty in that attack.
Prosecutors say the defendants then turned their attention to getting back at Stokes, first plotting to kill Tyshawn’s grandmother before settling on Tyshawn. And they wanted no leave no doubt about their message.
“His original plan was to torture this child by kidnapping and cutting off his fingers and ears,” then-State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said of Boone-Doty shortly after he and Morgan were arrested.
Instead, prosecutors say Edwards drove Boone-Doty and Morgan to Dawes Park on the city’s South Side on the afternoon of Nov. 2, 2015, and waited with Morgan in the SUV while Boone-Doty approached the boy, struck up a conversation, dribbled his basketball, offered to buy him a juice box and then led him to the alley, where he shot him several times at close range.
When Tyshawn was found, part of the story of his final moments of life was one small thing that wasn’t there: a piece of one of his thumbs that was shot off when he raised his little hands to block the bullets.
As the investigation unfolded, police said they couldn’t believe what they were finding out, from a rap song that Boone-Doty was allegedly writing about the shooting to his jokingly referring to Tyshawn as ‘Shorty’ when he allegedly told friends what had happened: “Shorty couldn’t take it no more.”
“This was something we didn’t even think humanly possible for even hardened gang members,” said John Escalante, who was the interim police superintendent when Boone-Doty was charged four months after the attack and who has since left the department.
On the day Boone-Doty first appeared in court accused of killing Tyshawn, the boy’s father, Stokes, opened fire on gang rivals, wounding three of them, authorities say. Stokes is in jail awaiting trial on aggravated battery and other charges in that attack.
“Mr. Stokes, who was involved in a gang lifestyle, ultimately suffered an unspeakable loss with the calculated execution of his son,” police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said at the time. “Despite this, he continued to engage in the same gang activity that started this initial cycle of violence.”
EarthLink – News
AP Explains: How Trump upended US-Taliban peace talks
By CARA ANNA | Sun, September 8, 2019 08:44 EDT
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — With a series of tweets, President Donald Trump has upended nearly a year of U.S.-Taliban negotiations on ending America’s longest war. He has “called off” the talks and asserted that a planned secret meeting between him and Taliban leaders at Camp David, set for Sunday just days before the 9/11 anniversary, is now canceled. Some question whether it was a face-saving attempt after the deal his envoy said had been reached “in principle” faced serious challenges.
The Taliban took half a day to respond, saying the abrupt decision hurt U.S. credibility after they had “finalized” a deal, but said the U.S. likely would return to negotiations. The two sides had still been talking on Saturday, they said — two days after Trump said he had “immediately” called off talks.
Here’s a look at the push for a deal that Trump had wanted quickly, calling it “ridiculous” that the U.S. was still in Afghanistan after nearly 18 years and billions of dollars spent.
The Taliban, who ruled Afghanistan with a harsh version of Islamic law from 1996 to 2001 and hosted Osama bin Laden as he masterminded the 9/11 attacks, say they no longer seek a monopoly on power. But the militant group now controls or holds sway over roughly half of the country. Many fear a full withdrawal of some 20,000 NATO troops would leave the weak and corrupt Afghan government vulnerable to collapse, or unleash another round of fighting in a war that has killed tens of thousands.
A DEAL WITH FEW DETAILS
The talks between Afghan-born U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban leaders in Qatar, where the insurgent group has a political office, have been so closely guarded that last week Afghan President Ashraf Ghani was shown — not given — the final draft. The Afghan government has been sidelined because the Taliban refuse to negotiate with what they call a U.S. puppet.
The Taliban negotiators have been led by Abdul Ghani Baradar, one of the group’s founders who was released by Pakistan last year after eight years in prison, apparently upon a U.S. request. He is believed to command enough respect to sell a deal to tens of thousands of fighters.
The deal once final would begin a U.S. troop withdrawal with the first 5,000 leaving within 135 days, Khalilzad announced on Monday. That would leave 8,600 troops who train and support Afghan forces after their combat role ended in 2014. In return, the Taliban would guarantee that Afghanistan would not be a launching pad for global terror attacks by groups including a local affiliate of the Islamic State organization and the remains of al-Qaida.
But problems quickly emerged. Even as Khalilzad explained the deal to the Afghan people during a nationally televised interview, the Taliban detonated a car bomb targeting a foreign compound in Kabul. Ghani’s office then raised loud objections, agreeing with several former U.S. ambassadors who warned that a hasty U.S. withdrawal without Taliban guarantees on ending violence could lead to “total civil war.” Far from guaranteeing a ceasefire, the deal includes only a reduction in violence in Kabul and neighboring Parwan province, where the U.S. has a military base.
Then on Thursday, a second Taliban car bomb exploded in Kabul and killed 12 people including a U.S. service member — which Trump blamed for his decision to cancel the talks. Khalilzad abruptly returned to Qatar for at least two days of negotiations. The new Taliban statement does not explain what happened next.
More than 2,400 U.S. service members have been killed in nearly 18 years of fighting in Afghanistan, and some observers are asking why the latest death would derail the U.S.-Taliban negotiations on the apparent brink of a deal. The Taliban have said the attacks strengthen their negotiating position.
“A difficulty created by announcing that the U.S.-Taliban deal was completed in advance of actually announcing the terms of the deal or being ready to sign is that space has been created for those unhappy with it — in Kabul or Washington — to try to modify or disrupt it,” Laurel Miller, Asia director for the International Crisis Group, said shortly before Trump’s announcement.
WHAT HAPPENS NOW?
It is not clear. It seems no one had anticipated a Camp David meeting between Trump and the leaders of an insurgent group that just months ago Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had described as “Taliban terrorists.”
On Saturday night the Taliban spokesman in Qatar, Suhail Shaheen, made no indication the process had derailed, tweeting about possible locations on the intra-Afghan talks on the country’s political future that were meant to follow a U.S.-Taliban deal. Those talks had been set to begin on Sept. 23, the Taliban’s new statement said.
The Afghan government did not directly comment on Trump’s announcement but repeated its plea for an end to violence. “We have always said that a real peace will come when the Taliban stop killing Afghans and implement a ceasefire and start direct negotiations with the Afghan government,” it said in a statement.
That prospect still looks challenging, as Trump’s tweets noted he had planned to meet “separately” with Taliban and Afghan leaders at Camp David.
President Ashraf Ghani now might see a clear path to a Sept. 28 presidential election that he has insisted must go forward. The Taliban have urged Afghans to boycott the vote and said polling stations would be targets.
Afghans would welcome any agreement that brings improved security and governance. But many have feared the U.S. would settle for an agreement that breaks down as soon as the last American soldier leaves. The prospect of a Taliban return has especially worried Afghan women, who secured new freedoms after 2001 but are still heavily restricted in the deeply conservative country.
“At the end of the day, this is a bilateral accord between the U.S. government and the Taliban. The Afghan government is not a party to it,” said Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia program at the Wilson Center, ahead of Trump’s announcement. “This suggests the Trump administration may reach a point where it decides to sign off on the deal even if it still faces opposition from Kabul.”
But the Trump administration walking away from a deal is a development that all parties are now hurrying to digest.
Associated Press writer Rahim Faiez in Kabul contributed.
EarthLink – News
Israeli PM’s former protege could now bring his downfall
By ARON HELLER | 08:47 EDT
JERUSALEM (AP) — Avigdor Lieberman entered Israeli politics as a loyal protégé of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Now, the maverick politician could be the one to topple his former mentor.
Lieberman, a burly, tough-talking immigrant from the former Soviet Union, forced Israel’s unprecedented second election of the year and is poised to be the kingmaker again.
Polls suggest Netanyahu won’t be able to form a coalition government without Lieberman’s support.
Lieberman has played hard to get.
“I don’t have to join at any cost,” he told Channel 12 news over the weekend. “The prime minister’s policy is simply submission to terrorism.”
For years, Netanyahu and Lieberman have had a roller-coaster relationship. Lieberman, once Netanyahu’s chief of staff, has held a series of senior Cabinet posts and was often a staunch partner. But he’s has also been a rival, critic and thorn in Netanyahu’s side.
In a high-stakes gamble, he passed up the post of defense minister in Netanyahu’s government following April’s election, leaving the prime minister without a parliamentary majority and forcing the Sept. 17 do-over vote.
Their dispute, over what Lieberman says is excessive influence of ultra-Orthodox religious parties, has become a central issue in the current campaign.
Lieberman says he will insist on a secular unity government between Netanyahu and his main challenger, Benny Gantz, in order to push out ultra-Orthodox parties. But Netanyahu says his former ally’s real goal is to oust him from office, and Lieberman is suddenly discovering newfound support from those who hope he does just that.
“He is the only one who actually stood up to Netanyahu and didn’t bend over,” said Eli Avidar, a lawmaker from Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu party. “Lieberman has known Netanyahu for 31 years. He knows the good and the bad and every angle you can imagine.”
The crisis that led to this month’s election ostensibly revolved around Lieberman’s insistence that young ultra-Orthodox men be drafted into the military, like most other Jewish males. But beneath the surface is a decades-long strained relationship between the two men.
The Moldovan-born Lieberman started as a top Netanyahu aide in the 1990s before embarking on a political career of his own. But he resigned last year because Netanyahu kept blocking his plans to strike hard against Gaza militants.
“When I look at the Gaza Strip it’s unbelievable. The Hamas chiefs know they have immunity from Netanyahu,” Lieberman said Saturday.
Lieberman is often accused of racism for branding Arab lawmakers as enemies of the state and advocating for population swaps that would place many Arab citizens outside Israel’s borders. But he’s also shown signs of pragmatism, such as suggesting he’d be willing to dismantle his own West Bank settlement if Israel’s final borders were redrawn.
Lieberman’s secular agenda has made him a favorite of Israel’s business sector, and his iconoclastic persona and straight talk — delivered in a slow, Russian-accented monotone — made him an unlikely savior for people tired of Netanyahu’s corruption-tainted, decade-long grip on power. That’s despite the fact that Lieberman survived a lengthy corruption scandal himself that exposed his links to shady characters and that allegedly earned his daughter mysterious millions.
“Oddly, the man who was a symbol for the secretive and conspiratorial politician, who runs his party undemocratically, is the hope of Israeli democracy and society,” communications expert Baruch Leshem wrote in a column in the Ynet website.
An irate Netanyahu has made it his mission to destroy Lieberman politically, taking aim in ads and campaigning furiously among his core base of Russian-speaking supporters. He’s branded him a “leftist” and a “serial toppler” of right-wing governments.
“Whoever wants a leftist government should vote for Lieberman,” he said during a recent visit to Ukraine, which critics say he used to target Lieberman’s traditional backers.
But the all-out assault has yet to make a dent. Polls show support for Lieberman’s party has doubled since it came precariously close to elimination in April’s vote.
An emboldened Lieberman recently met with top members of Netanyahu’s Likud party, reportedly discussing the chances of replacing the prime minister if he fails to muster a parliamentary majority. That fear seems to have propelled Netanyahu to demand a “loyalty oath” from party members, which Lieberman compared to practices of a North Korean leader.
Unlike Gantz, Lieberman hasn’t officially ruled out forming a government with Netanyahu again, saying a broad coalition is needed to tackle urgent security challenges and lessen a deficit — which he blames on extortion by smaller religious parties. But he’s done nothing to dispel suggestions that he too wants Netanyahu gone.
“He’s a strategist, he knows how to play politics better than anyone,” said Ashley Perry, a former adviser.
Former officials affiliated with the center-left have been showing up at his campaign events. Lieberman has been warmly welcomed in bastions of liberal Tel Aviv — until recently an unimaginable scene.
Avidar, the lawmaker from Lieberman’s party, said a firm stance against Netanyahu on religious affairs has boosted the party’s wider appeal among secular voters who tend to vote more liberal, but said it remains firmly on the right when it comes to security and negotiations with the Palestinians.
“We are getting a lot of sympathy because people see that we are the only party stopping a Halachic state,” he said, referring to one governed by Jewish law.
Still, the prospect of Lieberman’s newfound crossover appeal is unnerving to those who have tangled with him before.
“Lieberman may have decided that the Netanyahu era is over and that he will be the one to give the final twist of the knife. That would be a fitting end to a Shakespeare play, but what we’ve got here is an Israeli tragedy,” wrote Zahava Galon, a former leader of the dovish Meretz party.
“Lieberman was and remains one of the shadiest and contemptible individuals in Israeli politics, and his belated legitimization only goes to show just how low we have sunk.”
Follow Heller at www.twitter.com/aronhellerap .
EarthLink – News
A US priest, a Philippine village, and decades of secrecy
By TIM SULLIVAN 09:38 EDT
TALUSTUSAN, Philippines (AP) — The American priest’s voice echoed over the phone line, his sharp Midwestern accent softened over the decades by a gentle Filipino lilt. On the other end, recording the call, was a young man battered by shame but anxious to get the priest to describe exactly what had happened in this little island village.
“I should have known better than trying to just have a life,” the priest said in the November 2018 call. “Happy days are gone. It’s all over.”
But, the young man later told The Associated Press, those days were happy only for the priest. They were years of misery for him, he said, and for the other boys who investigators say were sexually assaulted by Father Pius Hendricks.
His accusations ignited a scandal that would shake the village and reveal much about how allegations of sex crimes by priests are handled in one of the world’s most Catholic countries.
He was just 12 — a new altar boy from a family of tenant farmers anxious for the $1 or so he’d get for serving at Mass — when he says Hendricks first took him into the bathroom of Talustusan’s little rectory and sexually assaulted him.
“I asked why he was doing this to me,” the rail-thin 23-year-old said in an interview, the confusion still with him years later.
“‘It’s a natural thing,'” he said the priest told him, “‘It’s part of becoming an adult.'”
The abuse continued for more than three years, he says, but he told no one until a village outsider began asking questions about the American priest’s extravagant generosity with local boys, and until he feared his brother would be the next victim.
In November, he went to the police and told them what he knew.
Soon after, local authorities arrested Hendricks, 78, and charged him with child abuse. Since then, investigators say, about 20 boys and men, one as young as 7, have reported that the priest sexually abused them. Investigators say the allegations go back well over a decade — though many believe it goes back for generations, and could involve many dozens of boys — continuing until just weeks before the December arrest. Hendricks’ lawyers insist he is innocent.
The AP, which does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault, has met with five of the accusers.
Hendricks’ arrest was a sudden fall for a priest who had presided over this community for nearly four decades. He rebuilt Talustusan’s chapel and installed rooftop loudspeakers to summon parishioners to Mass. He pressed officials to pave the village road. He drove the sick to the hospital, and paid school fees for poor children. Many here will still tell you how much he did.
But the case also reflects much about the Philippines, a country where the church has long shrugged off the presence of its sex offenders and where the criminal justice system often ignores the problem.
“It’s a culture of coverup, a culture of silence, a culture of self-protection,” said the Rev. Shay Cullen, an Irish priest who has spent decades in the Philippines and works with victims of child sexual abuse. “It’s a silent consent to the abuse of children.”
In 2018, after the young man had gone to police — but before Hendricks had been arrested — he recorded a phone call with the clergyman.
In extracts of the conversation heard by the AP, Hendricks laments the passing of those happy days, and admits to an unspecified “mistake on my part.”
“Well, it’s true. I’m not saying it’s not. Did I say it’s not?” Hendricks said, his voice a combination of self-pity and resignation.
He said he’d probably have to retire.
“So I have to learn,” he continued. “I have to take the good with the bad.”
For nearly two decades, the Philippine church has vowed to confront a looming shadow of clergy abuse.
In 2002, the Philippines’ national conference of bishops ended years of silence to admit that the church faced “cases of grave sexual misconduct” among the clergy. One archbishop estimated that 200 of the country’s 7,000 priests may have committed some form of sexual impropriety. The bishops promised new rules that would “provide steps for profound renewal.”
But in a country home to more than 80 million Catholics and churches that date to the time of Shakespeare, such promises have long disappeared into a haze of tradition, piety and clerical influence that suffuses everything from sex education classes to national politics.
Until about 2013, for example, the church’s own guidelines insisted bishops did not need to report sexually abusive priests to police, saying they had “a relationship of trust analogous to that between father and son.” Media reports and legal action “adds to the pain” in cases of sexual abuse, Manila Cardinal Luis Tagle told the Catholic news site UCAN in 2012. In Asian cultures, he said, it is often better for such cases to be handled quietly, inside the church.
The church’s influence remains vast here, even as it has seen its power chipped away in recent years, weakened by the spread of evangelical missionaries and attacks by the nation’s populist president, Rodrigo Duterte.
Duterte, who says he was sexually abused by a priest while he was a student, has publicly derided bishops as “sons of bitches,” and urged Filipinos to stop going to Mass. Investigators say Duterte is closely watching the Hendricks case.
On Biliran, the poor island where Hendricks spent nearly half his life, his fondness for boys had been widely discussed for decades among villagers, local officials and, according to a former Catholic brother, members of the clergy. While many people had long believed he was a pedophile, almost nothing was said openly. Nor did anyone act on the suspicions.
That’s how it happens across the Philippines. Silence continues to shield priest after priest.
On the island of Bohol, the priest Joseph Skelton serves mass, more than 30 years after the then-seminarian was convicted of sexual misconduct with a 15-year-old boy. Local news reports reveal even more working clergymen: the priest outside Manila who recruited young men for the priesthood after admitting to sexually assaulting teenage boys; the priest who moved into a bishops’ residence after being accused of raping a 17-year-old girl; the composer of sacred music accused of sexually abusing boys as young as six.
Prosecutions of accused priests are exceedingly rare here, and convictions are rarer. “No priest in the Philippines has ever been convicted” of child sexual abuse, Bishop Buenaventura Famadico, who oversees a diocese south of Manila, told the Catholic newspaper La Croix last year.By comparison, the group BishopAccountability.org says that since 1990 more than 400 priests have been convicted in the U.S. on child sexual abuse charges.
The 23-year-old from Talustusan said he might not have come forward without encouragement from an American visitor to the village, the boyfriend of a woman related to an accuser. The American was shocked at the gifts the priest had doled out to him and other local boys and began to ask probing questions.
“He kept asking why Father Pius was doing these things for boys in the village,” said the 23-year-old, who began wrestling then with his own feelings about what he should say.
“I thought this might be it, this might be the help I’m asking for, that my life will change,” he said. Finally, he told his family, and then local authorities, about the abuse.
Even then, the case may not have gone anywhere without intervention by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The agency started its own probe of Hendricks under a statute that allows the U.S. government to prosecute child sexual abuse by American citizens anywhere in the world.
The local case against the priest would have stalled if U.S. authorities hadn’t started their inquiry, pressuring Philippine authorities to act, according to an investigator involved in the case, speaking on condition of anonymity because the investigation is still under way.
Kenneth Hendricks was born in 1941 in working-class Cincinnati, as the Great Depression was grinding to an end. His parents divorced when he was young, and Hendricks’ mother supported her two sons by cleaning houses.
By his late teens, Hendricks was interested in the Franciscans, the Catholic order of brothers and priests known for their long brown robes and centuries of work among the poor.
Hendricks became a Franciscan brother by his early 20s, taking the name Pius. His assignments ranged from the St. Catherine Indian School in Santa Fe, New Mexico to the then-rough Cincinnati neighborhood of Over-The-Rhine, where he helped run a youth boxing club.
His branch, the Province of St. John the Baptist, declined comment on his work, saying in a statement that it was “fully cooperating with the authorities.”
Residents say Hendricks was still a Franciscan when he found his way to Talustusan, a village of about 2,000 people a couple miles uphill from the coast. It was a quiet place with dirt roads, a small school and a time-worn chapel above the Anas River. He left the Franciscans around 1986 and soon after was ordained as a priest by the local diocese.
While Hendricks never learned to speak Bisaya, the primary local language, he seemed to love the village. He told his parishioners that he’d be buried one day in a storage room behind the chapel. “‘Here is my tomb!'” he’d call out cheerfully, pointing to four concrete slabs set into the floor, near a battered statue of the Virgin Mary with broken hands and carefully manicured eyebrows.
But he never fit in fully. His quick temper and sharp tongue were intimidating. He chastised toddlers for not sitting at the front of the Talustusan chapel, and publicly berated adults who annoyed him. “Crazy Filipino people!” he would snap when he was frustrated.
Then there were the boys.
They stayed at Hendricks’ house, rode in his car and walked with him through Talustusan, residents say. He gave them gifts ranging from clothing to money to school fees.
“All of us knew about Pius and his boys,” said a former Catholic clergyman who worked with Hendricks for years, and who spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing retaliation from the church.
Once, at a gathering of priests and others, he said he erupted angrily at Hendricks, calling him a pedophile. That brought the clergyman a quick rebuke from church authorities who told him to keep quiet. Church officials declined to comment.
“All of them knew about Pius,” he said of church leaders on the island, the anger still in his voice years after the confrontation.
Similar comments are echoed in Talustusan, where there is no indication police or church authorities looked into the allegations.
“Ever since I was young I heard the stories, that he would touch altar boys,” said a longtime village resident, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing backlash from her neighbors.
Even the local prosecutor barely blinked when the case was brought to her.
“I was not really surprised, because he was always with small boys,” said Edna Pitao-Honor. “We were friends, actually. But that ends when he’s facing prosecution.”
Yet the church has done little to reckon with its role in what investigators now say was years of his abuse.
The Rev. Romulo Espina, a top official in the Diocese of Naval, where Hendricks served, insisted neither he nor other diocesan leaders saw any signs of sexual mistreatment by the American.
But Espina, who worked regularly with Hendricks in a small cluster of offices behind the main regional cathedral, also quickly made clear that if Hendricks did anything wrong, the church bears no responsibility.
“If it is true, was he told to do it? No,” Espina said. “You cannot attach the behavior to the institution. It is the devil.”
Hendricks, Espina said, was told something similar.
“If there is a criminal case, we told him ‘This is your fight. You have to face the music.'”
Poverty is deeply rooted in Talustusan, where many people get by working on nearby coconut plantations or rice paddies. Others run informal gas stations, selling gasoline in old Pepsi bottles, or operate home groceries where they offer tiny bars of soap and packets of instant coffee for a few cents apiece.
For a village like Talustusan, having its own priest — particularly an American one — meant a financial boost, with donations to rebuild the chapel, and jobs as drivers and clerks. Hendricks became the center of his own small economy, doling out jobs, loans and gifts. He built a little library, where theological texts (The Law of Christ, The Catholic Catechism) sit beside secular fare (two biographies of Justin Bieber, a British royal wedding video).
His presence also brought status, setting Talustusan apart from the other poor farming villages.
“We were the only village that had our own priest!” said Ayelina Abonales, 55, one of the group of local women who now fiercely defend Hendricks.
For parents, having a church also meant their sons could earn a little money by serving as altar boys.
In a tradition common in Philippine villages— a custom often observed to this day — altar boys were expected to stay overnight on Saturdays at the priest’s house. That way, they could get up early to prepare for Mass.
Sometimes, the boy would try to stay home on Saturday nights, hoping to avoid the priest and the rectory and what he knew would happen there.
But Hendricks would send other boys running to the three-room house he shared with his parents and six siblings. The house is a monument to working-class aspirations and Catholic devotion, a plain concrete building decorated with school awards, plastic rosaries and statues of Jesus. “The priest wants you back there!” they’d call to the boy, now the 23-year-old man who reported Hendricks to authorities.
His mother would insist he stay at the rectory: “It’s good for you,” she would say.
“I had to go back,” he said recently, sitting at a small beachfront restaurant, speaking above the gentle crash of the surf and the warble of karaoke singers crooning 1970s American love songs.
He believes most of Hendricks’ altar boys were sexually abused, with some occasionally confiding in others about what was happening. But mostly, he says, it was a silent brotherhood of shame.
Victims say the abuse often started off with Hendricks’ bathing them, then progressing to oral and anal sex. Boys would often be cast aside once they reached their late teens or got involved with girls.
“He got jealous” if someone had a girlfriend, said a teenager from a troubled village family who said he was abused at age 15. The assaults ended after a couple months, the teenager said, when he refused to work as an altar boy.
Even now, the 23-year-old can’t explain why he kept returning to the rectory.
“It’s like I was trapped,” he said. “I don’t know myself anymore when I’m there.”
In part it was about money. Hendricks paid him a few dollars a week and eventually bought him a motorcycle. When he said he wanted to leave the village for a distant school, Hendricks built an extra room beside the family house, giving the young man his own bedroom.
“I didn’t want him to touch me. I only wanted to work for him,” the 23-year-old said. “But then I was depending on him.”
Things finally changed in 2015 with a case of “tulo” — gonorrhea — which he says he got from Hendricks. After that “I did not let him touch me anymore,” he said.
Most of Hendricks’ accusers are from the lower rungs of the village’s economic ladder, tough-talking teenagers with spiked hair and a love for noisy motorbikes.
Occasionally, though, their defenses drop. At one point, the 23-year-old’s voice drifts away, and he begins addressing Hendricks directly: “Father, how could my life be without you? And why are you doing this to me?”
He craves an apology: “I want him to feel that inside I am already destroyed.”
Experts say victims can have immense trouble breaking away from their abusers, many of them adept manipulators who have woven themselves deeply into children’s lives.
That confusion is amplified when abusers are priests, often revered as Christ-like figures in the Philippines, and amplified further when the priests are foreigners.
A foreign priest “would be beyond any suspicion, and any complaint would be denied and covered up,” said Cullen, the Irish priest.
Even during the recorded phone call, the 23-year-old found no victory. He apologized repeatedly for what the priest was going through, even as he tried to get Hendricks to say outright what he had done.
“I’m so sorry about it, Father,” he said. “I’m so sorry.”
In 2016, the Philippine church again committed itself to change, vowing “transparency, accountability and cooperation with civil authorities” in clergy child abuse cases.
As a result, over the past few years, bishops and priests have launched awareness campaigns and run training sessions. Official guidelines now spell out victims’ rights and bar moving predatory priests.
Inside the church, such regulations are seen as ground-breaking.
“From their perspective, they’re making huge changes,” said Dr. Gabriel Dy-Liacco, a Manila-based psychotherapist who has studied sexual abuse and is a member of Pope Francis’ sex abuse advisory board.
But even as the church promises change it also appears to spread the blame, with a 2016 statement from the bishops’ conference saying abused children are “not necessarily the passive partner in an exploitative relation.”
The government, meanwhile, is often openly intimidated by the church’s influence.
Pitao-Honor, the prosecutor who filed the charges against Hendricks, noted in court documents that the priest’s stature, and the chaos that accusations against him could spark in Talustusan, made her proceed very carefully “as if treading on top of eggshells piled one after the other.”
Plus, some key issues, such as when predatory priests must be reported to civil authorities, remain confusing , and experts say abuse cases rarely get reported. The Philippine church declined to respond to questions on those and other issues.
Silence remains the rule.
“Very often it’s taken care of quietly, and outside of the public sphere,” said Dy-Liacco.
There are those in Talustusan who mourn for Hendricks.
“I don’t understand why they say these things about Father Pius,” said Edrich Sacare, a 37-year-old from an impoverished family who spent nearly a decade living with Hendricks, working as an altar boy and at the church. Hendricks, in turn, sent Sacare to school. He insists he never saw Hendricks behave improperly. “Father Pius was strict, but he was kind to people.”
A balding man in a basketball jersey, Sacare is in obvious pain as he speaks about Hendricks’ arrest.
“Anyone who asked, Father Pius was willing to help,” he said, sitting on the porch of his house, a short walk from the church. On the wall is a poster from his 7-year-old daughter’s birthday party.
The accusations have divided the village, cutting through friendships and families and isolating the accusers, who say the benefits Hendricks brought — status, money, jobs — blinded villagers to his crimes. Often, the accusers say, they are shunned on the streets by people they have known all their lives.
Hendricks’ supporters say the accusers invented the charges, angry the priest stopped financially supporting them. The priest’s lawyers dismiss any talk of guilt, with attorney Melvin Vaporoso declaring him “innocent of the charges.”
Numerous priests and brothers and a retired bishop who oversaw Hendricks either declined comment or did not respond to repeated messages. In Cincinnati, the archdiocese has acknowledged Hendricks received some financial support from its missionary office but added a note to its website declaring, “Fr. Hendricks is not, nor has ever been, a priest of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.”
For now, Hendricks is being held in a Manila jail, facing Philippine and U.S. child abuse charges that could put him in prison for decades. U.S. Attorney Benjamin Glassman in Cincinnati, who filed the American charges, calls them “very serious, very disturbing allegations.” U.S. investigators are also looking into whether Hendricks may have been involved in sexual misconduct during his time as a Franciscan brother in New Mexico and Ohio in the 1960s and 1970s.
Philippine jails are notoriously overcrowded, and people in contact with Hendricks say he’s losing weight and isn’t sleeping well.
Back in Talustusan his house sits empty. There’s one chair at the dinner table. A houseplant is dying on the windowsill, its leaves turning brown. The narrow single bed is neatly made.
Associated Press reporters Dan Sewell in Cincinnati and Jim Gomez in Manila, and investigative researcher Randy Herschaft in New York contributed to this report.
Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
EarthLink – News
Search warrants served in California boat fire investigation
Mon, September 9, 2019 12:53 EDT
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (AP) — Authorities served search warrants Sunday at the Southern California company that owned the scuba diving boat that caught fire and killed 34 people last week.
Agents with the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and other agencies searched Truth Aquatics’ offices in Santa Barbara and the company’s two remaining boats, Santa Barbara County sheriff’s Lt. Erik Raney said.
The warrants served shortly after 9 a.m. are part of the ongoing investigation into the tragedy to determine whether any crimes were committed, he said. The office was ringed in red “crime scene” tape as more than a dozen agents took photos and carried out boxes.
Thirty-four people died when the Conception burned and sank before dawn on Sept. 2. They were sleeping in a cramped bunkroom below the main deck and fire blocked their escape routes.
The bodies of all but one victim have been recovered. The search for the final body was suspended this weekend because of strong winds and rough seas, Raney said.
“The dive teams are going to get together Monday to develop a plan. We’re hoping they’re back in the water on Tuesday,” he said Sunday.
For a judge to approve warrants, law enforcement must spell out the probability a crime was committed. Raney declined to comment on what evidence was disclosed to obtain the warrants, saying only that they are “a pretty standard” part of the investigation to determine whether crimes occurred.
Coast Guard records show the Conception passed its two most recent inspections with no safety violations. Previous customers said Truth Aquatics and the captains of its three boats were very safety conscious.
Authorities are focused on determining the cause of the fire and are looking at many things, including how batteries and electronics were stored and charged. They will also look into how the crew was trained and what crewmembers were doing at the time of the fire. The boat’s design will also come under scrutiny, particularly whether a bunkroom escape hatch was adequate.
Five crew members jumped overboard after trying to rescue the 33 scuba divers and one crew member whose escape routes were blocked by fire, federal authorities and the boat’s owner said. The crew, including the captain, said they were driven back by flames, smoke and heat.
They jumped from the bridge area to the main deck — one breaking a leg in the effort — and tried to get through the double doors of the galley, which were on fire.
That cut off both escape routes from the sleeping quarters: a stairway and an escape hatch that exited in the galley area. The crew then tried, but failed, to get into windows at the front of the vessel.
Truth Aquatics pre-emptively filed a lawsuit Thursday under a pre-Civil War provision of maritime law that could protect it from potentially costly payouts to families of the dead, a move condemned by some observers as disrespectful and callous.
The company said in a statement posted Friday on Instagram that the lawsuit is an “unfortunate side of these tragedies” and pinned the action on insurance companies and other so-called stakeholders.