I have had a difficult time understanding exactly what Trinity, Wall Street could and couldn’t have done to avoid a situation in which an Episcopal Church was involved in the criminal prosecution of a retired Episcopal bishop and an Episcopal priest for what seems to me, at this point, to be little more than street theater.
The difficulty is exacerbated, I think, by the fact that Trinity itself hasn’t answered that question clearly, taking refuge in difficult to penetrate legalistic language in its frequent press statements. That Trinity choose to use the first sentence of the most recent release to praise itself for its long record of giving away a small percentage of its enormous fortune isn’t helpful either.
If I understand correctly, and I may not, Trinity was not in a position to have the charges against Bishop George Packard (whose sentencing statement is here), the Rev. Earl Kooperkamp, rector of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Harlem and their six co-defendants dismissed. Trinity did request that the Manhattan District attorney offer most of those arrested at Duarte Square on December 17–including Packard and Kooperkamp–non-criminal disposition of their cases, that involved neither fines nor incarceration. Some defendants accepted this offer. Some refused.
The defendants who refused bear responsibility for that choice. It isn’t as though they were being offered five to ten instead of fifteen to life and felt they had to take a gamble for the sake of freedom. If they had wanted these charges to go away, they could have made them go away. They seem to have made a calculation in which going through with this trial, and risking conviction and the very minor sentences that they received, was in their best interest. Perhaps this had to do with principle. Perhaps it had to do with garnering useful publicity. I don’ know. But I do know that a choice was made.
That said, if Trinity’s lawyer Amy Jedlicka had not testified, the district attorney would have had no case, so it seems highly unlikely that the prosecution could have continued. Trinity seemingly made some calculation in which publicly participating in the prosecution of a bishop and a priest for climbing a fence into an empty lot in which they were immediately arrested was a better move than just letting the whole thing slide. I don’t have enough information to speculate about why that would be the case. I am also unclear on what Trinity has at stake here–but unless they are acting out of sheer stubbornness, it would seem to be so valuable that it is worth withstanding the onslaught of atrocious publicity that they have brought upon themselves, the church leaders–including the Presiding Bishop and the Bishop of New York–who have lent them public support and, the wider Episcopal Church.
I’d be happy to have the story as I have sketched it out above fleshed out or revised by people with first hand information. Happy to hear other’s opinions about who should have done what.