October 13, 2005

Arch Nemesis

Philadelphia City Paper

by Mike Newall

The suicide call came in on a Sunday morning. It was 2002 and the grand jury investigation into Philadelphia clergy abuse was a few months old. Will Spade and another assistant district attorney headed to the home of a witness who had been raped by a priest as a child and was now threatening to kill himself. They spent all afternoon and into the early evening at the man's home, talking, listening, keeping him company.

"It really brought home the emotional turmoil these victims were suffering," recalls Spade, "and gave me a sense of the gravity of the situation."

Spade had seven years of experience at the District Attorney's office when he was assigned to the archdiocese investigation. But nothing, he says, could have prepared him for the two years he would spend on the church probe. Along with four other members of the DA's Special Investigations Unit, Spade often worked up to 15 hours a day, seven days a week, interviewing hundreds of victims, church officials including former Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua and slowly uncovering the shocking scale to which the archdiocese protected pedophile priests.

"There were times when I would come home after a particularly bad day," says Spade, 43, "and I would lay down on the couch with my head in my wife's lap and cry, uncontrollably cry."

Exhausted and emotionally drained, Spade left the DA's office last fall a year before the grand jury's final report was issued to start his own criminal defense firm. (Earlier this year, he represented former City Treasurer Corey Kemp.)

Posted by kshaw at October 13, 2005 12:10 PM