Roman Catholic official guilty of child endangerment in sex abuse case
Monsignor William Lynn of Philadelphia helped the Catholic archdiocese keep sexual predators in ministry, and the public in the dark, said prosecutors. Lynn is the first US church official convicted for how he handled child sexual abuse claims.
(Page 2 of 2)
Seven men and five women sat on the jury, along with eight alternates. Many have ties to Catholic schools or parishes, but said they could judge the case fairly. There are about 1.5 million Catholics in the five-county archdiocese, and Philadelphia neighborhoods were long identified by their local parishes.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
The jury could not agree on a verdict for Lynn's co-defendant, the Rev. James Brennan, who was accused of sexually abusing a 14-year-old boy in 1996.
Lynn's lawyer, Thomas Bergstrom, pledged in opening statements in late March that the monsignor would not run from the sins of the church. However, he said in closing arguments that Lynn should not be held responsible for them.
He suggested his client was a middle manager-turned-scapegoat for the clergy-abuse scandal. Lynn, he said, documented the abuse complaints and did his best to get reluctant superiors to address it.
"And now, now of all things, the commonwealth wants you to convict him for documenting the abuse that occurred in the archdiocese, .... the evil that other men did. They want to hold him responsible for their sins."
Philadelphia prosecutors have been investigating the archdiocese for 10 years, since the national crisis erupted in the Boston archdiocese. Lynn testified several times before a grand jury that sat from about 2002 to 2005.
That panel produced a blistering report that identified 63 suspected child molesters in the archdiocese, but said no one could be charged because of legal time limits.
Afterward, then-District Attorney Lynne Abraham helped fight for state reforms that gave reluctant victims more time to come forward in Pennsylvania — and enabled her successor, Seth Williams, to charge Monsignor Lynn and four others last year based on more recent complaints.
In a hotly contested ruling in Lynn's case, Common Pleas Judge M. Teresa Sarmina let prosecutors tell jurors about 20 of the accused priests named in the first grand jury report, even though they were never charged, because Lynn worked on their files to some extent.
Prosecutors said they showed a pattern at the archdiocese of lying about why priests were removed, sending them to "company doctors" at church-run therapy centers and failing to warn new parishes where they were later transferred.
"They put so many innocent children in danger," Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington said in his closing remarks, noting that it can take years or decades for victims to come forward. "That's what's so scary about this. We have no idea how many victims are out there."
By Bergstrom's count, the commonwealth spent about 36 of 40 trial days on the tangential cases.
An appeal based on the inclusion of that evidence is considered likely.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.