Partial Verdict Reached in Philly Priest Abuse Trial

Abusive BehaviorCrime, Law and JusticeJustice SystemReligion and BeliefCNN (tv network)Anthony Bevilacqua

PHILADELPHIA, Penn. -- Jurors in Philadelphia on Friday reached a partial verdict in the landmark trial of Monsignor William Lynn, the highest-ranking cleric accused of endangering children by helping cover up sexual abuse, according to a source with knowledge of the proceedings.

Lynn, a defendant along with another Philadelphia priest, faces two counts of endangering the welfare of a child by allowing dangerous priests to continue in the ministry in roles in which they had access to children, and one count of conspiracy to protect a priest accused of abuse.

The trial marked the first time that U.S. prosecutors charged not just priests who allegedly committed abuses, but also church leaders for failing to stop them.

The verdict is expected to be announced in court at 2 p.m. ET.

If convicted, Lynn could be sentenced to up to 21 years in prison.

Lynn's co-defendant is the Rev. James Brennan, who was charged with attempted rape of a 14-year-old altar boy and endangering the welfare of a child. Removed from the active ministry in 2006, he admitted two years later that he had allowed the youngster to view pornography and sleep in the same bed with him in 1996, according to church investigators' testimony.

Defrocked priest Edward Avery had been due to go on trial with Brennan and Lynn, but he pleaded guilty in March after admitting he sexually assaulted a 10-year-old altar boy during the 1998-1999 school year.

The 69-year-old was sentenced to 2½ to five years in prison.

On Wednesday, the jury reported that it was unable to reach a verdict on four of five charges in the high-profile case. Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina ordered jurors to keep deliberating, according to a source with direct knowledge of the case.

Lynn's conspiracy count related to an allegation that he schemed with Avery and other archdiocese officials to endanger children.

More than 60 witnesses and alleged clergy abuse victims testified during Lynn and Brennan's criminal trial, which began on March 26 and wrapped up May 31, with jury deliberations beginning the next day.

Lynn's defense team argued their client repeatedly told higher-ups about the alleged abuse and, under strict orders from late Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, had no authority to remove priests from the ministry.

Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington last week characterized Lynn's behavior as "disgraceful," "shameful" and "ridiculous," sarcastically calling him a "hero" who put young people in harm's way.

"He actually looked you in the eye and said he put victims first. How dare he?" the prosecutor asked jurors during his more than 2½-hour closing argument.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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Abusive BehaviorCrime, Law and JusticeJustice SystemReligion and BeliefCNN (tv network)Anthony Bevilacqua