February 2011: A Philadelphia grand jury releases its report on sexual abuse by the city’s Roman Catholic clergy and calls for five arrests while denouncing the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for keeping scores of accused priests in their ministries. It is the second grand jury in a decade to conduct such a probe. Grand jurors who released a report in 2005 bitterly stated that they were unable to prosecute molester priests because laws then in place didn’t permit them. They recommended several changes in Pennsylvania law, many of which were made.
Feb. 10, 2011: Former priest Edward Avery, former Catholic grade school teacher Bernard Shero, the Rev. James Brennan and the Rev. Charles Engelhardt are arrested on charges they molested minors in the 1990s. Monsignor William Lynn, who had investigated sexual abuse allegations against Philadelphia-area priests for the archdiocese, was arrested on charges he endangered children by keeping Brennan and Avery in assignments in which they had access to children. All the defendants, who were free on bail, were later charged with conspiracy. All pleaded not guilty.
March 8, 2011: Although Cardinal Justin Rigali, then Philadelphia’s Roman Catholic archbishop, had denied there were any priests against whom there were credible allegations of sexual abuse, the archdiocese puts more than 20 priests on administrative leave and hires a team of legal and psychiatric experts to investigate them. In a little more than a year, under Rigali’s successor, Archbishop Charles Chaput, investigations lead to several priests being declared unfit for ministries while others were cleared of allegations.
Aug. 5, 2011: The cases against the five men finally reach the trial judge, M. Teresa Sarmina. Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington tells Sarmina he will prosecute the five defendants in one trial, which he estimated would take four months to complete.
Feb. 21, 2012: Jury selection begins, but by then, there were only three defendants — Lynn, Avery and Brennan — set to be tried together. Attorneys for Shero and Engelhardt, a member of a religious order, the Oblates of St. Francis DeSales, successfully had argued to separate their trials from that of the other defendants. Eventually, 12 jurors and 10 alternates are selected.
March 26, 2012: The trial finally begins, but with only two defendants – Lynn and Brennan. On March 22, Avery pleaded guilty to molesting a 10-year-old St. Jerome’s parish altar boy in the 1990s and was sentenced to two and a half to five years in prison. Also, two jurors were removed before the trial began. Subsequently, two others were taken off the panel.
May 17, 2012: After presenting about eight weeks of testimony and hundreds of documents, the prosecution rested.
May 23, 2012: Lynn takes the stand in his own defense and remains a witness May 24 and May 29.
May 29, 2012: Sarmina denies defense motions that the cases against their clients were made beyond the statutes of limitation for prosecutions for the crimes they are accused of committing. After both defense teams present many character witnesses and James Brennan’s attorney, William Brennan, is cited for contempt for a courtroom outburst, attorneys for Brennan and Lynn rest their cases. The defense had taken four days.
May 30, 2012: Jurors get the day off as Sarmina discusses her charge to the jury with attorneys in her chambers.
May 31, 2012: Attorneys make their closing arguments.
June 1, 2012: Judge Sarmina charges the jury, and deliberations begin.
June 20, 2012: Jurors tell the judge they have reached one verdict but are deadlocked on four other charges. The judge tells them to keep trying, but lets them take the next day off.
June 22, 2012: Jurors acquit Lynn of conspiracy and one count of endangering children while finding him guilty of another endangering count. They cannot reach a verdict on the two charges Brennan faced. Lynn is immediately jailed, but Brennan remains free.
July 5, 2012: Judge Sarmina denies a defense request to grant Lynn house arrest in the Northeast home of an in-law’s in-law.
July 23, 2012: Prosecutors announced they will retry James Brennan.
July 24, 2012: Lynn is sentenced to three to six years in prison. ••EndFragment