Chronology of the clergy sex-abuse scandal


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. ••


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