Northeast Times

Lynn led to jail, hung jury for Brennan

Monsignor Wil­li­am Lynn charged on one count of en­dan­ger­ing chil­dren. Jury dead­locked on ver­dict for Rev. James Bren­nan.

A priest’s mo­lesta­tion of a little boy at a North­east par­ish back in the late 1990s has led to the na­tion’s first con­vic­tion of a high-placed Ro­man Cath­ol­ic of­fi­cial for shield­ing a pred­at­or priest.

Monsignor Wil­li­am Lynn was found guilty Fri­day of en­dan­ger­ing chil­dren, not for ever touch­ing a minor, but for al­low­ing Ed­ward Avery to con­tin­ue in min­istry des­pite his known his­tory as a child mo­lester.

Des­pite his at­tor­neys’ prot­est­a­tions that he was not a flight risk, the stunned Lynn was led away to a hold­ing cell Fri­day af­ter­noon by sher­iff’s depu­ties as his re­l­at­ives sobbed nearby.

At his of­fice across from City Hall, Dis­trict At­tor­ney called the tri­al “his­tor­ic,” say­ing it was clear that ab­use happened and it was clear pred­at­ors were pro­tec­ted.

Avery, now de­frocked, pleaded guilty in March to mo­lest­ing a 10-year-old St. Jerome al­tar boy. 

Avery’s vic­tim, now an adult, test­i­fied at the tri­al and Lynn him­self test­i­fied he felt he had failed to pro­tect him.

Lynn was ac­quit­ted of two charges – con­spir­acy and en­dan­ger­ing chil­dren by al­legedly al­low­ing his co-de­fend­ant, the Rev. James Bren­nan, to re­main in min­istry des­pite com­plaints about his be­ha­vi­or. 

The jury of sev­en men and five wo­men could not reach a de­cision on at­temp­ted rape and child en­dan­ger­ing charges against Bren­nan.

The DA said his of­fice will con­sider retry­ing Bren­nan.

Lynn faces three and a half to sev­en years im­pris­on­ment. He’ll be sen­tenced Aug. 13. When asked if he thought his cli­ent had been made a fall guy for the city’s Ro­man Cath­ol­ic Arch­diocese, Lynn’s at­tor­ney, Jeff Lindy said, “Of course, he is; he’s tak­ing a hit for oth­ers in the Cath­ol­ic Church.”

Dur­ing the tri­al, Lynn’s at­tor­neys had ar­gued that the former sec­ret­ary for clergy did not have the fi­nal say in how the arch­diocese dealt with priests be­lieved to be sexu­al pred­at­ors.

Those de­cisions were made by Lynn’s boss, Car­din­al An­thony Bevilac­qua, they said.

Out­side the Crim­in­al Justice Cen­ter at 13th and Fil­bert streets, Bren­nan said, “I’m very tired, very grate­ful.”

“We are happy to be out here in the sun­shine with Fath­er Bren­nan go­ing home,” said the priest’s at­tor­ney, Wil­li­am Bren­nan. 

The at­tor­ney is no re­la­tion to his cli­ent. 

Dur­ing the tri­al, Fath­er Bren­nan’s at­tor­neys had in­sisted the young man who said the priest tried to rape him when he was 14 was a li­ar with a lengthy crim­in­al re­cord.

At­tor­ney Bren­nan said his cli­ent was in a kind of limbo after “a lengthy, bit­terly fought crim­in­al tri­al.”

Jury fore­man Isa Lo­gan said jur­ors were di­vided on Bren­nan and stayed that way. 

They had been even farther apart on Wed­nes­day when they told Com­mon Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina they had reached one ver­dict, but were dead­locked on four oth­ers.

The judge in­struc­ted them to keep try­ing, but gave them a day off Thursday to ac­com­mod­ate one jur­or’s per­son­al com­mit­ments.

That rest time, Lo­gan said, “did us some good.”

It was ap­par­ent to him that some jur­ors had needed some time and some clar­ity, he said.

It was the charges against Lynn that made the case so ex­traordin­ary. It is rare, al­though not un­heard of, for priests to be charged with sexu­ally ab­us­ing minors. Be­fore Lynn, however, no high-rank­ing Ro­man Cath­ol­ic of­fi­cial had been crim­in­ally charged with shield­ing mo­lesters.

That Lynn was so charged was ap­plauded by mem­bers of the Sur­viv­ors Net­work of those Ab­used by Priests, a na­tion­al vic­tims sup­port or­gan­iz­a­tion. Sev­er­al SNAP mem­bers at­ten­ded the tri­al and stood by as jur­ors met.

That he was con­victed of one such charge was ap­plauded by the city’s dis­trict at­tor­ney.

“Today’s ver­dict is a vic­tory for all of the named and un­named vic­tims of child sexu­al as­sault,” DA Wil­li­ams said Fri­day. “This tri­al was his­tor­ic.  Monsignor Lynn is the first mem­ber of the Ro­man Cath­ol­ic Church hier­archy con­victed of en­dan­ger­ing chil­dren that he did not per­son­ally as­sault.”

Wil­li­ams said he be­lieved Lynn was found guilty of the most ser­i­ous charge against him.

When asked if Lynn’s ac­quit­tal on the con­spir­acy charge sent the wrong mes­sage, the DA said that the monsignor “as he sits in a hold­ing cell right now, he got the mes­sage.”

The DA said Lynn’s pro­sec­u­tion will help stop what he called a gen­er­a­tions-old con­spir­acy of si­lence about pred­at­or priests with­in the Cath­ol­ic Church.

“Many people for many gen­er­a­tions have un­clean hands,” he said.

He said Lynn nev­er dis­puted what a grand jury had al­leged — that church of­fi­cials knew of the ab­use and of the act­ive at­tempts to hide it. 

“They merely denied they bore the re­spons­ib­il­ity for those de­cisions,” he said.

Many of Lynn’s re­l­at­ives reg­u­larly at­ten­ded the three-month tri­al. People who iden­ti­fied them­selves as vic­tims of mo­lester priests were in Courtroom 304, too.

One, a Fishtown man who asked not to be iden­ti­fied, said he had at­ten­ded every day of the tri­al.

ldquo;I’m here for the vic­tims who can’t be here,” he said.

The tri­al began on March 26. Jur­ors began de­lib­er­a­tions on June 1.

After the jury’s de­cisions were an­nounced Fri­day, As­sist­ant Dis­trict At­tor­ney Patrick Bless­ing­ton, said Lynn’s bail should be re­voked and he should be jailed im­me­di­ately to await sen­ten­cing.

“Let justice be­gin today,” he said. 

Sarmina, after listen­ing to some­time loud and angry com­ments from both de­fense and pro­sec­utors, ordered Lynn’s bail re­voked. However, she said she would en­ter­tain mo­tions for Lynn to get house ar­rest un­til sen­ten­cing.

The monsignor’s at­tor­neys said they ex­pect to file such mo­tions on Monday.

On Wed­nes­day, when the weeks of de­lib­er­a­tions seemed they would end with a hung jury, Dav­id Clo­hessy, SNAP’s ex­ec­ut­ive dir­ect­or, still saw the case against Lynn as worth­while.

“No one can deny this whole pro­cess has been ex­traordin­ar­ily pos­it­ive,” he said mid­week. “It has to give Cath­ol­ic of­fi­cials across the coun­try pause when they’re asked to de­ceive pa­rish­ion­ers, stone­wall po­lice, stiff-arm pro­sec­utors and con­ceal sus­pi­cions of child ab­use.”

What’s dif­fer­ent, too, he said, is that a con­vic­tion in a crim­in­al case could res­ult in im­pris­on­ment.

ldquo;The pro­spect that they might go to jail un­til now really hasn’t ex­is­ted in the minds of high church of­fi­cials,” he said.  ull;•

Re­port­er John Loftus can be reached at 215-354-3110 or at jloftus@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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