Jury asks to see the list of predator priests

— The jury also asked to see the car­din­al's memo or­der­ing the list to be shred­ded.

Monsignor Wil­li­am Lynn enters the court­house in Cen­ter City for the last day of his hear­ing, Thursday, May 31, 2012, Phil­adelphia, Pa. (Maria Pouch­nikova)


Jur­ors de­lib­er­at­ing in the Phil­adelphia cler­ic­al sex ab­use tri­al sent word that they wanted to see the list.

Be­sides ask­ing the judge to see the roster of priests who were con­firmed child mo­lesters or sus­pec­ted of such ab­use, the jury’s sev­en men and five wo­men wanted to see the memo or­der­ing the list’s de­struc­tion. Monsignor Wil­li­am Lynn, the only high-rank­ing ad­min­is­trat­or in the Ro­man Cath­ol­ic Church to stand tri­al in con­nec­tion with the sex ab­use scan­dal, had com­piled the list.

Lynn is charged with two counts of en­dan­ger­ing the wel­fare of chil­dren by al­low­ing two priests, who later were charged with mo­lest­ing kids, to con­tin­ue in their min­is­tries. He has pleaded not guilty, and was tried along with one of those priests, the Rev. James Bren­nan, who is ac­cused of at­tempt­ing to rape a 14-year-old sub­urb­an youth in the 1990s. Bren­nan, too, has pleaded not guilty.

After a 10-week tri­al at the Crim­in­al Justice Cen­ter, jur­ors began their de­lib­er­a­tions on Fri­day, took a break over the week­end, and re­sumed their secret dis­cus­sions on Monday and Tues­day.

Lynn test­i­fied he had com­piled the list of 35 priests soon after he was named the sec­ret­ary for clergy of Phil­adelphia’s Ro­man Cath­ol­ic Arch­diocese in 1992. Part of his du­ties dur­ing his dozen years in that job was to in­vest­ig­ate priests ac­cused of sexu­al mis­con­duct. He said he went through arch­dioces­an files and drew up the list so he could as­sess how much of a prob­lem such mis­con­duct was, and pass that in­form­a­tion along to his su­per­i­ors.

Pro­sec­utors had ar­gued that the list showed Lynn knew there were pred­at­or priests in the arch­diocese and that he did not pre­vent them from hav­ing con­tact with chil­dren. Lynn’s at­tor­neys have ar­gued that the very same list proves Lynn was try­ing to do what he could to root out those mo­lesters, but could only re­com­mend treat­ment or ac­tions to his su­per­i­ors.

In­tro­duced as evid­ence in the case was a memo from Lynn’s boss, Car­din­al An­thony Bevilac­qua, or­der­ing the list’s shred­ding. Lynn has main­tained he nev­er re­ceived that memo, and had no part in de­struc­tion of cop­ies of the list.

Jur­ors asked for the list and the shred­ding memo dur­ing the first day of de­lib­er­a­tions on Fri­day.

On Monday, they also wanted Com­mon Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina to cla­ri­fy the con­spir­acy charge against Lynn, the en­dan­ger­ing chil­dren charge ?? and the at­temp­ted rape charge against Bren­nan.

They also wanted to know what they should do if they reached a ver­dict on one de­fend­ant be­fore they reached one for the oth­er. They asked if they should in­form the court im­me­di­ately of the first ver­dict, Sarmina said.

Both pro­sec­utors and de­fense at­tor­neys asked the judge to tell them to keep de­lib­er­at­ing un­til they had two ver­dicts.

Thomas Bergstrom, one of Lynn’s at­tor­neys, said that Ed­ward Avery, a de­frocked priest who pleaded guilty to mo­lest­ing a boy be­fore he was to go on tri­al with Lynn and Bren­nan, must be in­cluded in the con­spir­acy charge against Lynn if jur­ors are to find Lynn guilty of that charge.

Without Avery, the con­spir­acy charge against Lynn made no sense, Bergstrom said.

The con­spir­acy charge was ad­ded after Lynn, Bren­nan and Avery were ar­res­ted in Feb­ru­ary 2011, along with the Rev. Charles En­gel­hardt and Bern­ard Shero, a former par­ish school teach­er, who both will be tried in Septem­ber. The charge against Shero was dis­missed in the spring, and Sarmina dis­missed the con­spir­acy charge against Bren­nan and against Lynn in re­gard to Bren­nan when the pro­sec­u­tion res­ted on May 17.  

On Monday, As­sist­ant Dis­trict At­tor­ney Patrick Bless­ing­ton told Sarmina that Lynn and un­named oth­ers had par­ti­cip­ated in a con­spir­acy to shield mo­lesters among the arch­diocese’s clergy and keep them work­ing. That Lynn agreed with someone to keep Avery in his min­istry is all the jur­ors needed to de­term­ine, he said.

Sarmina’s an­swer, which in­cluded a ref­er­ence to Avery, might have con­fused the jur­ors more, Lynn’s at­tor­neys said for the tri­al’s re­cord when the jury re­tired to con­tin­ue its de­lib­er­a­tions.

Avery pleaded guilty to rap­ing a 10-year-old al­tar boy in St. Jerome par­ish in the North­east’s Winchester Park sec­tion the week be­fore the tri­al star­ted on March 26. Avery, the rape, and his and Lynn’s ac­tions be­fore that crime were big parts of the tri­al, But Avery’s plea and sub­sequent sen­tence of two and half to five years im­pris­on­ment were not men­tioned at the tri­al, and he did not testi­fy. Jur­ors also were not told why Avery was not present.

En­gel­hardt al­legedly had raped the same boy at the par­ish be­fore Avery. The vic­tim, who test­i­fied at the tri­al, also al­legedly was raped by Shero, who taught at St. Jerome’s par­ish school. En­gel­hardt and Shero both have pleaded not guilty.

The arch­diocese had re­por­ted En­gel­hardt and Avery to au­thor­it­ies, and a grand jury star­ted in­vest­ig­at­ing them. In the course of that in­vest­ig­a­tion, grand jur­ors began look­ing at Bren­nan, too, and called for his ar­rest in con­nec­tion with ??at­temped rape of a Bucks County teen. Grand jur­ors also in­vest­ig­ated Shero and called for his ar­rest.

Grand jur­ors held Lynn, who ac­ted as the arch­dioces­an per­son­nel dir­ect­or, re­spons­ible for Avery’s crime and for the crime they said Bren­nan com­mit­ted. Those en­dan­ger­ing chil­dren charges against Lynn are what make the case a first of its kind be­cause Lynn is the first mem­ber of the Cath­ol­ic Church’s Amer­ic­an hier­archy so ac­cused.

Though Bevilac­qua died in Janu­ary, be­fore the tri­al began, he, too, was a big part of the case. Lynn’s de­fense at­tor­neys held the former Phil­adelphia arch­bish­op re­spons­ible for de­cisions to keep sus­pec­ted pred­at­or priests on the job, claim­ing that Lynn was at the low end of the arch­diocese’s top man­age­ment. Al­though the car­din­al’s testi­mony was video­taped in Novem­ber, the tape was not played at the tri­al.


You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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