NBC10 Philadelphia - Terry Ruggles
Monsignor William Lynn was found guilty on Friday of one count of child endangerment. Lynn was the first U.S. church official charged for allegedly helping the Archdiocese cover up abuse claims. NBC10's Terry Ruggles reports.
A Roman Catholic church official has been convicted of child endangerment but acquitted of conspiracy in a groundbreaking clergy-abuse trial in Philadelphia.
Monsignor William Lynn was found guilty on one count of endangering the welfare of a child. He was also found not guilty on the second count of endangering the welfare of a child and not guilty of one count of conspiracy. He faces a maximum of 3 1/2 to 7 years in prison.
As for Father James Brennan, accused of sexually abusing a 14-year-old boy, there is a hung jury on one count of attempted rape and a hung jury for endangering the welfare of a child.
The gag order was lifted and Lynn's bail was revoked, according to NBC10's Deanna Durante. He was taken into custody.
Monsignor William Lynn was the first U.S. church official charged for allegedly helping an archdiocese cover up abuse claims.
Lynn was on leave from the Philadelphia archdiocese, where he served as secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004.
Defense lawyers said Lynn alone tried to document abuse complaints, get priests into treatment and alert the cardinal to the growing crisis. Church documents show therapists had called one accused priest a ticking "time bomb'' and "powder keg.''
Lynn testified that the cardinal was the ultimate authority on what happened to the priests.
Prosecutors argued that Lynn could have called police or quit the job if efforts to help victims were being stymied.
They said the evidence showed a pattern at the archdiocese of lying about why priests were removed, sending them to "company doctors'' at church-run therapy centers and failing to warn new parishes where they were later transferred.
Seven men and five women sat on the jury, along with eight alternates. Many have ties to Catholic schools or parishes, but said they could judge the case fairly. There are about 1.5 million Catholics in the five-county archdiocese.
After the verdict, Lynn's lawyer Thomas Bergstrom addressed the media.
“We’re disappointed,” said Bergstrom. “He has now been convicted of one count. We’re going to be filing some motions on Monday to see if he can get this house arrest situation straightened out. Depending on what the sentence is we’re very likely to file an appeal but that may change. But it’s something that won’t be done until after sentencing. Now I’d just like to be in a position where we can file some motions and perhaps get him released under house arrest. Hopefully we can do that, we’ll see.”
“He’s upset, he’s crushed,” said defense lawyer Jeffrey M. Lindy. “He’s in custody and he didn’t want anything other than to help kids. He’s crushed about this. Not just the verdict or what they’re saying but what the D.A. is saying about him. He’s crushed.”
Father Brennan also spoke at the podium.
“I’m very tired and I’m very grateful. I’m really blessed to have this guy standing next to me,” he said while pointing to his lawyer. “I’ve never been through anything like this and I didn’t know what to expect. I had no idea, coming into today, what was going to happen.”
NBC10's Deanna Durante also spoke to some of the jurors.
“We all wanted justice,” said juror Isa Logan. “It took us a lot of time to be able to understand the law and understand the different charges. That was a lot of the confusion that we had. A lot of times we needed clarity on certain things. We had to go back and forth with the judge and make sure that we were making the right verdict.”
“We just asked each other, how do you feel about this charge, how do you feel about that charge," said the second juror. "For the people that were not on board we tried to ask them what it was they needed to get past that point. We finally were able to all come up with a verdict that we could all live with.”
District Attorney Seth Williams held a press conference at 3:30 p.m. During the conference, Williams claimed he had not made a decision on whether to retry Brennan. He also said he would speak to trial attorneys and investigators in order to make a decision.
The Philadelphia Archdiocese released a statement in response to the verdict:
This has been a difficult time for all Catholics, especially victims of sexual abuse. The lessons of the last year have made our Church a more vigilant guardian of our people’s safety. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia is on a journey of reform and renewal that requires honesty and hope. We are committed to providing support and assistance to parishioners as they and the Church seek to more deeply understand sexual violence, and to create an environment that is safe and welcoming to all, including past victims.
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia offers a heartfelt apology to all victims of clergy sexual abuse. Now and in the future, the Church will continue to take vigorous steps to ensure safe church environments for all the faithful in Philadelphia.
The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) also released a statement:
This day—and the relief, vindication and healing it gives clergy sex abuse victims—is long overdue. The guilty verdict sends a strong and clear message that shielding and enabling predator priests is a heinous crime that threatens families, communities and children, and must be punished as such. It is also the criminal justice system's "shot across the bow," sending a clear signal to all institutions: “Protect kids, oust predators or go to jail.”....
We hope that the judge will impose the stiffest possible sentence to deter this kind of self-serving secrecy and deceit in the future – in the church and other institutions. Children are safer when predators and those who shield them are behind bars.