Sentencing set in Pennsylvania priest abuse case

Tuesday, July 24, 2012 - 10:00am

The highest-ranking Catholic Church cleric charged and convicted in the landmark Philadelphia child sexual abuse trial is scheduled for sentencing Tuesday.

Monsignor William Lynn was found guilty in June of one count of child endangerment, the first time a U.S. church leader has been convicted of such a charge.

He could face three and a half to seven years in prison for his conviction on the third-degree felony.

A Philadelphia judge ordered Lynn, 61, to remain in jail until his sentencing despite a request for house arrest by his legal team.

The trial marked the first time U.S. prosecutors have charged not just the priests who allegedly committed abuses but also church leaders for failing to stop them.

Lynn is the highest-ranking cleric accused of covering up allegations of molestation and rape against priests by transferring them to unwitting parishes.

He was found not guilty on a second count of endangerment and on a charge of conspiring to protect a priest accused of abuse.

Lynn's defense team argued during the trial that their client repeatedly told higher-ups about the alleged abuse and, under strict orders from the late Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, had no authority to remove priests from the ministry.

The same jury that convicted Lynn was unable to bring a verdict against his co-defendant, the Rev. James Brennan, who was accused of attempted rape of a 14 year old.

The Philadelphia district attorney's office announced Monday it will retry Brennan.

He is due in court for a status hearing on August 14.

"James Brennan used his position as a priest to prey upon and victimize" a young man, District Attorney Seth Williams said in a written statement. "It is extremely important that Brennan be held accountable for his crime, not just for his victim but for all victims of sexual abuse."

Defense attorney William Brennan, no relation to Lynn's co-defendant, said he is "disappointed" and "perplexed" by the district attorney's decision to retry his client.

"They took their best shot. Enough is enough," Brennan said. "Oftentimes we hear about justice for the victims. But what about justice for Father Brennan?"
 

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