PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A Roman Catholic church official was convicted Friday of child endangerment but acquitted of conspiracy in a groundbreaking clergy-abuse trial, becoming the first U.S. church official convicted of a crime for mishandling abuse claims.
Monsignor William Lynn helped the archdiocese keep predators in ministry, and the public in the dark, by telling parishes their priests were being removed for health reasons and then sending the men to unsuspecting churches, prosecutors said.
Lynn, 61, had faced about 10 to 20 years in prison if convicted of all three counts he faced - conspiracy and two counts of child endangerment. He was convicted only on one of the endangerment counts, leaving him with the possibility of 3 1/2 to seven years in prison.
MSGR. WILLIAM LYNN
The jury could not agree on a verdict for Lynn's co-defendant, the Rev. James Brennan, who was accused of sexually abusing a 14-year-old boy.
Monsignor Kevin Quirk of Wheeling, a canon lawyer who presided over Brennan's 2008 church trial, testified in the criminal trial in late April.
Quirk testified that during the canon trial, Brennan admitted to showing pornography to the child on his computer and that they slept in the same bed, but Brennan denied any physical contact with the juvenile. Lynn has been on leave from the church since his arrest last year. He served as secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004, mostly under Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua.
No matter the verdict, the trial exposed how deeply involved the late cardinal was in dealing with accused priests. Rarely an hour of testimony went by without Bevilacqua's name being invoked.
Bevilacqua had the final say on what to do with priests accused of abuse, transferred many of them to new parishes and dressed down anyone who complained, according to testimony. He also ordered the shredding of a 1994 list that warned him that the archdiocese had three diagnosed pedophiles, a dozen confirmed predators and at least 20 more possible abusers in its midst. Prosecutors learned this year that a copy had been stashed in a safe.
Lynn didn't react when the verdict was read and remained sitting in his chair, his head lowered, even when the judge took a brief recess to thank the jury. He also didn't acknowledge the dozen or so family members, some of whom were weeping, sitting behind him in the gallery.
The judge ordered that Lynn's bail be revoked and he was led to jail. The judge said she would at some point entertain a motion for house arrest.
With the verdict, jurors concluded that prosecutors failed to show that Lynn was part of a conspiracy to move predator priests around.
The jury, however, did find that Lynn endangered the victim of defrocked priest Edward Avery, who pleaded guilty before trial to a 1999 sexual assault.
Lynn had deemed Avery "guilty" of an earlier complaint by 1994, and helped steer him into an inpatient treatment program run by the archdiocese. But Lynn knew that Avery later was sent to live in a northeast Philadelphia parish, where the altar boy was assaulted.
Defense lawyers say Lynn alone tried to document the 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."