US Catholic priest found guilty in child abuse case


page20aPHILADELPHIA

A monsignor who oversaw hundreds of priests in the Philadelphia Archdiocese was found guilty on Friday of one count of endangering the welfare of a child, making him the first senior U.S. Roman Catholic Church official to be convicted for covering up child sex abuse.

The jury acquitted Monsignor William Lynn on two other counts–conspiracy and another charge of child endangerment–after 10 weeks of testimony in a trial that raised questions about personal responsibility and institutional constraints within the church hierarchy.

Removing his black clerical jacket but leaving on his collar, a stoic Lynn, 61, was led out of the courtroom and into custody by deputy sheriffs as his family members wept. "Every juror there wanted to do justice. … We wanted to do what was right," jury foreman Isa Logan, 35, a bank customer service representative, told reporters outside the courtroom.

Sentencing for Lynn, who faces up to seven years in prison, was set for August 13 by Judge M. Teresa Sarmina. "This is a monumental victory for the named and un-named victims," said Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams. "This was about evil men who did evil things to children."

While the district attorney’s office argued that Lynn should immediately be jailed, the judge said she would consider house arrest if the defense asked for it.

The jury deliberated 13 days before reaching the mixed decision in the trial of Lynn, who, prosecutors charged, covered up child sex abuse allegations, often by transferring priests to unsuspecting parishes. Lawyers for Lynn said they planned to appeal the case.

"The case against Lynn was part of a broader indictment against clergy in the Philadelphia Archdiocese. One of the priests, Reverend James Brennan, was tried along with Lynn and faced charges of attempted rape and child endangerment. The jury was unable to reach a verdict on the counts against Brennan.

A third priest who was scheduled to go on trial with Lynn and Brennan pleaded guilty at the last minute to sexually assaulting a 10-year-old altar boy at church in 1999.

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