It was a mixed verdict in the landmark clergy sex abuse trial as the jury found Monsignor William Lynn, former secretary of clergy for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, guilty of endangering the welfare of children, but not guilty on two other charges, and could not reach a verdict for Rev. James Brennan, who was accused of attempting to molest a 14-year-old boy.
Lynn, who was the first Roman Catholic church official charged in the sex abuse scandal, could face three and a half years to seven years in prison when he is sentenced. Immediately following the verdict, Common Pleas Court Judge Teresa Sarmina ruled in favor of a motion by prosecutors to revoke Lynn’s bail and ordered him to prison.
Lynn’s attorneys said they will request house arrest for Lynn until sentencing, but had not decided whether to appeal the verdict. They described Lynn’s reaction as shocked.
“He’s upset, he’s crushed,” attorney Jeff Lindy said after the hearing. “He’s in custody and he didn’t want anything other than to help kids.”
Prosecutors essentially argued that Lynn, who was in charge of investigating abuse allegations in his role from 1992 to 2004, engaged in a coverup to protect the church. Lynn claimed that he tried to remove priests, but was ultimately thwarted by his superiors.
Despite the fact that jurors concluded Lynn did not conspire to cover up abuse, District Attorney Seth Williams called the verdict a “monumental victory for all the named and unnamed victims of child sexual abuse.”
“This trial was historic. Monsignor Lynn is the first member of the Roman Catholic church hierarchy convicted of endangering children he did not personally assault; however, there is no verdict that can fix the harm done [by] adult predators in the church. … All that there is is an opportunity to ensure that something like this never happens again,” Williams said.
He acknowledged that Lynn was not the only one with “dirty hands” and that others in the church could be charged.
“Yes, there are many people that are responsible. We took the people we had the most evidence for,” he explained. “This trial was not about a specific religion. This is about evil men who did evil things to children they should have protected.”
Prosecutors have not yet decided if they will seek to re-try Brennan, Williams said, but he urged victims to come forward and report instances of abuse directly to law enforcement.