PHILADELPHIA – A Philadelphia jury wasted no time Friday in homing in on the alleged "smoking gun" as it started deliberations in a groundbreaking clergy-abuse case.
Jurors broke for the weekend after deliberating in the afternoon in the trial of a former Roman Catholic church official. Monsignor William Lynn is charged with conspiracy and child endangerment for allegedly keeping predator-priests in ministry.
Jurors quickly asked for a half-dozen exhibits, including a gray folder found in a locked safe at the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. The folder contains a list of 35 suspected predator-priests — and was compiled by Lynn in 1994. At least one priest on the list was a parish pastor until this year.
Lynn, the former secretary for clergy, testified that he created the list from secret church files containing hundreds of child sex-abuse complaints. He said he hoped Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua and other superiors would address the growing crisis.
Another secret memo shows Bevilacqua had the list shredded. Jurors asked to review the "shred memo" as well.
It's unclear who put the surviving copy of Lynn's list in the safe. Lynn denied doing so, or owning the safe. The gray file was found when the safe was smashed open in 2006, two years after Lynn left his archdiocese job. An in-house lawyer said he put the gray folder in his files in 2006 without realizing the list — sought by a grand jury in 2004 — was inside.
A new team of outside lawyers for the archdiocese turned it over to prosecutors in early February, days after Bevilacqua died. Lynn's trial started March 26.
Lynn faces about 10 to 20 years in prison if convicted of conspiracy and two counts of child endangerment.
The jury heard from more than a dozen alleged victims, including a nun, a former priest and a series of troubled adults.
Lynn said he did more than his colleagues to help victims and advance the church's response to both accusers and the accused priests, who were often sent for evaluation or treatment before transfers to new, unsuspecting parishes. Lynn said that only Bevilacqua had the power to remove priests from ministry.
But prosecutors say Lynn could have quit or called police. Instead, he stayed in the job for 12 years — and acknowledged he never once contacted authorities.
Lynn's co-defendant, the Rev. James Brennan, is charged with molesting a teen in 1996. His lawyer calls the accuser, who has a lengthy criminal record, a con man seeking a payout.
Brennan, 49, did not testify, while Lynn spent three days on the witness stand.
On cross-examination, he acknowledged that he had not helped the 10-year-old altar boy raped by the Rev. Edward Avery in 1999, seven years after Lynn met with another Avery accuser.
"And I'm sorry about that," Lynn said.
Avery is in prison after admitting the crime.
Seven men and five women sit on the city jury. 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.