Jury asks to see the list of predator priests
— The jury also asked to see the cardinal's memo ordering the list to be shredded.
Jurors deliberating in the Philadelphia clerical sex abuse trial sent word that they wanted to see the list.
Besides asking the judge to see the roster of priests who were confirmed child molesters or suspected of such abuse, the jury’s seven men and five women wanted to see the memo ordering the list’s destruction. Monsignor William Lynn, the only high-ranking administrator in the Roman Catholic Church to stand trial in connection with the sex abuse scandal, had compiled the list.
Lynn is charged with two counts of endangering the welfare of children by allowing two priests, who later were charged with molesting kids, to continue in their ministries. He has pleaded not guilty, and was tried along with one of those priests, the Rev. James Brennan, who is accused of attempting to rape a 14-year-old suburban youth in the 1990s. Brennan, too, has pleaded not guilty.
After a 10-week trial at the Criminal Justice Center, jurors began their deliberations on Friday, took a break over the weekend, and resumed their secret discussions on Monday and Tuesday.
Lynn testified he had compiled the list of 35 priests soon after he was named the secretary for clergy of Philadelphia’s Roman Catholic Archdiocese in 1992. Part of his duties during his dozen years in that job was to investigate priests accused of sexual misconduct. He said he went through archdiocesan files and drew up the list so he could assess how much of a problem such misconduct was, and pass that information along to his superiors.
Prosecutors had argued that the list showed Lynn knew there were predator priests in the archdiocese and that he did not prevent them from having contact with children. Lynn’s attorneys have argued that the very same list proves Lynn was trying to do what he could to root out those molesters, but could only recommend treatment or actions to his superiors.
Introduced as evidence in the case was a memo from Lynn’s boss, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, ordering the list’s shredding. Lynn has maintained he never received that memo, and had no part in destruction of copies of the list.
Jurors asked for the list and the shredding memo during the first day of deliberations on Friday.
On Monday, they also wanted Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina to clarify the conspiracy charge against Lynn, the endangering children charge ?? and the attempted rape charge against Brennan.
They also wanted to know what they should do if they reached a verdict on one defendant before they reached one for the other. They asked if they should inform the court immediately of the first verdict, Sarmina said.
Both prosecutors and defense attorneys asked the judge to tell them to keep deliberating until they had two verdicts.
Thomas Bergstrom, one of Lynn’s attorneys, said that Edward Avery, a defrocked priest who pleaded guilty to molesting a boy before he was to go on trial with Lynn and Brennan, must be included in the conspiracy charge against Lynn if jurors are to find Lynn guilty of that charge.
Without Avery, the conspiracy charge against Lynn made no sense, Bergstrom said.
The conspiracy charge was added after Lynn, Brennan and Avery were arrested in February 2011, along with the Rev. Charles Engelhardt and Bernard Shero, a former parish school teacher, who both will be tried in September. The charge against Shero was dismissed in the spring, and Sarmina dismissed the conspiracy charge against Brennan and against Lynn in regard to Brennan when the prosecution rested on May 17.
On Monday, Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington told Sarmina that Lynn and unnamed others had participated in a conspiracy to shield molesters among the archdiocese’s clergy and keep them working. That Lynn agreed with someone to keep Avery in his ministry is all the jurors needed to determine, he said.
Sarmina’s answer, which included a reference to Avery, might have confused the jurors more, Lynn’s attorneys said for the trial’s record when the jury retired to continue its deliberations.
Avery pleaded guilty to raping a 10-year-old altar boy in St. Jerome parish in the Northeast’s Winchester Park section the week before the trial started on March 26. Avery, the rape, and his and Lynn’s actions before that crime were big parts of the trial, But Avery’s plea and subsequent sentence of two and half to five years imprisonment were not mentioned at the trial, and he did not testify. Jurors also were not told why Avery was not present.
Engelhardt allegedly had raped the same boy at the parish before Avery. The victim, who testified at the trial, also allegedly was raped by Shero, who taught at St. Jerome’s parish school. Engelhardt and Shero both have pleaded not guilty.
The archdiocese had reported Engelhardt and Avery to authorities, and a grand jury started investigating them. In the course of that investigation, grand jurors began looking at Brennan, too, and called for his arrest in connection with ??attemped rape of a Bucks County teen. Grand jurors also investigated Shero and called for his arrest.
Grand jurors held Lynn, who acted as the archdiocesan personnel director, responsible for Avery’s crime and for the crime they said Brennan committed. Those endangering children charges against Lynn are what make the case a first of its kind because Lynn is the first member of the Catholic Church’s American hierarchy so accused.
Though Bevilacqua died in January, before the trial began, he, too, was a big part of the case. Lynn’s defense attorneys held the former Philadelphia archbishop responsible for decisions to keep suspected predator priests on the job, claiming that Lynn was at the low end of the archdiocese’s top management. Although the cardinal’s testimony was videotaped in November, the tape was not played at the trial.