Judge Rules 5 Defendants In Priest Sex Abuse Case Will Be Tried Together
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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A Philadelphia judge has ruled on pre-trial motions, finding a Monsignor, three priests and a lay teacher charged with endangering and sexually abusing children will be tried together (see related article).
Defense attorneys for Monsignor William Lynn; priests Edward Avery, Charles Engelhardt and James Brennan; and lay teacher Bernard Shero had argued that certain charges, including conspiracy, should be dismissed and the defendants should be tried separately.
Defense attorney Thomas Bergstrom, who represents Monsignor Lynn, says, “She denied the motions to sever. She denied the motions to dismiss as to my client and we are all going to go to trial together.” The judge also blocked defense attempts to appeal her rulings pre-trial.
Judge Lillian Ransom did dismiss conspiracy charges against the lay teacher, but he still faces rape of a child and other charges and again, will be tried with the other defendants.
There’s a gag order, so the case attorneys could not comment on the ruling. But veteran defense attorney Allan Sagot, who is not involved in the case, says being tried together can cause a number of problems for the defense.
“First of all, if you have a client, when the evidence against that particular client is minimal, you don’t want him tried with the others. You want to be able to isolate him.”
And Sagot says a jury could consider the defendants are part of group and unfairly consider evidence against one defendant against other defendants.
If convicted, Msgr. William Lynn, who is not charged with the assaults, but with assigning priests to posts where they could commit new attacks, would be the highest Catholic Church official ever criminally sanctioned.
All of the defendants have pleaded not guilty (see related story).
The trial for the 5 suspects is expected to begin early next year.
Reported by Tony Hanson, KYW Newsradio; Walt Hunter, CBS 3