By Tony Hanson
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A trial began today in an unprecedented case of a priest charged with raping a boy and a monsignor charged with endangering children as part of what authorities say was a Philadelphia archdiocese-wide criminal conspiracy. The attorneys for Lynn and Brennan have now outlined their defense.
The defendants have pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Prosecutor Jacqueline Coelho opened the prosecution’s case by telling the jury that Msgr. William Lynn endangered children.
It was his job to investigate allegations of sexual abuse, but Coelho says Lynn paid lip service to the protection of children while protecting the priests now charged with (and in at least one case admitting to) abusing children.
Coelho told jurors that Lynn, with a secret file of the complaints, was the keeper of the secrets. And he kept parishoners in the dark, she said, because there was a concerted effort to protect the church from scandal even if it endangered additional children.
Lynn’s attorneys have argued that he took steps to deal with clergy abuse but had no power to do anything else, because of an overarching Archdiocese conspiracy involving multiple church officials, but not Lynn.
Lynn, and Father James Brennan, who is charged with the attempted rape of a 14-year-old, both have pleaded not guilty.
Edward Avery, 69, who sat alongside Lynn and Brennan during jury selection, is now out of the case, after he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 2½-5 years in prison.
This morning, prior to opening statements, Judge Teresa Sarmina ruled that the jurors in the case had not been not tainted by Avery’s guilty plea last week (see related story).
The prosecution says he has not agreed to testify against his fellow defendants. Attorneys for Lynn and Brennan cited the local and national coverage of the Avery development, saying there was no way jurors could have avoided it and not been prejudiced by it.
The judge ruled this morning that the jurors were not tainted by the Avery guilty plea.