By Tony Hanson and Oren Liebermann
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — In a sudden turn of events, one of the defendants in the Philadelphia priest sex abuse scandal has decided to plead guilty.
Unexpectedly this afternoon, defrocked priest Edward Avery, accused of molesting at least one boy, indicated that he would be pleading guilty, just days before his trial was set to begin.
As part of a plea deal, Avery was immediately sentenced to 2½-5 years in prison and ordered to surrender to authorities within 10 days.
Avery and two others — one a priest and the other a monsignor — were scheduled to go on trial next Monday in a case that has rocked the Archdiocese of Philadelphia with accusations of sex abuse, coverups, and stonewalling (see related story).
In Room 507 of the Criminal Justice Center today, Avery pleaded guilty to two counts — one of sexually assaulting a boy under 13 years of age, and one of conspiring to endanger the welfare of a minor.
Avery also admitted in court that Msgr. Lynn knew that he had sexually abused children but had nevertheless allowed him to remain in ministry.
In a statement of facts read as part of the guilty plea, Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington said, “Avery was aided in his efforts to remain in ministry with unsupervised access to parish children and altar servers b Lynn and others in the Archdiocese.
“Defendant Lynn and other Archdiocese officials acted in concert with Avery with a common purpose to conceal Avery’s known acts of sexual abuse of a minor, so that Avery could remain in ministry without the knowledge of parishioners whose children would be exposed to a man that defendant Lynn and others in the Archdiocese knew presented a danger to children.”
Lynn’s trial is scheduled to begin this coming Monday.
Stay tuned to CBS Philly for additional details on this story as they are received.