Philadelphia Criminal Law News

It's Finally Over: Msgr. William J. Lynn Convicted, Faces Prison

An unprecedented trial that seemingly lasted forever, especially during jury deliberations, has finally come to a close with a conviction on one count and a deadlock on two others, reports the New York Times.

Monsignor William J. Lynn was convicted, after almost two weeks of deliberation, of endangering children after he allowed predators to continue ministering to youths. The tragic decision resulted in the preventable alleged molestation of a 10-year-old victim.

His co-defendant, Rev. James J. Brennan, will remain free for now, as the jury deadlocked on the charges of attempted rape and endangerment charges against him, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The trial has been one surprise after another. In a way, it almost seemed as if the three-month trial was catharsis through legal proceedings. Accusations of molestations were paraded through the court, one after another. A mountain of evidence of church cover-ups and enabling of sexual predators was presented as well. The real surprise, however, is that it took this long for a district attorney's office to convict a senior Roman Catholic Church official.

The Philadelphia District Attorney's office began its investigation of the Philadelphia Archdiocese back in 2002, after the entire nation was rocked with story after story after story of priests behaving inappropriately with children. Now, ten years later, we finally have a single conviction to show for it.

Make no mistake, Msgr. William Lynn is facing significant prison time. He could be facing anywhere from three and a half to seven years on the single endangerment charge. That's a long sentence for a 61-year-old church official.

One does wonder, however, if this will be the first, last, and only conviction of a Catholic Church official. Despite the widespread accusations of pedophile priests across the nation, many of the offenses will probably too old to prosecute under each state's statute of limitations. Factor in the cost in terms of dollars and the man-hours necessary to prosecute the charges, and it almost seems like a fool's errand.

Even after the millions spent on legal defense, and the settlements reached with accusers, and Lynn's possible prison stint, some will still feel like the pedophiles and enablers are getting off easy.

Unfortunately, the constraints of pragmatism and the legal system may dictate that they only answer to a higher power.

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