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Catholic child abuse cover-up case heads to jury

01/06/2012

Philadelphia (CNN) — Jury deliberations could start Friday in the landmark trial of Monsignor William Lynn, the highest-ranking cleric charged with endangering children by allegedly helping cover up sexual abuse.

Lynn is accused of knowingly allowing dangerous priests to continue in the ministry in roles in which they had access to children.

Also on trial is the Rev. James Brennan, who is accused of the attempted rape of a 14-year-old. Both Brennan and Lynn have pleaded not guilty.

Lynn is the first high-ranking church figure charged with child endangerment for allegedly shuffling predator priests from parish to parish.

If convicted, he faces up to 21 years in prison.

Now-defrocked priest Edward Avery was due to go on trial with Brennan and Lynn, but he pleaded guilty in March after admitting to sexually assaulting a 10-year-old altar boy during the 1998-1999 school year.

Avery, 69, was sentenced to two-and-a-half to five years in prison.

A 2011 grand jury report led the Philadelphia district attorney’s office to criminally charge four Philadelphia priests and a parochial school teacher with raping and assaulting boys in their care, while Lynn was accused of allowing the abusive priests to have access to children.

The trial marks the first time U.S. prosecutors have charged not just the priests who allegedly committed the abuses, but an official — Lynn — who stands accused of failing to stop the assaults.

Brennan’s accuser, now in his 30s, was a former altar boy who cried on the stand weeks earlier as he described the incident. The man, a former Marine, was discharged because of mental health issues.
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