A jury convicted Msgr. William J. Lynn of child endangerment Friday, finding that as the Archdiocese of Philadelphia secretary for clergy he ignored credible warning signs about a priest who later sexually assaulted a 10-year-old altar boy.
The verdict, after a three-month trial, marked the first time since the clergy-sex-abuse scandal erupted a decade ago that a Catholic Church supervisor had been found criminally liable for child-sex crimes by a priest.
Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina immediately revoked Lynn's bail, and deputy sheriffs escorted the white-haired monsignor to a holding cell. Lynn faces up to seven years in prison, and prosecutors vowed to seek a term near the maximum.
The jury of seven men and five women acquitted Lynn on two other counts and deadlocked on attempted-rape and child-endangerment charges against his codefendant, the Rev. James J. Brennan.
District Attorney Seth Williams said his office would review the evidence before deciding whether to retry Brennan, who was accused of trying to rape a 14-year-old boy in 1996.
Williams and activists hailed Lynn's conviction as an unprecedented victory for thousands of children who were abused by priests over decades.
"This monumental case in many ways will change the way business is done in many institutions - be they religious institutions, educational institutions, day camps - where people will not protect predators," Williams said.
Lynn, 61, sat stone-faced with his eyes cast downward when jurors read their verdict after nearly 13 days of deliberations. His family members sobbed in the courtroom's front rows as he took off his black clerical blazer, spoke briefly to his lawyers, and ambled through a side door to a cell.
The lawyers, Thomas Bergstrom and Jeffrey Lindy, said that they would petition the judge on Monday to release Lynn on house arrest, and that they expected to appeal the conviction.
"He's upset. He's crushed," Lindy told reporters. "He didn't want to do anything other than help kids."
The verdict followed years of investigation and a trial that put a spotlight on thousands of confidential church records and decades of complaints of child-sex abuse by priests in the Philadelphia region. Many were locked away in the archdiocese's Secret Archives, files that cataloged decades of misconduct allegations against priests.
At the center was Lynn, the former aide to Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua who emerged as a primary target during two grand jury investigations over the last decade.
As clergy secretary from 1992 to 2004, Lynn was the administrator the cardinal tapped to investigate the complaints, and recommend treatment or assignments for accused priests.
Prosecutors asserted that his job became more about protecting the church than protecting children. Lynn, they said, lied to some victims, never sought out others, and, in a few cases, suggested to priests that they may have been seduced by their young accusers.
Jurors found Lynn guilty of endangerment for letting Edward Avery, then a parish priest, live and celebrate Mass at St. Jerome Church in Northeast Philadelphia in the mid-1990s.
The evidence showed that Lynn knew Avery had abused a teen boy he met at a Montgomery County parish in the 1970s. In 1994, Lynn included Avery on a list of 13 priests he deemed "guilty of sexual misconduct with minors."
But instead of being removed, Avery was treated at a church-owned hospital and reassigned to hospital chaplaincy. He was allowed to live in the rectory at St. Jerome, a sprawling parish with an elementary school.
In 1999, Avery twice sexually assaulted a 10-year-old altar boy at the church. Defrocked in 2006, Avery pleaded guilty to the assault in March.
The onetime altar boy, now 23, was one of nearly 20 alleged victims who testified at the trial. Most described, often in graphic and tearful testimony, how their parish priests had groped, molested, or raped them when they were young and how the abuse shaped and in some cases ruined their lives.
In a disputed ruling, the judge let prosecutors introduced evidence about nearly two dozen other priests who weren't charged or represented in the case. The prosecutors argued that it was necessary for jurors to understand how Lynn's decisions reflected a long-standing pattern or practice by church leaders. But the effect was weeks of testimony that seemed to put the church itself on trial.
Jurors weren't necessarily convinced of a larger plot. They acquitted Lynn of conspiring with Avery or others.
"This was not about the Catholic Church - this was about what people did," said Isa Logan, a 35-year-old bank worker from West Philadelphia who served as jury foreman.
Lynn's lawyers noted that he was acquitted on three of the original four charges against him. (The judge had ruled another conspiracy count unproven during the trial.)