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Judge orders Catholic cleric to remain in jail for now

By Sarah Hoye, CNN
updated 10:01 AM EDT, Wed June 27, 2012
Monsignor William Lynn was found guilty Friday of one count of child endangerment.
Monsignor William Lynn was found guilty Friday of one count of child endangerment.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Monsignor William Lynn must remain in jail for now, a judge rules
  • Lynn's defense attorneys had filed a motion to release the 61-year-old on house arrest
  • A judge has delayed the decision on house arrest, another hearing scheduled for July 5

Philadelphia (CNN) -- The highest-ranking Catholic church cleric charged and convicted in the landmark child sexual abuse trial will remain in jail for the time being, a Philadelphia judge ordered Tuesday.

Monsignor William Lynn was found guilty Friday of one count of child endangerment, the first time a U.S. church leader has been convicted of such a charge.

The trial marked the first time U.S. prosecutors have charged not just the priests who allegedly committed abuses but also church leaders for failing to stop them. Lynn is the highest-ranking cleric accused of imperiling children by helping cover up sexual abuse.

He was found not guilty on a second count of endangerment and on a charge of conspiring to protect a priest accused of abuse.

Philadelphia D.A.: Verdict is a victory

Lynn's defense team argued during the trial that their client repeatedly told higher-ups about the alleged abuse and, under strict orders from the late Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, had no authority to remove priests from the ministry.

On Monday, Lynn's defense attorneys filed a motion requesting that their client be released on house arrest pending his scheduled August 13 sentencing. He could face three-and-a-half to seven years in prison for his conviction on the third-degree felony.

"With every fiber in my body, (fleeing) is a non-issue," said Jeffrey Lindy, one of Lynn's lawyers.

Following Friday's verdict, Lindy criticized the decision not to let his client remain free on bond prior to sentencing, calling it "an unspeakable miscarriage of justice (for) a 61-year-old man with no prior record and long-established ties to the community."

Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington vehemently opposed house arrest.

"It's absurd," Blessington said. "It would truly be an injustice to indulge these people after what they've done."

The hearing to discuss the motion for house arrest took place before a packed courtroom Tuesday. Lynn arrived dressed in all black and without his clerical collar. He wore full clerical garb during the 50 days of the trial and 13 days of jury deliberations.

In addition to his two lead counselors, several of Lynn's family members filled the rows in the gallery. Also in attendance was Rita DeCarolis, the mother of Lynn's deceased sister's husband, who agreed to allow Lynn to stay in her home if he were granted house arrest, at which point one of Lynn's sisters began to weep.

DeCarolis, who lives alone, was briefly called to the witness stand to confirm her understanding of house arrest and to prove her residency to the judge.

"I'm free," she told the court, regarding her availability to house the monsignor.

At the conclusion of Tuesday's hearing, Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Teresa Sarmina delayed her decision on whether Lynn should be placed under house arrest rather than jailed until his sentencing.

Sarmina allowed prosecutors a week to consult legal analysts and Rev. Thomas Doyle -- who was sworn in as an expert witness on Catholicism and its canon law during the trial -- to determine what, if any, steps are to be taken in the event Lynn fled to the Vatican, where there is no extradition.

She also instructed the defense to consult with their client to ensure he was aware of the consequences, should he flee.

"Get the hell out of here, he's not going to the Vatican," another one of Lynn's attorneys, Thomas Bergstrom, told reporters outside of the courthouse, adding that his client is incredibly strong considering the circumstances. "That's ridiculous."

Although Sarmina did not grant the defense motion for release on house arrest pending sentencing, she did initiate the procedure for receiving an electronic monitoring device.

The average wait time for such a device is three to four weeks.

If granted and Lynn were to violate the conditions of house arrest, the judge could sentence him immediately as well as impose the maximum sentence of seven years in prison.

"The risk of flight is going up because he now has something to lose," Assistant District Attorney Mark Cipolletti told reporters outside the courthouse. "This case is unprecedented and on a lot of fronts, it's a case of first impressions."

Lynn surrendered his passport and his bail was increased to $100,000 pending the house arrest judgment.

All parties are due back in court July 5.

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