Priest gets probation in plea deal

The Rev. James Brennan leaves the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia after a session of his 2012 trial.

An Archdiocese of Philadelphia priest accused of trying to rape a teenage boy will receive probation after pleading no contest Monday.

Jury selection had been set for Monday for the Rev. James J. Brennan's retrial on charges of attempted rape and endangerment, but a deal was reached Monday, according to the District Attorney's Office.

Brennan, 53, pleaded no contest to one count of simple assault and will be sentenced to two years' probation. He has not been in active ministry for more than 10 years.

Brennan's attorney, William J. Brennan, said he was confident that a retrial would result in an acquittal but that the offer from the District Attorney's Office "was simply too good to refuse."

"It's the same level as a first-time DUI," said the attorney, who is not related to his client.

The District Attorney's Office said the deal was reached with "the victim's consideration and input."

James Brennan was one of two defendants in an archdiocese sex-abuse case. A mistrial was declared in Brennan's case in 2012 when jurors deliberated for 13 days and could not reach verdicts.

His codefendant, Msgr. William J. Lynn, was convicted of a count of child endangerment over his supervision of priests accused of sexually abusing children and was sentenced to three to six years in prison.

In July, however, the state Supreme Court affirmed a lower-court decision reversing Lynn's conviction and ordering a new trial. Lynn, 65, who had spent nearly three years in prison, was released Aug. 2 from the state prison at Waymart on $250,000 bail. He is awaiting a new trial, set for May 1, 2017.

According to archdiocesan spokesman Ken Gavin, the archdiocese is waiting for a decision from the Vatican on James Brennan's laicization.

William Brennan said the archdiocese did not pay for his client's defense or support him in any way.

"He'll move on with his life," the lawyer said. "He's still a priest."

narkj@phillynews.com

215-854-5916 @jasonnark

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