One conviction is better than none. Don't forget that.
It's easy to focus on totals and percentages when tallying victory and defeat. Everyone loves a rout; a one-run shutout is still a big win.
Before last week, no high-ranking Catholic official anywhere had been held accountable for the sexual abuse of children by anointed representatives of God.
As of Friday, one has. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia's Msgr. William J. Lynn has a new title: third-degree felon guilty of endangering the welfare of a minor.
Thursday night, Lynn rested comfortably at home. Friday, the once-powerful church leader who speculated that a boy had "seduced" a priest left the Criminal Justice Center with a sheriff's deputy escort to county jail.
Yes, two priests were facing five charges and only one was convicted. The attempted-rape case against the Rev. James J. Brennan confounded jurors and ended in a mistrial after 13 days of deliberation. Lynn was found not guilty on two of the three counts against him.
No matter. If you are a scarred victim, a regretful parent, an angry lapsed Catholic, or a patient Mass-goer eager for institutional change, one conviction will do.
"The D.A.'s office got a tremendous repudiation on the conspiracy charge," noted one of Lynn's defense attorneys, Jeff Lindy, "but this is a major step for prosecutors across the country and a success for Seth Williams."
The significance of the case is not the hung jury, Lindy reminded.
"It's that they got a conviction against the highest-ranking church official in U.S. history."
Jurors sat through 11 weeks of testimony from 60 witnesses involving countless stories of pedophiles and nearly two dozen victims. More than 2,000 documents were entered into evidence. When readers complained about deliberations dragging, I told them, "You try remembering something you heard from a stranger three months ago."
From the start, I feared prosecutors might be overreaching.
The D.A's Office won the right to include decades worth of rape and molestation claims to show how the archdiocese cared more about its image than the innocents in the pews. Only then, prosecutors argued, could they show that Lynn followed time-tested treachery.
The strategy had merits, but often strained the brain to imagine Lynn doing penance in a prison for other men's sadism.
"We're all victims here," Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington implored in his closing argument. "We've got one shot for justice, and this is it."
So much for my predictions. I found Brennan's alleged victim compelling, but jury foreman Isa Logan said the panel had focused on who didn't speak.
"Some of us felt we may have wanted to hear from Brennan."
I thought Lynn bombed on the stand, especially after he practically admitted that his actions (or inaction) allowed a known predator to strike again.
"It was a good thing," Logan said of the testimony. "We needed to be able to hear him."
But when I pressed about whether Lynn convicted himself, Logan demurred: "I won't say."
One epic sex trial does not guarantee that more will follow, but I wouldn't bet this is the end of the Philadelphia inquisition.
Brennan could be retried or agree to a plea bargain to avoid the ordeal.
Defrocked priest Edward Avery pleaded guilty on the eve of the trial and is serving 21/2 to five years for sexually assaulting an altar boy. The Rev. Charles Engelhardt and Bernard Shero, a former Catholic schoolteacher, are to be tried in the fall for allegedly assaulting the same victim.
Two bishops and a lawyer could face charges for their alleged roles in a saga over destroyed evidence. Fresh allegations against other priests could lead to more indictments.
"Everything you wrote is within the realm of possibility," Williams, the district attorney, said when I shared those scenarios. "I will consider all options."
Lindy made a bolder prediction: "If they've got a victim, they'll go forward. That's their obligation."
Because after scoring a big win against Lynn, a man who should have stopped criminals in their tracks, prosecutors are left to do the job he refused to do.
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