Landmark Priest Sex Abuse Trial Begins

Last-minute guilty plea sends defense's strategy into disarray

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 26, 2012 7:50 AM CDT

(Newser) – Two Catholic priests are set to go on trial in Philadelphia for charges related to alleged child sexual abuse today, and their chances of victory look a lot lower than they did last week. Monsignor William Lynn is the first church official charged with child endangerment for failing to remove two alleged abusers from their posts, the AP reports. One of those alleged abusers, Rev. James Brennan, is on trial alongside him, charged with raping a 14-year-old boy in 1996. But the other, Edward Avery, submitted a last-minute guilty plea.

Avery confirmed the story of a 10-year-old altar boy he was accused of raping in 1999, and said that the archdiocese knew of the complaint yet kept him in parish positions. Avery now faces 2.5 to 5 years in prison, and his former co-defendents face an uphill climb, given that their strategy had revolved around questioning the credibility of the accusers. If they are convicted, civil lawyers think it will help them refile a host of priest abuse lawsuits. Philadelphia prosecutors have also hinted that they may charge other church officials for what they think was an "archdiocesan-wide policy."

Mug shots are seen for, from left, Edward V. Avery, Monsignor William Lynn, and the Rev. James J. Brennan.
Mug shots are seen for, from left, Edward V. Avery, Monsignor William Lynn, and the Rev. James J. Brennan.   (AP Photo, File)
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