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Imprisoned Catholic cleric remains behind bars as he awaits sentencing

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 11:16 AM EDT, Thu July 5, 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 was convicted of child endangerment
  • His attorneys had filed a motion to release the 61-year-old on house arrest
  • A judge rejects the motion

(CNN) -- A judge Thursday rejected a request by the highest-ranking Catholic Church cleric convicted in a child abuse case to be released from detention and placed on house arrest until sentencing.

Monsignor William Lynn was convicted on June 22 of one count of child endangerment. Sentencing is scheduled for July 24.

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

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.

After the verdict, his attorneys filed a motion requesting that their client be released on house arrest pending his sentencing. He could face three-and-a-half to seven years in prison for his conviction on the third-degree felony.

Philadelphia D.A.: Verdict is a victory

Jeffrey Lindy, one of Lynn's lawyers, has criticized an earlier decision against letting 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 strongly opposed house arrest.

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

The issue was argued on June 26 in front of a packed courtroom in Philadelphia. 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.

Sarmina at that hearing allowed prosecutors a week to consult legal analysts and the 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 were to be taken in the event Lynn fled to the Vatican, which has no extradition treaties.

She also instructed the defense to consult with Lynn to ensure he is aware of the consequences should he flee.

Afterward, Thomas Bergstrom, another one of Lynn's attorneys, was emphatic with reporters outside the courthouse. "Get the hell out of here, he's not going to the Vatican," he said. "That's ridiculous."

He added that his client is incredibly strong considering the circumstances.

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