By Amaris Elliott-Engel
Of the Legal Staff
As jurors in the Philadelphia priest sex-abuse trial ended their eighth day of deliberations, they asked the trial judge that if endangering the welfare of a child was the result of criminal conspiracy, does that crime have to have been the intent of participants in the conspiracy.
After hearing arguments from both sides’ counsel, Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge M. Teresa Sarmina told them that endangering the welfare of a child is alleged to be the conspiracy between defendant Monsignor William J. Lynn and former priest Edward V. Avery. “The intent does not have to be criminal in nature,” the judge concluded.
Lynn is accused of endangering the welfare of two men who testified they were respectively abused by former priest James J. Brennan, who is maintaining his innocence, or Avery, who pled guilty to the abuse.
Lynn also is accused of conspiring with Avery to endanger the welfare of D.G. and other unnamed youths. Sarmina acquitted Brennan and Lynn of a conspiracy charge levied against both of them regarding M.B.
The Legal is not naming alleged victims.
After Sarmina gave the answer to the jury, Lynn’s defense attorney, Thomas A. Bergstrom, said that he thought telling the jury “the intent does not have to be criminal” would effectively remove the intent element from the jury’s consideration.
Bergstrom’s arguments inspired prosecutor Patrick Blessington to launch into heated criticism of Bergstrom. “I’ve seen better manners in a barnyard,” Blessington said.
Bergstrom retorted, “I’m getting tired of personal attacks on counsel.”
Sarmina did not address the attorneys’ discourse, instead announcing that the jury was ready to go home.
The jury also had asked if the overt act required for a conspiracy could be an act of concealment. Sarmina told them that it could be.