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New trial for priest set on eve of Lynn sentencing in abuse scandal

Former priest, Reverend James Brennan exits the courthouse for lunch while the jury deliberates on the sexual abuse trial in Philadelphia, P
Former priest, Reverend James Brennan exits the courthouse for lunch while the jury deliberates on the sexual abuse trial in Philadelphia, P

By Dave Warner

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - Prosecutors said on Monday they would retry a key figure in the child sex abuse case involving Monsignor William Lynn, the most senior clergyman convicted in the U.S. Roman Catholic Church scandal.

A new trial for the Reverend James Brennan, 49, on charges of attempted rape and child endangerment was announced on Monday before Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina.

On Tuesday, Sarmina will sentence Lynn, 61, who faces up to seven years in prison for child endangerment. He has been in jail since his conviction on June 22 after a three-month joint trial with Brennan.

Lynn, as the former secretary for the clergy for the Philadelphia Archdiocese, was essentially personnel director for 800 priests, including Brennan.

Lynn was convicted of covering up sex abuse allegations, often by transferring predatory priests to unsuspecting parishes.

The sweeping sex abuse scandal rocked the Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia, the nation's sixth largest, with 1.5 million members.

The jury that convicted Lynn was unable to reach a verdict on Brennan, accused of child endangerment and the attempted rape of a 14-year-old boy in 1996.

"It is extremely important that Brennan be held accountable for his crime, not just for his victim, but for all victims of sexual abuse," District Attorney Seth Williams said in a statement after announcing Brennan would be prosecuted again.

"James Brennan used his position as a priest to prey upon and victimize this young man," the prosecutor said.

Brennan's defense lawyer, William Brennan, who is not related, said the jury that failed to reach a unanimous decision had voted 11-1 to acquit on attempted rape, with a similar vote on the endangerment charge.

"One of the jurors posted it on the Internet," the defense lawyer said.

"I was optimistic that they (the prosecutors) would see it our way after going through such a mega trial, but that's not up to me, it's up to the DA. ... It seems to me they took their best shot," the defense lawyer said.

At the trial, Brennan's accuser, now 30, testified he was molested while he shared Brennan's bed at his apartment.

"I was scared," he testified. "I thought he would kill me or something. I didn't know, I was a little boy."

(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Peter Cooney)

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