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PHILADELPHIA - Monsignor William Lynn, the most senior clergyman convicted in the US Roman Catholic Church scandal, was sentenced on Tuesday to three to six years in prison for covering up child sex abuse by priests in Philadelphia.
Lawyers had pushed for Lynn to be spared prison, but Judge Sarmina imposed close to the maximum sentence of three and a half to seven years.
Lynn, who took the witness stand for three days during his 10-week trial, was not charged with molesting children, but rather with covering up the crimes of priests who did.
The highest-ranking US church official convicted of covering up sex crimes by priests, Lynn worked for the late Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, the longtime archbishop of Philadelphia. Among his job responsibilities was investigating sex abuse claims from 1992 to 2004.
Key to Lynn's conviction on June 22, according to the jury foreman, was the monsignor's own testimony that he followed the cardinal's orders to attribute priest's moves to health reasons but never to sex abuse accusations. Testimony also showed Bevilacqua ordered the list of accused priests be destroyed, although a lone copy was found in an archdiocese safe.
The trial, the first in the United States involving a senior official in the Catholic Church, also centered on two more Philadelphia priests.
During the trial the court heard graphic testimony describing sexual abuse in the Philadelphia archdiocese dating back to 1948.
One of the priests, Reverend James Brennan, was tried along with Lynn but a jury was unable to reach a verdict on his charges of attempted rape of a 14-year-old boy and child endangerment. On Monday, prosecutors said they would retry him on those charges.
Defrocked priest Edward Avery, who was scheduled to go on trial with Lynn and Brennan, pleaded guilty at the last minute to sexually assaulting a 10-year-old altar boy and was sentenced to between 2.5 and five years in prison.
Lynn was found not guilty of endangering Brennan's accuser and not guilty of conspiring to endanger that accuser. He was found guilty of endangering Avery's victim, but not guilty of conspiracy with regard to that victim.
Victims' groups hailed the verdict as a major step forward as a court had acknowledged that someone in Lynn's position had endangered a child.
Another priest and the teacher are awaiting trial.