Priest in abuse case disputes charge

Monsignor Wil­li­am Lynn, the first mem­ber of the Ro­man Cath­ol­ic Church’s Amer­ic­an lead­er­ship to be charged with child en­dan­ger­ment for al­legedly en­abling sexu­ally ab­us­ive priests, main­tained in court on Monday that pro­sec­utors were mis­taken to charge him at all.

Com­mon Pleas Court Judge Lil­lian Ransom said she would hear ar­gu­ments on the monsignor’s as­ser­tion in Ju­ly. 

Ac­cord­ing to on­line court re­cords, Lynn and four oth­er de­fend­ants will ap­pear be­fore Ransom in Courtroom 1005 of the Crim­in­al Justice Cen­ter, 13th and Fil­bert streets, on Ju­ly 29. 

Lynn, two oth­er priests, a former priest and a former Cath­ol­ic school teach­er are fa­cing charges in con­nec­tion with al­leged child mo­lesta­tions. 

Ar­res­ted after a grand jury in Feb­ru­ary re­leased its re­port on sexu­al ab­use by clergy in Phil­adelphia’s Ro­man Cath­ol­ic arch­diocese were Ed­ward Avery, a de­frocked priest; the Revs. Charles En­gel­hardt and James Bren­nan; Bern­ard Shero, a former teach­er at St. Jerome’s School in Winchester Park; and Lynn.

The Phil­adelphia In­quirer and KYW re­por­ted the de­fend­ants’ law­yers told Ransom on Monday that their cli­ents had been offered pris­on sen­tences of 7  1/2 to 15 years in re­turn for guilty pleas, but that all of the men had re­jec­ted the deals and pleaded not guilty.

Be­sides hear­ing ar­gu­ments that Lynn was charged in er­ror, Ransom will hear ar­gu­ments for and against the charge that the de­fend­ants had been en­gaged in a con­spir­acy, the In­quirer re­por­ted. 

The news­pa­per said at­tor­neys for the de­fend­ants claimed that some of their cli­ents didn’t know each oth­er and could, there­fore, not have con­spired.

In 2010, a Phil­adelphia grand jury was im­paneled to in­vest­ig­ate Avery and En­gel­hardt after the Arch­diocese of Phil­adelphia re­ferred in­form­a­tion about them to the dis­trict at­tor­ney’s of­fice. In the course of their in­vest­ig­a­tion, grand jur­ors began look­ing at Bren­nan and Shero, and then at Lynn, who had served as sec­ret­ary of clergy for Car­din­al An­thony Bevilac­qua, the city’s pre­vi­ous arch­bish­op.

Earli­er this year the five men were ar­res­ted, and all but Lynn face charges of child sexu­al as­sault linked to mo­lesta­tions that al­legedly oc­curred dur­ing the 1990s. The grand jury al­leged that Lynn’s in­ac­tion had al­lowed two of the priests to con­tin­ue mo­lest­ing par­ish young­sters; he has been charged with reck­lessly en­dan­ger­ing the wel­fare of chil­dren.

Lynn’s case is the first in the na­tion in which a mem­ber of a Ro­man Cath­ol­ic hier­archy has been ac­cused of fos­ter­ing an en­vir­on­ment for sexu­al ab­use, but not as a child mo­lester him­self.

His at­tor­neys, Thomas Bergstrom and Jef­frey Lindy, ar­gued that Lynn’s job of in­vest­ig­at­ing charges of sexu­al ab­use against priests did not put him in dir­ect su­per­vi­sion of chil­dren, and, there­fore, the com­mon­wealth’s child-en­dan­ger­ment law did not ap­ply to his con­duct, as the grand jury con­cluded it had.  ull;•

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