3 to 6 for Lynn

— The first top of­fi­cial in the Ro­man Cath­ol­ic Church to be con­victed of shield­ing child-mo­lest­ing priests is go­ing to have plenty of time to do some re­flec­tion — in pris­on

Phil­adelphia Dis­trict At­tor­ney Seth Wil­li­ams says Wil­li­am Lynn’s 3-6 year sen­ten­cing is ap­pro­pri­ate and en­cour­ages oth­er vic­tims of sexu­al mo­lesta­tion to step for­ward,Tues­day, Ju­ly 24, 2012, Phil­adelphia, Pa. (Maria Pouch­nikova)


Monsignor Wil­li­am Lynn, the first mem­ber of the Ro­man Cath­ol­ic hier­archy to be found guilty of shield­ing a child-mo­lest­ing priest, was sen­tenced Tues­day to three to six years in pris­on.

Com­mon Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina told Lynn he knew “full well what was right,” but, in­stead, fa­cil­it­ated and sup­por­ted “mon­sters in cler­ic­al garb.”

  Lynn’s at­tor­neys said they planned to ap­peal Lynn’s child en­dan­ger­ment con­vic­tion next month. They said Lynn had been con­victed for the crimes one of his co-de­fend­ants had com­mit­ted against a boy the monsignor had nev­er met.

“He didn’t even know of the ab­use un­til after 2010,” said Jeff Lindy, one of Lynn’s law­yers.

He char­ac­ter­ized his cli­ent’s sen­tence as “not fair, but not un­ex­pec­ted.”

  “It doesn’t make any sense. It nev­er made any sense,” at­tor­ney Thomas Bergstrom said of the case against Lynn.

The monsignor has been in cus­tody since June 22, when a jury found him guilty of one count of en­dan­ger­ing chil­dren after a his­tory-mak­ing three-month tri­al. Lynn was ac­quit­ted of a second en­dan­ger­ing count and a con­spir­acy charge. Lindy said Sarmina will de­cide Aug. 6 if Lynn may be freed on bail while his ap­peal of the con­vic­tion pro­gresses. That ap­peal will be filed after that hear­ing, he said.

On June 22, jur­ors could not make a de­cision on at­temp­ted rape and con­spir­acy charges against Lynn’s co-de­fend­ant, the Rev. James Bren­nan. On Monday, the Dis­trict At­tor­ney’s of­fice an­nounced its in­ten­tion to retry Bren­nan.

In a packed courtroom on Tues­day, sev­er­al de­fense wit­nesses re­coun­ted Lynn’s warmth, kind­ness and hu­man­ity.

“It would be an ab­so­lute waste to have him sit in a jail when he could be out serving the com­munity, be­cause he is a gif­ted and lov­ing priest,” said niece Erin Lynn.

Monsignor Lynn told the judge he had been a priest for 36 years and had only tried to help people.

Bergstrom and Lindy ap­pealed to Sarmina to give the monsignor a light sen­tence, but As­sist­ant Dis­trict At­tor­ney Patrick Bless­ing­ton urged the judge to give Lynn the max­im­um — three and a half to sev­en years.

“He is a man who did hor­rif­ic things,” Bless­ing­ton said as many of the monsignor’s friends and re­l­at­ives as­sembled in the courtroom grumbled in dis­may.

Lynn’s con­vic­tion was based on the charge that he en­dangered chil­dren be­cause he as­signed Ed­ward Avery to live in St. Jerome’s par­ish in the North­east even though he be­lieved Avery, then an arch­dioces­an priest, was a child mo­lester. Avery sub­sequently mo­les­ted a 10-year-old al­tar boy there. In late March, Avery pleaded guilty to that crime, com­mit­ted in 1999, just days be­fore he was to go on tri­al with Lynn and Bren­nan.

Bless­ing­ton said the boy had suffered and poin­ted out the vic­tim’s par­ents, friends and re­l­at­ives in the courtroom. All of them suffered, the ADA told Sarmina, be­cause of Lynn’s ac­tions.

He said Lynn’s at­tor­neys were ask­ing for mercy for a man who had ample op­por­tun­ity to show mercy to the vic­tims of pred­at­or priests by re­mov­ing those priests or by call­ing po­lice, but he didn’t.

Out­side the court­house, Dis­trict At­tor­ney Seth Wil­li­ams said he hoped the case would end the Cath­ol­ic Church’s fail­ure to re­port priests who sexu­ally ab­use chil­dren.

The church, which had had “a cul­ture, a bur­eau­cracy that pro­tec­ted pe­do­phile priests,” is chan­ging, he said.

“The church is try­ing to do much more,” Wil­li­ams said. “I hope that it is sin­cere.”

In sen­ten­cing Lynn, the DA said, Sarmina took in­to con­sid­er­a­tion all the ar­gu­ments of the de­fense and the com­mon­wealth as well as let­ters from vic­tims and Lynn’s friends and fam­ily.

Wil­li­ams’ de­cision to pro­sec­ute Lynn was even more sig­ni­fic­ant than the sen­tence im­posed, said Vikt­or­ia Kris­ti­ans­son, a former Phil­adelphia as­sist­ant dis­trict at­tor­ney now based in Wash­ing­ton.

The in­vest­ig­a­tion of Lynn “should have an ef­fect on the thor­ough­ness of pro­sec­u­tions across the coun­try and the world,” she said in a phone in­ter­view last week.

Lynn’s sen­tence likely will change the ap­proach both de­fense law­yers and pro­sec­utors take in such cases, said Phil­adelphia at­tor­ney Greg Pa­gano.

“I think it’s go­ing to have a ripple ef­fect,” he said, adding that the Lynn case could serve as a guide to pro­sec­utors in oth­er jur­is­dic­tions.

“It’s a guide for the world,” said Marci Hamilton, who is rep­res­ent­ing sev­er­al people who are su­ing the arch­diocese and the priests they say ab­used them as chil­dren. “I do think that [Dis­trict At­tor­ney] Seth Wil­li­ams has set the stand­ard so the pro­sec­utors now know they can get justice for the vic­tims of child sexu­al ab­use.”

“It’s go­ing to cause de­fense at­tor­neys to be more con­cerned about charges like this and how they ne­go­ti­ate cases,” Pa­gano said. “They may take them more ser­i­ously and be more cau­tious about tak­ing them to tri­al.”

Sen­ten­cing Lynn to such ser­i­ous pris­on time should prove an in­cent­ive to pro­sec­utors else­where to pro­ceed against church of­fi­cials, said Anne Bowen Poulin, a pro­fess­or at Vil­lan­ova Uni­versity’s School of Law. A light­er sen­tence would have signaled to pro­sec­utors that they wouldn’t ac­com­plish much in sim­il­ar cases, she said.

Be­fore and dur­ing the tri­al, Lynn’s law­yers in­sisted it was not Lynn, but his boss, Car­din­al An­thony Bevilac­qua, who made the de­cisions on priests’ as­sign­ments in the Phil­adelphia Arch­diocese. Lynn, who was sec­ret­ary for clergy from 1992-2004, test­i­fied he could con­duct in­vest­ig­a­tion of mo­lesta­tion al­leg­a­tions but could only re­com­mend treat­ment and as­sign­ments to the car­din­al. He said he could re­move only those priests who ad­mit­ted sex crimes.

The car­din­al, who was the city’s arch­bish­op un­til 2003, died in Janu­ary at 88.

The arch­diocese it­self had re­por­ted the Rev. Charles En­gel­hardt, an Ob­late of St. Fran­cis De­Sales, and Avery, now de­frocked, to au­thor­it­ies. Both men had been sta­tioned at St. Jerome’s par­ish and it was there that they al­legedly mo­les­ted the 10-year-old al­tar boy whose fam­ily was in court Tues­day.

Slade McLaugh­lin, an at­tor­ney who rep­res­ents the fam­ily of that vic­tim, said they were sat­is­fied that Lynn was sen­tenced to pris­on.

“I think that they feel there has been some vin­dic­a­tion,” he said. “Ob­vi­ously, their lives, the life of their son, have been ruined … They have a sense that justice has been served.”

McLaugh­lin said the vic­tim, now an adult, has “suffered tre­mend­ously. He’s been pro­pelled in­to a life of drugs, al­co­hol. He really is hav­ing a dif­fi­cult time find­ing him­self.”

Dur­ing the grand jury probe, al­leg­a­tions that former lay teach­er Bern­ard Shero had sexu­ally ab­used the same boy came to light as did al­leg­a­tions that Bren­nan had mo­les­ted a 14-year-old Bucks County boy.

Lynn, En­gel­hardt, Bren­nan, Avery and Shero pleaded not guilty, at least, ini­tially. Each de­fend­ant later was charged with con­spir­acy, but that charge against Shero was soon quashed and his case was later sep­ar­ated from the oth­er de­fend­ants’. En­gel­hardt’s case was sep­ar­ated, too. He and Shero cur­rently are sched­uled to go on tri­al Sept. 4.


More on­line …

Find links to the 2005 and 2011 Phil­adelphia grand jury re­ports on sexu­al ab­use by Cath­ol­ic clergy at ht­tp://www.phila.gov/dis­trictat­tor­ney/grand­Jury_clergy­Ab­use2.html

See re­cent North­east Times stor­ies on the tri­al, ver­dict and sub­sequent hear­ings at:




End­Frag­ment End­Frag­ment

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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