Monsignor William Lynn, the first highly placed Roman Catholic official convicted in a sex-abuse case, will stay in jail while he awaits sentencing, which has been moved up to July 24.
Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina on Thursday rejected a request to allow Lynn to live under house arrest in the Lower Northeast home of Rita DeCarolis, an elderly in-law’s in-law.
“After due consideration, the motion is denied,” Sarmina ruled, and did not elaborate.
The judge did grant a defense request to move up Lynn’s sentencing date, which was originally set for Aug. 13.
On June 22, a jury found the 61-year-old monsignor guilty of one count of endangering children while acquitting him of two other charges. He was taken into custody and has been held in the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility on State Road.
Lynn faces from three and a half years to seven years imprisonment.
Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington said he will ask for the maximum sentence. Lynn’s attorneys said they will appeal the conviction once Sarmina sentences their client.
In asking for house arrest, Lynn’s lawyers, Thomas Bergstrom and Jeff Lindy, said their client was ready to give up his passport, sign a waiver of extradition with the Vatican and put up additional bail to get out of jail, if only for a few weeks before sentencing.
“He’s not going anywhere,” Bergstrom said. “He’s not going to flee.”
Lynn’s position in the church hierarchy was keeping him in jail, the attorney said.
“If he were any other defendant, he would be out,” Bergstrom said.
The judge asked Bergstrom if he were willing to serve Lynn’s sentence if the monsignor fled, and the lawyer said he was so confident of his client that he would agree to that.
Before Sarmina denied the motion, Blessington called the lawyer’s offer absurd, and also said any agreement Lynn signed to waive extradition if he fled to the Vatican was worthless. He said there is no U.S.-Vatican extradition treaty. If Lynn were to flee to the seat of the Roman Catholic Church, the United States would have no legal right to ask for his return.
The head of a survivors’ support group said she thought Sarmina did the right thing in denying house arrest.
“Some may view this decision as harsh,” said Barbara Blaine, president of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “We consider it just and smart. And we hope it will help end current cover-ups and deter future cover-ups by Catholic officials across the country.”
The District Attorney’s office has not yet made a decision on whether to retry Lynn’s co-defendant, the Rev. James Brennan. The jury of seven men and five women could not reach a verdict on attempted rape and child endangerment charges against Brennan.
Lynn was acquitted of endangering children for allegedly shielding Brennan and also was acquitted of engaging in a conspiracy to protect molester priests.
Jurors, however, found Lynn guilty of endangering children in regard to Edward Avery, a now defrocked priest Lynn had investigated. Prosecutors blamed Lynn for Avery’s molestation of a Northeast Philadelphia altar boy that occurred after the monsignor had investigated the priest.
Defense attorneys countered that Lynn didn’t have the power to remove priests and that only his boss, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua did. The cardinal, the former archbishop of Philadelphia, died in January.
Until days before Brennan and Lynn were to go on trial March 26, Avery was their co-defendant. But Avery pleaded guilty to molesting a 10-year-old altar boy in the late 1990s at St. Jerome parish in Winchester Park and was sentenced to two and a half to five years in prison.
Reporter John Loftus can be reached at 215-354-3110 or firstname.lastname@example.org