Northeast Times

Monsignor Lynn getting out of jail

The first mem­ber of the Ro­man Cath­ol­ic Church’s U.S. hier­archy con­victed of hield­ing a child-mo­lest­ing ri­est is get­ting out of jail. Monsignor Wil­li­am Lynn just isn’t get­ting out for free.

How oon he will get out re­mains a ques­tion.

Com­mon Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina agreed to let the 62-year-old cler­gy­man go while Phil­adelphia’s dis­trict at­tor­ney ap­peals the re­versal of the monsignor’s his­tor­ic 2012 child en­dan­ger­ment con­vic­tion — if Lynn can post 10 per­cent of bail she set at $250,000.

Be­sides re­quir­ing the money, Sarmina at­tached some strings: Lynn must re­port to the court weekly in Phil­adelphia and wear an elec­tron­ic mon­it­or­ing device. Also, he must sur­render his pass­port.

“We can live with that,” Thomas Bergstrom, Lynn’s at­tor­ney, said after this morn­ing’s hear­ing in the Crim­in­al Justice Cen­ter. “We’ll have to live with it.” Bergstrom had asked Sarmina to free Lynn on his own re­cog­niz­ance or set bail at 10 per­cent of $50,000.

Bergstrom said he doesn’t know where Lynn will get the $25,000 he needs to make bail, but the at­tor­ney said he was con­fid­ent the money won’t be a prob­lem.

He said he is hop­ing to have Lynn out of Way­mart State Cor­rec­tion­al In­sti­tu­tion in North­east Pennsylvania be­fore the end of the week. However, the elec­tron­ic mon­it­or­ing re­quire­ment might delay that. As­sist­ant Dis­trict At­tor­ney Patrick Bless­ing­ton told the court that ar­ran­ging elec­tron­ic mon­it­or­ing is not ac­com­plished quickly.

Lynn’s law­yers ap­pealed that first-of-its-kind con­vic­tion as the monsignor served the three-to-six-year sen­tence Sarmina im­posed. De­fense law­yers and pro­sec­utors made their cases be­fore Su­per­i­or Court in the sum­mer.

A three-judge pan­el ordered the cler­ic’s con­vic­tion re­versed the day after Christ­mas, and Bergstrom has been try­ing to get him re­leased since. He asked the Su­per­i­or Court judges who re­versed the monsignor’s con­vic­tion to free him, but they tossed that de­cision back to Sarmina, who presided over the monsignor’s three-month tri­al in 2012.

Mean­while, Dis­trict At­tor­ney Seth Wil­li­ams vowed today to ap­peal what he called the Su­per­i­or Court’s “puzz­ling” rul­ing.

“This of­fice will do whatever we can to make sure this de­cision does not stand,” he said.

As this morn­ing’s hear­ing opened, it was ap­par­ent that Sarmina was lean­ing to­ward set­ting bail for Lynn, who has served 18 months of his sen­tence.

Be­fore hear­ing ar­gu­ments, she said that, since the Su­per­i­or Court put Lynn’s con­vic­tion in ques­tion, then his sen­tence also is in ques­tion.

Al­though Lynn’s case was a res­ult of a Phil­adelphia grand jury in­vest­ig­a­tion of sexu­al ab­use of minors by Cath­ol­ic clergy, the monsignor nev­er was ac­cused of mo­lest­ing a child. Rather, pro­sec­utors had main­tained the monsignor put chil­dren at risk by al­low­ing priests he knew to be child mo­lesters to con­tin­ue in roles that would bring them in con­tact with minors.

THE CASE AGAINST LYNN

Part of Lynn’s role as the Arch­diocese of Phil­adelphia’s sec­ret­ary for clergy from 1992 to 2004 was to in­vest­ig­ate al­leg­a­tions that priests sexu­ally ab­used minors. He also ordered med­ic­al and psy­cho­lo­gic­al ex­am­in­a­tions of the priests he in­vest­ig­ated and also ar­ranged for their treat­ment.

The monsignor re­com­men­ded cler­ic­al as­sign­ments to his boss, Car­din­al An­thony Bevilac­qua.

Stem­ming from that part of his job, Lynn had faced two charges of en­dan­ger­ing chil­dren and con­spir­acy be­cause, pro­sec­utors said, the monsignor al­lowed two priests who al­legedly had mo­les­ted minors to stay in their min­is­tries, after which those same priests mo­les­ted again.  

Key to the pro­sec­u­tion’s case was that, ac­cord­ing to the then-most cur­rent Pennsylvania child en­dan­ger­ment law, Lynn was crim­in­ally re­spons­ible for the crimes the oth­er priests com­mit­ted.

The lead­er of a sup­port group for sur­viv­ors of sexu­al ab­use by clergy said Lynn’s “cal­lous­ness, reck­less­ness and de­ceit caused kids to be hurt and pred­at­ors to walk free.” Dav­id Clo­hessy, dir­ect­or of the Sur­viv­ors Net­work of those Ab­used by Priests, said he hopes Pennsylvania’s highest court will re-in­state his con­vic­tion.

In a 43-page opin­ion re­leased Dec. 26, Su­per­i­or Court judges wrote they “de­term­ined the evid­ence was not suf­fi­cient to sup­port [Lynn’s] con­vic­tion for en­dan­ger­ing the wel­fare of a child … We are com­pelled to re­verse [Lynn’s] judg­ment of sen­tence.”

The child en­dan­ger­ment law, as writ­ten at the time, didn’t ap­ply to Lynn, who had no dir­ect know­ledge of the minors who were vic­tim­ized, the judges wrote.

Wil­li­ams, who in 2012 had called Lynn’s con­vic­tion his­tor­ic, said on Dec. 26 that he dis­agreed with the ap­pel­late court’s opin­ion and likely will ap­peal it.

“Let’s be clear. Wil­li­am Lynn is not a patsy; he is no fall guy,” Wil­li­ams said today dur­ing a noon news con­fer­ence. “He is a cold, cal­cu­lat­ing man who en­dangered the wel­fare of count­less chil­dren for dec­ades by mov­ing known pred­at­ors throughout the arch­diocese of Phil­adelphia.”

The monsignor, who turns 63 on Jan. 5, has been im­prisoned since his con­vic­tion.

“The dec­ades-long in­ac­tion of Lynn put count­less chil­dren in harm’s way, and he is where he be­longs — be­hind bars,” Wil­li­ams said in a state­ment re­leased Fri­day.

Bergstrom said an ap­peal of the Su­per­i­or Court de­cision would fail: “I think it would be a fool’s er­rand.”

Dur­ing this morn­ing’s hear­ing, Bergstrom said he doubted Pennsylvania Su­preme Court justices would even both­er hear­ing the DA’s ap­peal.

The weekly re­port­ing and elec­tron­ic mon­it­or­ing re­quire­ment were Sarmina’s an­swers to As­sist­ant Dis­trict At­tor­ney Hugh Burn’s as­ser­tion that Lynn was a flight risk.

That just flab­ber­gas­ted Bergstrom.

“There’s not a chance he’s go­ing to flee the jur­is­dic­tion,” Bergstrom said. “Why in the world would he flee?”

Bergstrom said Lynn nev­er missed any hear­ings or a day of his tri­al.

Say­ing he might flee “is just silly,” Bergstrom said. “Where’s he go­ing to go, any­way?”

Be­fore and dur­ing Lynn’s tri­al and when he ap­pealed the guilty ver­dict, Bergstrom had main­tained that state law didn’t ap­ply to the monsignor’s case and that Lynn nev­er made the fi­nal de­cision to as­sign Ed­ward Avery to St. Jerome’s par­ish, where the mo­lesta­tion took place in the late 1990s. That de­cision was made by Bevilac­qua, Phil­adelphia’s arch­bish­op at the time, Bergstrom ar­gued. The car­din­al, who was ex­pec­ted to testi­fy at Lynn’s tri­al, died months be­fore pro­ceed­ings began.

Dur­ing and after the tri­al, Bergstrom said the charges against Lynn nev­er made any sense.

Pro­sec­utors con­versely main­tained that Lynn kept Avery, now de­frocked, in a min­istry that would put him in close prox­im­ity to chil­dren even though Lynn knew Avery was dan­ger­ous to chil­dren.

Arch­dioces­an spokes­man Ken Gav­in said it was too early to ad­dress any ques­tions about Lynn re­turn­ing to a church as­sign­ment. He said he couldn’t im­me­di­ately ad­dress how much the arch­diocese had paid for Lynn’s de­fense or if Arch­bish­op Charles Chaput had talked to the monsignor since Su­per­i­or Court re­versed his con­vic­tion last week.

IT BEGAN IN 2011

Lynn, Avery, the Rev. Charles En­gel­hardt, the Rev. James Bren­nan and pa­ro­chi­al school teach­er Bern­ard Shero were ar­res­ted in Feb­ru­ary 2011 after a Phil­adelphia grand jury re­leased a re­port on sexu­al ab­use by the city’s clergy.

Avery, En­gel­hardt and Shero all were charged with mo­lest­ing the same St. Jerome’s pu­pil. Bren­nan was ac­cused of mo­lest­ing a Bucks County youth. All of the al­leged crimes oc­curred in the 1990s, pro­sec­utors said.

Pro­sec­utors al­leged that Lynn had con­spired with Avery, En­gel­hardt and Bren­nan to keep them in min­istry.

The five de­fend­ants’ law­yers ar­gued that there was no con­spir­acy and re­ques­ted sep­ar­ate tri­als for the men. En­gel­hardt’s and Shero’s cases were tried sep­ar­ately from the oth­er three last Janu­ary. Shero, who was not a priest and not un­der any dir­ect su­per­vi­sion by Lynn, was not tried for con­spir­acy.

Lynn was to go on tri­al with Avery and Bren­nan, but Avery pleaded guilty to a mo­lesta­tion charge be­fore the tri­al was to be­gin in March 2012.

Jur­ors couldn’t reach a ver­dict on Bren­nan. The DA’s of­fice is seek­ing a new tri­al in his case. Jur­ors ac­quit­ted Lynn on one count of con­spir­acy and one count of en­dan­ger­ing chil­dren, but found him guilty of the lone en­dan­ger­ment charge in­volving Avery.

Earli­er this year, jur­ors found En­gel­hardt and Shero guilty of sev­er­al charges re­lated to their mo­lesta­tion of the same boy who had ac­cused Avery. That vic­tim test­i­fied at their tri­al.

Avery, in pris­on garb, test­i­fied, too, claim­ing he had not mo­les­ted that boy and denied even know­ing him. He said he pleaded guilty so he could get a re­duced sen­tence be­cause he didn’t want to die in pris­on. He cur­rently is serving a 2½-to-5-year term.

Com­mon Pleas Court Judge El­len Ceisler in June sen­tenced  En­gel­hardt to a min­im­um of six years in pris­on. He was sen­tenced to 3½ years to sev­en years for en­dan­ger­ing the wel­fare of a child and 2½ years to sev­en years for in­de­cent as­sault on a child. Ceisler ordered the sen­tences to be served con­sec­ut­ively.

Shero was sen­tenced to eight to 16 years for rape and giv­en the same sen­tence for his con­vic­tion on in­de­cent as­sault charges. The judge ordered the sen­tences to be served con­cur­rently.

In ad­di­tion, Shero was ordered to serve a sen­tence of 3½ years to sev­en years in pris­on for en­dan­ger­ing the wel­fare of a child, to be served con­sec­ut­ive to the first sen­tences. ••

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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