Lynn lawyer: Endangerment law was wrongly applied


The state’s child en­dan­ger­ment stat­ute does not ap­ply to Monsignor Wil­li­am Lynn, his law­yer ar­gued Tues­day be­fore a three-judge Pennsylvania Su­per­i­or Court pan­el. 

Lynn, the first Amer­ic­an Cath­ol­ic cler­ic held re­spons­ible for a child mo­lesta­tion by an­oth­er priest, was con­victed by jury in June 2012 of a single count of en­dan­ger­ing the wel­fare of a child.  

He nev­er was ac­cused of touch­ing a child, but rather of fa­cil­it­at­ing the acts of an­oth­er priest, Ed­ward Avery, who Lynn knew was a pe­do­phile, pro­sec­utors had main­tained. That was enough to charge Lynn with en­dan­ger­ing the wel­fare of a child un­der com­mon­wealth law, Phil­adelphia As­sist­ant Dis­trict At­tor­ney Hugh Burns told Pres­id­ent Judge John Bend­er, Seni­or Judge John Mus­man­no and Judge Christine Dono­hue.

Be­fore he was set to go on tri­al in March 2012, Avery, who had been de­frocked, pleaded guilty to child mo­lesta­tion charges. He had been ac­cused of mo­lest­ing a boy in St. Jerome’s par­ish in the North­east in the late 1990s.

Thomas Bergstrom, Lynn’s at­tor­ney, ar­gued on Tues­day that the state’s “en­dan­ger­ing the wel­fare of a child” stat­ute re­quires that the ac­cused must have had some su­per­vis­ory role over the vic­tim, who in Lynn’s case was iden­ti­fied in court only by his ini­tials, “D.G.” Bergstrom cited Su­per­i­or Court case his­tory to sup­port his ar­gu­ment.

Bergstrom fur­ther ar­gued that his cli­ent had neither a su­per­vis­ory role over Avery’s vic­tim, nor did Lynn know the boy. He had nev­er met the boy and “didn’t even know he ex­is­ted.”

The case against Lynn, Bergstrom said, “was flawed from the very be­gin­ning.”

The de­fense at­tor­ney said that Lynn didn’t know the ab­use had been com­mit­ted and didn’t know about the pri­or bad acts of oth­er priests un­til he be­came the sec­ret­ary for clergy for the Phil­adelphia Ro­man Cath­ol­ic Arch­diocese in the early 1990s. In that po­s­i­tion, he com­piled a list of ac­cused pe­do­phile priests for his boss, Car­din­al An­thony Bevilac­qua.

Burns, the pro­sec­utor, countered that Lynn had test­i­fied pre­vi­ously that he su­per­vised pe­do­phile priests and that it was his duty to pro­tect chil­dren. The stat­ute does not state that the ac­cused must have su­per­vised chil­dren dir­ectly, Burns said. It re­quires that the ac­cused must have su­per­vised the wel­fare of chil­dren.

The monsignor, Burns said, knew Avery was an ac­cused pe­do­phile and that he posed a risk to chil­dren when he as­signed him to live at St. Jerome’s.

Bergstrom ar­gued fur­ther that the state’s child en­dan­ger­ment stat­ute re­quires that pro­sec­utors charge a de­fend­ant with en­dan­ger­ing a spe­cif­ic child, not all of the chil­dren in the arch­diocese in gen­er­al.

“The com­mon­wealth did not prove that charge,” he said.

Be­fore Tues­day’s hear­ing, Bergstrom said the court might make a de­cision some­time in the next month to three months.

Lynn has been serving a three-to-six-year pris­on sen­tence since his June 2012 con­vic­tion. Bergstrom said his cli­ent has lost 70 pounds while be­hind bars. ••

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