DA’s office submits another brief in Lynn case

The Dis­trict At­tor­ney’s of­fice has chipped in an­oth­er state Su­preme Court brief in a his­tor­ic case tied to the sex scan­dal in the Cath­ol­ic Church.

Monsignor Wil­li­am Lynn, who was nev­er ac­cused of mo­lest­ing a minor, was, in­deed, guilty of en­dan­ger­ing chil­dren, the DA’s of­fice told the state’s high court last week, and again ar­gued that the 2013 re­versal of his con­vic­tion on that charge should it­self be re­versed.

Lynn, who as sec­ret­ary for clergy for the Phil­adelphia arch­diocese in from 1992 to 2004 in­vest­ig­ated mo­lesta­tion ac­cus­a­tions against priests, had “a duty to pro­tect chil­dren from sexu­al pred­at­or priests,” the DA’s of­fice wrote in a reply to a de­fense brief filed earli­er this month. 

Fur­ther, “He was aware that chil­dren were in danger of sexu­al ab­use by such priests. He not only failed to take pro­tect­ive ac­tion, he af­firm­at­ively placed chil­dren in danger,” wrote As­sist­ant Dis­trict At­tor­neys Hugh Burns Jr., Ron­ald Eis­en­berg and Ed­ward Mc­Cann Jr.

Lynn was ar­res­ted in 2011 along with four oth­er men, three of whom were priests. The oth­ers were charged with mo­lest­ing minors, and Lynn was ac­cused of keep­ing the three priests in min­is­tries or res­id­ences that gave them ac­cess to those chil­dren. 

Pro­sec­utors charged that Lynn was re­spons­ible, there­fore, for the crimes the three priests com­mit­ted after the monsignor had in­vest­ig­ated al­leg­a­tions against them.

De­fense at­tor­neys had countered that Lynn couldn’t be charged un­der Pennsylvania’s child en­dan­ger­ment law be­cause he didn’t dir­ectly su­per­vise chil­dren and, there­fore, couldn’t en­danger them. He couldn’t be charged, his law­yers said, be­cause the law simply didn’t ap­ply to him.

The charge, law­yer Thomas Bergstrom said, “didn’t make any sense and nev­er made any sense.”

That’s es­sen­tially what Su­per­i­or Court judges agreed with when they re­versed Lynn’s mid-2012 con­vic­tion on one count of child en­dan­ger­ment late last year. 

Pro­sec­utors have stated again and again that Lynn most cer­tainly was covered by what’s called the EWOC (en­dan­ger­ing the wel­fare of chil­dren) stat­ute. They said the stat­ute clearly ap­plied to Lynn’s con­duct and does not con­tain mod­i­fi­ers like “dir­ect” or “ac­tu­al.”

Lynn’s law­yers had said that, not only was their cli­ent not covered by EWOC, he was not the ul­ti­mate au­thor­ity in giv­ing out min­is­teri­al as­sign­ments or de­cid­ing where priests lived. That was the job of the man who was Lynn’s boss, Car­din­al An­thony Bevilac­qua, who was then Phil­adelphia’s arch­bish­op. 

Not so, the ADAs wrote in their latest brief.

“[Lynn] him­self test­i­fied to his of­fi­cial duty to pre­vent sexu­al ab­use of chil­dren by priests un­der his au­thor­ity. He needed no ad­di­tion­al au­thor­ity to con­tact po­lice about child mo­lesters for whom he was re­spons­ible.”

Lynn didn’t tell po­lice about a minor’s claims that Ed­ward Avery, now de­frocked, had mo­les­ted him. Lynn test­i­fied dur­ing his 2012 tri­al that he had sent Avery for eval­u­ations and treat­ment, but said he nev­er got a dia­gnos­is that Avery was a pe­do­phile. In their Su­preme Court brief, Lynn’s law­yers said the monsignor didn’t know Avery was a mo­lester so he couldn’t be held re­spons­ible for what he later did.

That’s also not so, the ADAs wrote.

“He him­self des­ig­nated Avery ‘guilty of sexu­al mis­con­duct’ with a child.”

A man who said he was mo­les­ted by Avery, an­oth­er priest and a teach­er when he was a pu­pil at the North­east’s St. Jerome par­ish school in the late 1990s test­i­fied at Lynn’s tri­al. Avery, who was to go on tri­al with Lynn, pleaded guilty to mo­lesta­tion charges be­fore that tri­al began. It was in re­la­tion to his case that Lynn was con­victed of one count of EWOC.

Even if the high court finds that Lynn didn’t him­self en­danger chil­dren, pro­sec­utors wrote, he is guilty as an ac­com­plice in that crime for par­ti­cip­at­ing in an arch­dioces­an coverup of the pe­do­phile priests.

Lynn’s law­yers main­tained that was pretty much an ex­ag­ger­a­tion since they said their cli­ent couldn’t know of the in­ten­tions of those priests. The ADAs main­tained last week that they had no bur­den to prove that Lynn had “spe­cif­ic know­ledge that Avery was plan­ning or pre­par­ing to mo­lest chil­dren.”

The ADAs main­tained that Lynn knew Avery was dan­ger­ous to chil­dren and should be kept away from them. They said Lynn’s own in­vest­ig­a­tion of Avery con­firmed that.

“He him­self found that Avery com­mit­ted sexu­al mis­con­duct with a minor.”

Dur­ing the tri­al of two oth­er de­fend­ants, Avery test­i­fied he had pleaded guilty to mo­lesta­tion charges to avoid a long pris­on term, but he said he didn’t plead guilty to spe­cific­ally mo­lest­ing the St. Jerome pu­pil. He said he didn’t even know him.

So far, Lynn’s case be­fore the state Su­preme Court has been a pa­per de­bate. A glance at the court’s crowded cal­en­dar in­dic­ates live or­al ar­gu­ments might not take place any­time soon, and prob­ably not this year.

Lynn, who served 18 months of his three-to-six-year pris­on term, has been out of pris­on while the case pro­ceeds, but is re­stric­ted to liv­ing in the rect­ory of St. Wil­li­am par­ish in Lawndale. ••

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

comments powered by Disqus