Northeast Times

DA’s office appeals reversal of sex scandal conviction

Pe­ti­tion was filed with the state Su­preme Court on Monday.

Dis­trict At­tor­ney At­tor­ney Seth Wil­li­ams is not go­ing to sit still for a re­versal of the his­tor­ic child en­dan­ger­ment con­vic­tion of Monsignor Wil­li­am Lynn and is ap­peal­ing that Dec. 26 Su­per­i­or Court rul­ing to the Pennsylvania Su­preme Court.

The pe­ti­tion to al­low the ap­peal was filed with the state Su­preme Court on Monday. The court could put an end to the case simply by re­fus­ing to hear the ap­peal.

Lynn’s at­tor­ney, Thomas Bergstrom, labeled the DA’s pe­ti­tion “dis­hon­est.”

Lynn, 63, a former dio­ces­an ad­min­is­trat­or, was the highest-placed Amer­ic­an Cath­ol­ic of­fi­cial con­victed in the Church’s dec­ade-old sex scan­dal when he was found guilty in mid-2012 and sen­tenced to three to six years im­pris­on­ment. He had served 18 months of his sen­tence when his con­vic­tion was re­versed.

The monsignor nev­er was ac­cused of mo­lest­ing a child, but of shield­ing priests who did.

Dur­ing Lynn’s 12 years as the arch­dioces­an sec­ret­ary of clergy in the 1990s to 2004, he in­vest­ig­ated priests ac­cused of sexu­ally ab­us­ing minors, re­com­men­ded their treat­ment and also re­com­men­ded as­sign­ments to his boss, Car­din­al An­thony Bevilac­qua.

When ar­res­ted in 2011, Lynn was ac­cused of keep­ing two al­leged pe­dol­phile priests in their min­is­tries and, there­fore, re­spons­ible for their later crimes against ju­ven­iles. He was due to go on tri­al with both of them — the Rev. James Bren­nan and former priest Ed­ward Avery — in March 2012, but Avery pleaded guilty just days be­fore the tri­al began.

Avery had been ac­cused of mo­lest­ing a boy in the North­east’s St. Jerome par­ish in the 1990s. Testi­fy­ing in a later tri­al, however, Avery denied even know­ing that child.

Bren­nan, Lynn’s co-de­fend­ant in 2012, was ac­cused of mo­lest­ing a boy in the sub­urbs. Jur­ors couldn’t agree on a ver­dict in his case. They did, however, ac­quit Lynn of con­spir­acy and of en­dan­ger­ing chil­dren in Bren­nan’s case while con­vict­ing him of en­dan­ger­ing chil­dren in con­nec­tion with Avery’s case.

The monsignor’s at­tor­neys ap­pealed the con­vic­tion while he was in­car­cer­ated in an up­state pris­on. Su­per­i­or Court judges agreed with the de­fense that Pennsylvania child en­dan­ger­ment stat­utes didn’t ap­ply to Lynn and re­versed his con­vic­tion. Lynn was gran­ted bail Dec. 30, which was paid by the Phil­adelphia arch­diocese. He also was giv­en a res­id­ence in the rect­ory of St. Wil­li­am’s par­ish in Lawn­crest.

Lynn’s at­tor­neys re­peatedly as­ser­ted dur­ing pre­tri­al hear­ings and dur­ing the three-month tri­al that the state’s child en­dan­ger­ment stat­ute did not ap­ply to the monsignor be­cause he nev­er dir­ectly su­per­vised minors. They also claimed Bevilac­qua made the fi­nal de­cisions on priests’ as­sign­ments, not Lynn.

In the DA’s pe­ti­tion to ap­peal the con­vic­tion re­versal, it was stated that there was suf­fi­cient evid­ence to prove Lynn en­dangered chil­dren even though he did not have dir­ect con­tact with chil­dren be­cause Lynn re­as­signed pe­do­phile priests in a “man­ner that put ad­di­tion­al chil­dren at risk.”

In find­ing that the state’s child en­dan­ger­ment stat­ute did not ap­ply to Lynn, Su­per­i­or Court not only dis­reg­arded leg­al pre­ced­ents, but ad­ded words to the stat­ute that changed its mean­ing or ig­nored words that were there and “ef­fect­ively re­wrote the stat­ute,” the DA’s of­fice wrote.

The DA’s pe­ti­tion as­serts that, in re­vers­ing Lynn’s child en­dan­ger­ment con­vic­tion, it es­tab­lished a “tain­ted pre­ced­ent” that could neg­ate “an un­pre­dict­able num­ber of sound crim­in­al con­vic­tions.”

“It would be a daunt­ing chal­lenge to find a more com­pre­hens­ive mis­ap­plic­a­tion of the law or a more com­plete de­par­ture from the plain lan­guage of the stat­ute,” the pe­ti­tion con­tin­ued.

Even if Lynn could not en­danger chil­dren, he par­ti­cip­ated in a gen­er­al scheme to place known pred­at­ors in po­s­i­tions in which they could mo­lest chil­dren, the DA’s pe­ti­tion con­tin­ued, and, there­fore, Lynn should be con­sidered an ac­com­plice. The DA’s pe­ti­tion poin­ted out that “des­pite be­ing re­spons­ible for nu­mer­ous cases of priests who mo­les­ted chil­dren, in no in­stance did Lynn ever con­tact po­lice.”

“Their premise is wrong,” Bergstrom said in a phone in­ter­view Tues­day. The at­tor­ney said the Su­per­i­or Court de­cision was a pure and simple re­view of how the law was ap­plied in Lynn’s case, and “that’s the end of it.”

Be­sides that, he said, “the en­tire pe­ti­tion’s dis­hon­est.”

“We be­lieve the DA’s of­fice has, once again, mis­in­ter­preted the stat­ute and the case law,” Bergstrom and as­so­ci­ate Al­lis­on Khaskel­is wrote in a Tues­day email to the North­east Times. They also said the DA’s pe­ti­tion makes “count­less fac­tu­al er­rors.”

They stated there is no evid­ence to sup­port the as­ser­tion that Lynn was Avery’s ac­com­plice.

“To be an ac­com­plice, you have to in­tend for the crime to oc­cur,” they wrote to main­tain that Monsignor Lynn ac­tu­ally wanted a minor he nev­er met or knew of, or any oth­er minor, to be sexu­ally ab­used is, at best, ab­surd.”

Bergstrom said he has 14 days to file a reply to the DA’s pe­ti­tion and he in­tends to.

In a state­ment re­leased Tues­day, the arch­diocese said there would be no com­ment on the case “in de­fer­ence to the leg­al pro­cess still un­der way.”

The state­ment con­tin­ued, “Re­gard­less of the fi­nal out­come of this case, the com­mit­ment of the arch­diocese to as­sist and sup­port sur­viv­ors of sexu­al ab­use on their jour­ney to­ward heal­ing re­mains un­changed. Ad­di­tion­ally, our ef­forts to en­sure that all young people en­trus­ted to the Church’s care are safe re­main un­flinch­ing.” ••

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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