DA claims state court made error in Lynn case

The Phil­adelphia Dis­trict At­tor­ney’s of­fice today again claimed the state Su­per­i­or Court made a mis­take last year in re­vers­ing the child en­dan­ger­ment con­vic­tion of Monsignor Wil­li­am Lynn.

In a brief filed today with Pennsylvania’s Su­preme Court, the DA claimed the Su­per­i­or Court re­versal of the monsignor’s his­tor­ic 2012 con­vic­tion should it­self be re­versed by the com­mon­wealth’s highest court be­cause the ap­pel­late court erred when it de­clared late last year that Lynn didn’t dir­ectly su­per­vise chil­dren and, there­fore, couldn’t be tried un­der Pennsylvania’s child en­dan­ger­ment stat­ute.

Lynn, now free on bail but re­stric­ted to liv­ing in St. Wil­li­am’s rect­ory in the North­east, served as sec­ret­ary for clergy for Phil­adelphia’s Ro­man Cath­ol­ic arch­diocese from 1992 to 2004. In that role, he in­vest­ig­ated mo­lesta­tion al­leg­a­tions against priests, and he also re­com­men­ded their treat­ment as well as their as­sign­ments.

Pro­sec­utors had ar­gued Lynn en­dangered a child by know­ingly as­sign­ing a priest he knew was a mo­lester to St. Jerome par­ish in the North­east where that priest sub­sequently mo­les­ted a 10-year-old al­tar boy. Al­though the monsignor nev­er was ac­cused of even touch­ing a child, when he was found guilty of one child en­dan­ger­ment charge after a three-month tri­al in 2012, he be­came the highest-rank­ing Amer­ic­an church of­fi­cial con­victed in a child sex ab­use case.

Lynn ap­pealed his con­vic­tion, which was re­versed in Decem­ber. He was freed on bail after serving 18 months of a three-to-six-year pris­on sen­tence.

In the brief filed today, As­sist­ant Dis­trict At­tor­neys Hugh Burns Jr., Ron­ald Eis­en­berg and Ed­ward Mc­Cann Jr. ar­gued that Su­per­i­or Court nar­rowly mis­in­ter­preted the state’s En­dan­ger­ing the Wel­fare of a Child law, a stat­ute they claimed the Pennsylvania Gen­er­al As­sembly meant to be viewed broadly.

But even if the high court dis­agrees with that as­ser­tion, the as­sist­ant dis­trict at­tor­neys wrote, the Su­per­i­or’s Court’s de­cision should be re­versed be­cause the monsignor could be seen as guilty of en­dan­ger­ing a child as an ac­com­plice in the arch­diocese’s drive to cov­er up mo­lesta­tion charges and re­as­sign priests who had been ac­cused of sexu­ally ab­us­ing minors.

The ADAs poin­ted out that, throughout his 12-year in­volve­ment in in­vest­ig­at­ing al­leg­a­tions against priests, Lynn nev­er re­por­ted those ac­cus­a­tions to po­lice.

Dur­ing Lynn’s tri­al, the monsignor’s at­tor­ney’s had ar­gued the EWOC stat­ute didn’t ap­ply to Lynn and also claimed Lynn nev­er made the ul­ti­mate de­cisions on where priests would serve. Lynn’s boss, Car­din­al An­thony Bevilac­qua, was the fi­nal au­thor­ity. The car­din­al, who re­tired be­fore Lynn was ar­res­ted, died months be­fore the monsignor went on tri­al in 2012.

Lynn’s at­tor­neys have un­til Aug. 11 to file their briefs with the Pennsylvania Su­preme Court. ••

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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