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. ••