Northeast Times

Supreme Court to review two legal issues in Lynn case

The Pennsylvania Su­preme Court has agreed to look at two leg­al is­sues key to the case of Monsignor Wil­li­am Lynn, the former arch­dioces­an ad­min­is­trat­or whose child en­dan­ger­ment con­vic­tion was re­versed on ap­peal last year.

The Phil­adelphia Dis­trict At­tor­ney’s Of­fice asked the state’s highest court to ex­am­ine the case, which began when Lynn was ar­res­ted in early 2011 along with three priests and a par­ish school teach­er who were ac­cused of child mo­lesta­tion. 

Lynn him­self, however, was nev­er charged with touch­ing a child. He was found guilty in mid-2012 of en­dan­ger­ing chil­dren be­cause jur­ors be­lieved him re­spons­ible for the child sex ab­use crimes of former priest Ed­ward Avery. He was sen­tenced to three to six years in pris­on, and had served 18 months be­fore he was re­leased on bail.

In grant­ing the DA’s ap­peal on May 8, the state’s high court said two ques­tions need to be answered. 

The first was if there was in­suf­fi­cient evid­ence to prove Lynn, who had no dir­ect con­tact with chil­dren, had en­dangered chil­dren.

When the Pennsylvania Su­per­i­or Court re­versed Lynn’s con­vic­tion last year, judges said the state’s child en­dan­ger­ment stat­ute did not ap­ply to the monsignor since he had no role in the Phil­adelphia Arch­diocese that dir­ectly in­volved chil­dren. 

As­sist­ant Dis­trict At­tor­ney Hugh Burns, who handled the DA’s ap­peal of the con­vic­tion re­versal, said Su­per­i­or Court made sev­er­al er­rors in its in­ter­pret­a­tion of the en­dan­ger­ment stat­ute and that the law was much broad­er than the court had con­cluded.

Be­gin­ning in 1992, Lynn served 12 years as the arch­dioces­an sec­ret­ary for clergy un­der Car­din­al An­thony Bevilac­qua. Part of Lynn’s job was to in­vest­ig­ate mo­lesta­tion and oth­er charges made against priests, and re­com­mend ex­am­in­a­tions, treat­ment, ther­apy and as­sign­ments. He did that in Avery’s case and fol­lowed Bevilac­qua’s or­ders to house him in St. Jerome’s par­ish. The DA’s of­fice main­tained Avery mo­les­ted a 10-year-old al­tar boy at St. Jerome’s after Lynn as­signed him there, and that’s why Lynn was charged with en­dan­ger­ing chil­dren.

Lynn’s at­tor­neys ar­gued the state’s child en­dan­ger­ment stat­ute do not ap­ply to Lynn be­cause he had no con­tact with kids, and that’s the point that was won on ap­peal.

The second is­sue the state Su­preme Court has been asked to de­cide is if Lynn was guilty of child en­dan­ger­ment, not as an in­di­vidu­al, but as “part of a gen­er­al scheme [that] placed a known sexu­al pred­at­or un­der his con­trol in­to a po­s­i­tion that pro­moted the risk of fur­ther sexu­al as­saults.” In oth­er words, can he be con­victed as an ac­com­plice? Thomas Bergstrom, Lynn’s at­tor­ney, said Tues­day that is the point that’s very im­port­ant to the pro­sec­u­tion.

If the Su­per­i­or Court cor­rectly found that Lynn couldn’t be tried on the en­dan­ger­ment child be­cause he was didn’t have dir­ect su­per­vi­sion of chil­dren even though he did su­per­vise per­sons who were re­spons­ible for their wel­fare, Burns wrote in a May 12 email to the North­east Times, then “he was ne­ces­sar­ily guil­ity as an ac­com­plice.” ••

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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