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.” ••