Convicted Philly priest denied house arrest
Monsignor William Lynn walks to the Criminal Justice Center June 22, 2012, in Philadelphia. / AP Photo
(CBS/AP) PHILADELPHIA - A Philadelphia monsignor convicted of child endangerment for sending a priest suspected of abuse to a new parish will remain behind bars until he's sentenced.
Judge M. Teresa Sarmina agreed Thursday with prosecutors who say Monsignor William Lynn should be treated like any other felon and remain jailed until his sentencing hearing.
When a sheriff's deputy escorted Lynn from the holding area to open court, wearing his black clerical shirt, minus the collar, some of his relatives in the courtroom were visibly shaken and started weeping, CBS Philadelphia station KYW-TV reports.
Lynn's attorneys say their client isn't a flight risk and argued for his release on house arrest. But prosecutors say other defendants in Lynn's situation wouldn't be accommodated the same way.
Sarmina said she was concerned that Lynn could flee the commonwealth and hide out at the Vatican, KYW-TV reports. She did approve a defense request to move sentencing up from Aug. 13 to July 24. Lynn faces three-and-a-half to seven years in prison.
Lynn's lawyers have argued that he has a good chance of having his conviction thrown out on appeal. He was the first U.S. church official ever charged for his handling of abuse complaints.
He was charged with child endangerment even though the same district attorney's office had concluded in 2005 that no church officials could be charged with that crime because they didn't supervise any individual children. Prosecutors used a 2007 amendment to the law to reach back and charge him last year.
Despite defense objections, Sarmina never defined the term "supervisor" during jury instructions. Lynn oversaw clergy abuse complaints at the Archdiocese of Philadelphia from 1992 to 2004.
And in perhaps her most pivotal ruling, she allowed prosecutors to spend most of the three-month trial on evidence related to prior bad acts, concerning sex abuse complaints lodged against 20 priests who weren't part of the direct case against Lynn. The complaints dated to 1948, and the priests were never charged because the statute of limitations had long run out.
"We spent 35 (of 40) days trying the case that had not been charged," defense lawyer Thomas Bergstrom said Friday.
Many of those victims testified, giving harrowing accounts of abuse that moved some jurors to tears.
The jury was less sure of the testimony of at least one of the two direct accusers in Lynn's case. One testified that he had been molested by the Rev. James Brennan, Lynn's co-defendant, and the other by the Rev. Edward Avery, who pleaded guilty before trial. The jury deadlocked on the Brennan charges and acquitted Lynn of endangering that accuser.
The jury also acquitted Lynn of conspiring with Avery to endanger children but convicted him of endangering Avery's victim.
Lynn admitted on the stand that a 1992 sex abuse complaint against Avery had "fallen through the cracks." He said he'd been new on the job as secretary for clergy and was distracted by his mother's illness and death.
"And I'm sorry for that," Lynn testified.
In 1999, Avery sexually assaulted the trial accuser, at age 10, in a church sacristy. The same man alleges he was also assaulted by another priest and his Catholic schoolteacher at St. Jerome's in northeast Philadelphia. The Rev. Charles Engelhardt and Bernard Shero go on trial over those charges later this year.
It remains unclear whether that trial will bring an end to the city's 10-year criminal investigation of the Philadelphia Archdiocese, or whether anyone else will be charged based on new evidence that emerged at Lynn's trial.
An internal 1994 memo turned over only this year shows long-powerful Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua had top aides shred a list of known or suspected predator-priests that Lynn had prepared. Bishop Joseph R. Cistone, who now leads the Saginaw, Mich., diocese, witnessed the shredding. And retired Allentown Bishop Edward Cullen, Bevilacqua's right-hand man, discussed the list at the cardinal's "issues meeting."
Neither Cullen nor Cistone was called to testify about it. And District Attorney Seth Williams won't say if they or anyone else are in his crosshairs.
"I haven't made a decision as to whether or not to retry James Brennan or if there will be additional defendants," Williams said after the Lynn verdict.
"Many in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia hierarchy had dirty hands," Williams said. "We had the most evidence as to Monsignor Lynn."
It may now be up to an appeals court to determine if that evidence was enough.
During his tenure, as before, the reports that priests were raping and molesting children were kept in locked, secret files at church headquarters.
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