Msgr. William Lynn denied bail amid appeal

In this June 22, 2012 file photo, Monsignor William Lynn walks to the Criminal Justice Center before a scheduled verdict reading in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
August 6, 2012 3:39:22 PM PDT
A Roman Catholic church official will remain in prison while he fights his landmark conviction for failing to protect a boy from a predator priest.

A judge on Monday deemed Monsignor William Lynn's conduct too serious to warrant bail, despite defense arguments that the felony conviction may well be overturned, because Lynn wasn't the immediate supervisor of any accused priests.

"This is the first case in the history of the commonwealth where (endangering the welfare of a child) has been applied to a supervisor on Monsignor Lynn's level," defense lawyer Jeffrey Lindy said.

Lynn, the longtime secretary for clergy, is serving a three- to six-year prison term. He was the first U.S. church supervisor convicted of endangering children by helping the church shuttle accused priests from church to church.

Common Pleas Judge M. Teresa Sarmina, in sentencing Lynn last month, said he had "enabled monsters in clerical garb ... to destroy the souls of children."

Defense lawyers were not surprised by her bail decision, and planned an immediate notice of appeal to move the case to state Superior Court.

But Lynn's legal team is shrinking as the Philadelphia archdiocese caps its budget for his appeal. Lindy is stepping down after eight years representing Lynn, while two of the four lawyers who defended him at trial will continue "largely on a pro bono basis," the archdiocese said.

Lynn's lawyers are "strongly convinced that there were many errors at trial and the sentence is disproportionate to other punishments meted out to administrators for this same charge," the archdiocese said in a statement. "We hope that the ultimate decision in Monsignor Lynn's regard is just and merciful."

The church spent millions on defense lawyers during an extraordinary 10-year criminal investigation. The late Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, Lynn and other church leaders testified repeatedly - with lawyers at their side - before the first of two grand juries. Prosecutors concluded that at least 63 predator-priests had worked in Philadelphia, often for decades.

Lynn, now 61, was the only church official charged.

"I think the commonwealth demonized him," Lindy said. "He is serving somebody else's time. That is an injustice."

The defense has long argued that Lynn, honoring his vow of obedience, carried out Bevilacqua's policies. Defense lawyers also argue that the state's child endangerment statute was revised in 2007 and does not apply to Lynn, who left office in 2004.

Lynn admitted on the witness stand that he had let a 1992 abuse complaint against former priest Edward Avery fall through the cracks. Avery pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting an altar boy in 1999.

That same accuser alleges he also was molested by the Rev. Charles Engelhardt and teacher Bernard Shero at St. Jerome's in northeast Philadelphia. They are set to go on trial Sept. 4.

Prosecutors on Monday filed paperwork seeking to tell jurors that Shero attempted suicide hours before he was to surrender to police in May 2011.

"Whether innocent or guilty, I will have nothing and you will have to live with ridicule and shame," he allegedly wrote in a suicide note attached to the filing. Police found him groggy when they arrived at his house that morning, and were told by Shero that he had taken sleeping pills, according to the prosecution motion.

The defense has asked to exclude the information at trial. Prosecutors argue that Pennsylvania law allows it to show consciousness of guilt.

Shero's lawyer, Barton Rose, declined to comment Monday because of a gag order.

Defense lawyers Thomas Bergstrom and Allison Khaskelis of the firm Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney will work on Lynn's appeal. The archdiocese continues to support Lynn, Bergstrom said.


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