House arrest denied for convicted Pa. monsignor

July 5, 2012 12:13:18 PM PDT
A Roman Catholic official convicted of child endangerment will remain behind bars until his sentencing later this month, a judge ruled Thursday, denying a defense request for house arrest.

Monsignor William Lynn has been in custody since a jury convicted him June 22 of the charge, which stemmed from his handling of sex abuse claims at the Philadelphia archdiocese.

Lynn, 61, is the first U.S. Catholic church official convicted in the cover-up of child sex-abuse complaints. He faces 3 1/2 to seven years in prison.

"After due consideration, the motion is denied," Common Pleas Judge M. Teresa Sarmina, who presided over Lynn's three-month jury trial, said at the brief hearing that was packed with the monsignor's friends and family. She did approve a defense request to move up Lynn's sentencing date from Aug. 13 to July 24.

Lynn's lawyers said a relative offered to have the cleric stay at her Philadelphia home until his sentencing.

"He's not going anywhere. He's not going to flee," defense attorney William Bergstrom told the judge.

The judge sided with prosecutor Patrick Blessington, who expressed concerns that Lynn was a flight risk and argued that the monsignor should be treated like anyone else convicted of a crime.

After 13 days of deliberations, jurors concluded that prosecutors failed to prove Lynn was part of a conspiracy to shuffle predator priests from parish to parish. The jury did, however, find that Lynn endangered the 10-year-old victim of defrocked priest Edward Avery, who pleaded guilty before trial to a 1999 sexual assault.

Lynn had deemed Avery "guilty" of an earlier complaint and helped steer him into an inpatient treatment program run by the archdiocese. But the jury concluded that Lynn knew the priest later was sent to live in a Philadelphia parish, where the altar boy was assaulted.

A national support group for sexual abuse victims praised the judge's decision to keep Lynn in prison.

"Some may view this decision as harsh. We consider it just and smart," said Barbara Blaine, president of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "And we hope it will help end current cover-ups and deter future cover-ups by Catholic officials across the country."

Lynn served as secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004, mostly under Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, who died in January.

The jury deadlocked on charges against Lynn's co-defendant, the Rev. James Brennan, who was accused of sexually abusing a 14-year-old boy in 1999. Prosecutors have not said whether they intend to retry him.