DA asks judge to reconsider ruling in Msgr. Lynn retrial

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The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office has asked a city judge to reconsider Tuesday’s ruling that sharply restricts the number of cases of priests accused of sexual misconduct that may be used in the retrial of Msgr. William J. Lynn.

Cameron Kline, spokesman for the District Attorney’s Office, on Friday confirmed that the motion to reconsider had been filed and will be heard by Common Pleas Court Judge Gwendolyn N. Bright on Wednesday.

Kline said he could not release details about the reconsideration motion because it was filed under seal.

All court records involving the Lynn case have been sealed because they identify juveniles who alleged that they were sexually molested by priests. Bright has also imposed a gag order barring the lawyers and parties from publicly discussing the case.

Friday was the deadline for prosecutors and lawyers for Lynn to tell Bright if they intended to challenge her rulings before the state Superior Court.

The motion for reconsideration was an alternative; prosecutors may still appeal if Bright affirms her pretrial ruling on what is known as “prior bad acts” evidence.

Lynn’s lead lawyer, Thomas A. Bergstrom, confirmed that he told Bright that Lynn will not appeal.

Depending on what happens at Wednesday’s hearing, prosecutors could either further appeal or decide to move forward to a trial.

Bright has tentatively set May 30 for the retrial, which the lawyers have estimated will take three weeks.

On Tuesday, Bright issued three pretrial rulings that cut against the prosecution and the defense.

Bright denied a defense motion to dismiss the child endangerment charge against Lynn because of prosecutorial misconduct.

Bright said that prosecutors’ failure to tell Lynn’s lawyers about a detective’s doubt about the credibility of a key prosecution witness at Lynn’s 2012 trial did not warrant dismissal of the charge.

Bright also denied a defense motion to bar prosecutors from introducing at the retrial the guilty plea to sex assault of a minor by Edward Avery, a defrocked priest from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

Avery, 74, pleaded guilty in 2012 to sexually molesting a 10-year-old altar boy in 1999 while Avery was living in the rectory of the St. Jerome’s Parish in the Northeast. He is serving 2-1/2 to five years at a state prison in Western Pennsylvania.

In Lynn’s first trial in 2012, Bergstrom sought to exclude Avery’s guilty plea so that he could attack the credibility of the now 23-year-old victim, who has given conflicting accounts of what happened, has a history of arrests and drug and alcohol abuse problems. Prosecutors argued that if Bergstrom challenged the accuser’s credibility in cross-examination, they should be able to introduce Avery’s guilty plea to show that the priest admitted the conduct.

Bright, however, also sharply limited prosecutors’ ability to introduce evidence of how Lynn handled the case of other priests accused of sexual misconduct.

Lynn, 66, was the Archdiocesan secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004, responsible for investigating allegations against priests and recommending action to the archbishop.

Prosecutors argue that evidence of how Lynn handled other accused priests is needed so that the jury will understand how Lynn was part of a long-time church culture of ignoring victims and covering up for deviant priests.

In the first trial, prosecutors introduced 21 case files dating to 1940, which the state Superior Court ruled was prejudicial when it granted Lynn a new trial in 2015.

On Tuesday, prosecutors told Bright they had scaled back the number of historic cases to nine. Bright then struck five of those cases; she approved use of one historic case and said she would consider three others closer to the trial.

Lynn, 66, the first Roman Catholic church official convicted for his supervisory role over priests accused of sexually abusing children, served 33 months of a three-to six-year prison term before he was released last August after a state appeals court granted a new trial.

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