Philadelphia News & Search
Prosecution and defense lawyers say they will announce Friday whether Msgr. William J. Lynn will be retried for his supervisory role in the Roman Catholic Church sex-abuse scandal or return to a state appeals court for resolution of disputed pretrial issues.
Defense attorney Thomas A. Bergstrom and Assistant District Attorney Hugh Burns spoke Tuesday at the end of a brief hearing in which the trial judge issued three rulings that cut against both sides.
Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Gwendolyn N. Bright reaffirmed her Friday ruling denying a defense motion to dismiss the child-endangerment charge against Lynn because of prosecutorial misconduct.
Bright said prosecutors’ failure to tell Lynn’s lawyers about a detective’s doubt about the credibility of one of the key prosecution witnesses at Lynn’s 2012 trial did not warrant dismissal of the charge.
Bright on Tuesday also ruled against a defense motion to bar prosecutors from introducing at trial the guilty plea to sex assault of a minor by Edward Avery, a defrocked priest from the Roman Catholic 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 St. Jerome’s Parish in the Northeast. He is serving 21/2 to five years at a state prison in Western Pennsylvania.
Lynn, 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 him a new trial.
In his first trial in 2012, Bergstrom sought to exclude Avery’s guilty plea so he could attack the credibility of the now-23-year-old victim, who had given conflicting accounts of what happened, and had 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.
The first trial judge, M. Teresa Sarmina, granted the prosecutor’s request, and Bright on Tuesday reaffirmed that ruling.
Bright, however, also sharply restricted the prosecutor’s ability to introduce evidence of how Lynn handled 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 the jury can understand how he was part of a long-standing 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 cited when it granted Lynn a new trial in 2015. The court said the volume of cases prejudiced the jury and made it impossible for Lynn to get a fair trial.
For the retrial, Burns said prosecutors would use 12 cases and then scaled that number back to nine. Bright struck five of those cases; the judge cited one case that prosecutors may use and said she would consider three others closer to the trial.
Philadelphia News & Search