District Attorney Seth Williams has vowed to appeal the reversal of a Commonwealth Court verdict finding an Archdiocese secretary guilty of child endangerment.
William Lynn, 62, was found guilty in 2012 of child endangerment for knowingly assigning a priest, Edward Avery, who had molested a child, to a Philadelphia parish, where he molested a child again.
Last week, a three-judge panel overturned the guilty verdict and ordered Lynn released on the grounds that the state's child endangerment laws did not apply to supervisors like Lynn until 2007. Lynn, who assigned Avery to the parish in question in 1993, left his position of secretary in 2004.
At a hearing on Monday, Lynn was granted $250,000 bail. He must put up 10 percent of the bail to be released from Waymart state prison, where is currently incarcerated.
In support of his appeal, Williams cited a 1976 Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision, Commonwealth v. Mack (1976), which he said calls for child endangerment laws to be applied in accordance with "the common sense of the community" and "broad protective purposes," for which the law was made.
The Superior Court did not consider this ruling in overturning Lynn's guilty verdict, Williams said.
Instead, they found that the child endangerment statutes used to convict Lynn were not appropriately applied.
"We are now being told that relocating pedophile priests to new parishes among unsuspecting victims without regard to the danger was not even a crime," Williams said.
Father Avery pled guilty to abusing a 10-year-old boy at St. Jerome's Parish from 1998 to 1999. He received a 2-and-a-half to five year sentence.
Lynn admitted to assigning Avery to the parish, even though he knew Avery had previously molested a boy. He was sentenced to three to six years in prison.
In a strongly worded press release, D.A. Williams said Lynn "methodically and deliberately distributed dangerous pedophiles around the Delaware Valley like so many time bombs."
"He sent these known predators as wolves in sheep’s clothing to new unsuspecting parishes," Williams said in his press release. "He told former parishioners that the priests, who were never identified as pedophiles, left due to health concerns. There was never any warning about the danger to kids. So that the next victims would not know what hit them. The evidence showed that Lynn did this over and over and over again. That is why what Father Avery did to the little boy in this case was no surprise, no mistake. It was inevitable."
Lynn was only convicted of child endangerment on charges specific to Avery. He was not convicted of assigning any other molesters to parishes.
The landmark guilty verdict in Lynn's case was a significant legal precedent, applicable for example to pending criminal charges against Penn State officials accused of child endangerment for not reporting the activities of alleged molester Jerry Sandusky, activities which also occurred before the law was changed in 2007.
One of Lynn’s attorneys, Thomas Bergstrom, argued in appeals paper that the conviction involved a child Lynn “never knew and certainly never touched.”
“The [appeals] court was very adamant about the fact that this statue didn’t apply to him,” Bergstrom said. “You can’t mix Lynn’s conduct with what Avery did.”
In a statement, the Survivors Network of Abuse by Priests (SNAP) said they believe Lynn should remain in custody while an appeal is pending.
"We support DA Seth Williams' effort to keep Msgr. William Lynn behind bars for now," SNAP said. "We too worry that he might flee overseas, like hundreds of predator priests - and several corrupt church officials - already have. Why take the risk that a complicit Catholic cleric might escape justice?"
"Since he was convicted, virtually no Philly Catholic official has clearly denounced his wrongdoing. So it's clear that Lynn continues to enjoy the support of many of his Catholic supervisors and peers, any of whom could help him flee," SNAP's statement also said.
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