April 27, 2015
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has reversed a Superior Court decision that overturned the conviction of Monsignor William J. Lynn.
As Big Trial reports, Lynn was originally found guilty by a Philadelphia Common Please Court jury on a single count of endangering the welfare of a child in July 2012 for failing to adequately supervise a sexually abusive priest while serving as secretary for clergy for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. He was the first Roman Catholic church official in the United States to be charged with child endangerment.
Yet after serving 18 months of a 3- to 6-year prison term, that decision was unanimously reversed in December 2013 by a panel of three Superior Court judges which ordered his release. The case's trial judge refused, however, and Lynn has since been kept under house arrest at a rectory in Northeast Philadelphia.
The Supreme Court decision found that Lynn was, in fact, responsible for the welfare of the children who were abused:
Under the facts presented at trial, Appellee was a person supervising the welfare of many children because, as a high-ranking official in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, he was specifically responsible for protecting children from sexually abusive priests
The focus of the legal debate on Lynn's role focused on the language and intent of the endangering the welfare of a child statute. The scope and intent of the law were to be interpreted as including supervisors who are in charge of those who work with children, according to the court's decision.
Lynn transferred the Rev. Edward V. Avery, who had a history of sexually abusing young boys, to St. Jerome's Parish in the Holme Circle section of Northeast Philadelphia, which has a grade school. Avery proceeded to continue a pattern of sexual abuse at his new assignment.
The dissenting opinion, written by Chief Justice Thomas G. Saylor, notes the difference between Lynn's role and that of parents and guardians, stating that "no facts were placed before the jury which it could reasonably conclude [Lynn] affirmatively intended that children's welfare be endangered."
Lynn will not necessarily go straight back to jail, as an appeal is expected concerning other aspects of his trial.
For the full story from Big Trial, click here.