by Joseph A. Slobodzian, Staff Writer
A Philadelphia judge has set a hearing for Wednesday to determine if city prosecutors withheld evidence casting doubt on the credibility of a key witness in the 2012 trial that sent Msgr. William J. Lynn to prison for 33 months.
Lynn, who turned 66 on Thursday, was the first Roman Catholic Church official in the United States convicted for supervision of priests accused of sexually molesting children.
He was released from his three- to six-year prison term last August after a state appeals court granted him a new trial following protracted appeals that twice went to the state Supreme Court.
At Thursday’s hearing before Common Pleas Court Judge Gwendolyn N. Bright, Lynn’s attorney Thomas A. Bergstrom argued that the evidence he said prosecutors withheld was so egregious that she should bar retrial.
“We’re looking for this court to make a judgment as to whether this case must be dismissed as the price of misconduct,” Bergstrom said.
The purported exculpatory evidence withheld by prosecutors involves the investigation by Detective Joseph Walsh during the grand jury probe.
Testifying at Lynn’s trial, Walsh guided the jury through church files involving deviant priests and described what actions Lynn recommended to Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua, then head of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
Lynn was not accused of sexually molesting children. The child endangerment charge involved his supervisory role as Philadelphia’s secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004. In that role, he was responsible for investigating allegations against priests and recommending action to the archbishop.
Bergstrom cited a Nov. 29 interview of Walsh by defense lawyers in which he said the retired detective testified that he told then-Assistant District Attorney Mariana Sorensen during the investigation that he did not find an alleged abuse victim credible.
According to Bergstrom, Walsh said Sorensen replied, “You’re hurting me, you’re damaging my case.”
Sorensen, who was managing the evidence going before the county grand jury investigating clergy child sex abuse in the archdiocese, used the victim, who became “Billy Doe” in the presentment recommending charges against Lynn, three priests, and a parochial school teacher.
The Inquirer, the Daily News, and Philly.com do not reveal identities of sexual abuse victims or accusers.
Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington told the judge that Sorensen had denied Walsh’s allegation. Walsh and Sorensen are expected to testify at the hearing Wednesday.
Billy Doe’s credibility became central to the case against Lynn because it was a basis for the child endangerment charge on which he was found guilty in the first trial.
Lynn was accused of allowing the Rev. Edward V. Avery, who had a history of sexually abusing children, to live in the rectory of St. Jerome Catholic Church in Northeast Philadelphia. There, in 1999, Avery was accused of assaulting Billy, then a 10-year-old altar boy.
The accuser also testified that he had been sexually assaulted by another St. Jerome’s priest, the Rev. Charles Engelhardt, and parochial schoolteacher Bernard Shero.
Despite aggressive defense questioning of the accuser about his criminal history, drug use, and multiple versions of his assaults, Philadelphia juries convicted Lynn, Engelhardt, and Shero. Avery pleaded guilty to sex-assault and conspiracy charges. All four were sentenced to prison.
Monsignor William Lynn Fights Retrial on Covering Up Clergy Sexual Abuse
05 January 2016
By NBC 10 Staff
The man at the center of the clergy sex abuse scandal in the Philadelphia Archdiocese returned to court Wednesday to fight an attempt to retry him on charges that he covered up abise cases.
Attorneys argued whether or not there should be a retrial for Monsignor William Lynn and a judge granted a hearing for Jan. 12.
The hearing will determine if city prosecutors withheld evidence that could cast doubt about the testimony of a key witness against Lynn.
Lynn’s attorney, Thomas Bergstrom, says there was wrongdoing by prosecutors five years ago. He filed motions, in part, arguing that the commonwealth hid evidence in the 2012 trial that could have been favorable to Lynn’s defense.
Lynn already served 33 months of a 3- to 6-year sentence dating back to the previous trial, where he was convicted of covering up clergy sex abuse — the first Catholic official in the city to be convicted on those charges.
That conviction was overturned as the Pennsylvania Superior Court believed jurors heard too much evidence about unrelated matters. The commonwealth appealed to the state supreme court, which upheld the lower court’s decision, leading to Lynn’s release — on bail — from prison in August.
Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams has vowed to keep fighting for the conviction.