Judge OKs Lynn's home confinement

Posted: June 27, 2012

Updated 12:35 p.m.:

Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina has given conditional approval to the idea of house arrest for Msgr. William J. Lynn, who was convicted last week of child endangerment in a Catholic sex-abuse scandal.  But Lynn will have to remain in jail until at least a scheduled July 5 hearing on several legal issues the judge asked the lawyers to research.

An earlier story is below

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For the last four nights, William J. Lynn has been known as No. 1102886 - one of 2,883 men living at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility, the largest of the city's prisons, in Northeast Philadelphia.

On Tuesday, Lynn's lawyers hope they can persuade a Philadelphia judge to grant Lynn bail, allowing him to resume his role as a monsignor of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and, at least temporarily, live at a relative's home instead of solitary confinement.

Lynn, 61, was found guilty Friday by a Common Pleas Court jury of a count of child endangerment, the first Catholic Church official criminally charged for his administrative duties as part of the ongoing sex-abuse scandal.

From 1992 to 2004, Lynn was archdiocesan secretary for clergy, responsible for investigating allegations of sexual abuse against priests.

As with many criminal defendants found guilty at trial, Lynn was ordered into custody immediately by Judge M. Teresa Sarmina until he is sentenced on Aug. 13.

Sarmina granted the motion by Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington, the lead prosecutor during the 11-week trial, that Lynn's bail be revoked.

"Treat him like the criminal he now is," Blessington argued after the verdict. "This is a case that is going to call for a lengthy jail sentence. Let's start it today. Today, to jail. That's justice."

Lynn's attorneys objected to putting the cleric behind bars pending sentencing. Lynn has been living with relatives in Reading since being suspended last year from his post as pastor of St. Joseph in Downingtown and has attended every court hearing for more than a year.

Defense attorney Jeffrey M. Lindy called Sarmina's decision disproportionately unfair and legally flawed. Sarmina said Friday that she would consider a defense proposal for Lynn to spend his time until Aug. 13 on house arrest in the home of a relative in Philadelphia.

Sarmina had set the hearing for Monday but then postponed it until Tuesday.

Blessington has said he would seek the maximum seven-year prison term for Lynn based on the jury's verdict.

The jury in the landmark trial deliberated 121/2 days before returning its guilty verdict. The jury acquitted Lynn of another endangerment count and a charge of conspiracy.

The jury deadlocked on two counts against Lynn's codefendant, the Rev. James J. Brennan, 48. The District Attorney's Office has not decided if it will retry Brennan, who was accused of attempted rape and child endangerment involving a 14-year-old in 1996.

In addition to the possible retrial of Brennan, the church still faces the publicity and financial consequences of Lynn's appeals as well a potential civil litigation from victims of priests.

Last week, in his introduction to the archdiocesan budget, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput wrote that the trial's extraordinary legal expenses of $11.6 million "are being funded through cash and investment reserves, cash proceeds generated from the sale of excess real estate holdings or other assets owned by the archdiocese itself."

Chaput said the legal costs were in addition to the $17 million deficit that last week resulted in the layoffs of 45 employees at archdiocesan headquarters and the closing of the 117-year-old newspaper the Catholic Standard and Times.


Contact Joseph A. Slobodzian at 215-854-2985, jslobodzian@phillynews.com, or @joeslobo on Twitter.

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