Judge denies convicted monsignor's bid for house arrest

Defense attorney Jeff Lindy, representing Monsignor William Lynn, speaks with the media outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia on Thursday morning, July 5, 2012. A brief hearing was held before the judge to request Lynn be released from prison until sentencing. Lynn was found guilty of one count of child endangerment for covering up alleged abused by Catholic priests. (Alejandro A. Alvarez / Staff Photographer)
Defense attorney Jeff Lindy, representing Monsignor William Lynn, speaks with the media outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia on Thursday morning, July 5, 2012. A brief hearing was held before the judge to request Lynn be released from prison until sentencing. Lynn was found guilty of one count of child endangerment for covering up alleged abused by Catholic priests. (Alejandro A. Alvarez / Staff Photographer)
Posted: July 06, 2012

Msgr. William J. Lynn lost a bid Thursday to get out of jail before being sentenced for child endangerment, but persuaded a judge to move up his sentencing hearing by three weeks.

After barely 10 minutes of discussion, Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina sided with Philadelphia prosecutors who said Lynn, the first Catholic Church supervisor convicted for enabling clergy sex-abuse, should stay in prison because he is a risk to flee.

The former secretary for clergy for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia faces up to seven years in prison. Sarmina rescheduled his sentencing for July 24.

Lynn's relatives and supporters packed the courtroom for the bail hearing, the second since Lynn was convicted and jailed June 22. A few gasped when the judge announced her decision.

Lynn, sitting at the defense table in black priestly garb without a clerical collar, did not appear to react. One of his lawyers, Jeffrey Lindy, patted the monsignor's back.

The lawyers said they were not surprised by the ruling. Instead, they were looking forward to what is likely to be a protracted round of appeals in the landmark case.

They had proposed doubling Lynn's bail to $100,000, and allowing him to live under house arrest with electronic monitoring until his sentencing next month.

Trying to counter prosecutors' argument that Lynn could seek asylum in the Vatican, the defense also proposed having him sign an extradition waiver.

Sarmina noted the waiver as a gesture of goodwill, but said: "From all the case law, it sounds like it would be pretty worthless."

She asked defense attorney Thomas Bergstrom if he would serve Lynn's sentence if the cleric absconded.

"Absolutely, because that's the faith I have in the monsignor," Bergstrom said. "I'm not the least bit concerned that I'll ever have to see the inside of a prison cell — and, frankly, you shouldn't be either."

Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington called such a proposal "absurd."

The prosecutor also opposed changing the sentencing date, saying it amounted to special treatment for Lynn. He said the District Attorney's Office is preparing an extensive sentencing presentation and wanted it to reflect and include any victims affected by Lynn's crime.

"That's a pretty large universe," Blessington contended. Prosecutors intend to ask for the maximum prison term, he said.

After a three-month trial, a jury concluded that Lynn had endangered children when he left the Rev. Edward Avery in active ministry in the 1990s despite knowing that the priest had previously abused a minor.

Avery later admitted sexually assaulting a 10-year-old altar boy in 1999 at a Northeast Philadelphia church. He has since been defrocked and pleaded guilty to the assault.

Jurors acquitted Lynn of two other counts, including that he conspired with Avery or church leaders to endanger children. The jury deadlocked on attempted-rape and endangerment charges against Lynn's remaining codefendant, the Rev. James J. Brennan.

Lynn's lawyers said they did not intend to present any new evidence at the sentencing. But the sooner the hearing, the sooner they can move the case into the appeals courts and file a new request to free Lynn on bail.

Lynn has been jailed at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility since his conviction. Bergstrom said that the monsignor is surviving, but that prosecutors and the judge had no valid legal reason to keep him locked up.

"I'm loath to say this, but I think that the fact that he's wearing a collar has a lot to do with it," Bergstrom told reporters after the hearing.

Tasha Jamerson, a spokeswoman for District Attorney Seth Williams, said Lynn is being treated like any defendant who did what he did.

"For decades, conduct like Lynn's was not taken seriously, or was excused on the basis of the perpetrator's position," Jamerson said. "We hope that verdict in this case will begin to change that."

Lindy said that the defense team plans to renew their argument that prosecutors erred by charging Lynn with endangering children in the 1990s, when the state's endangerment law did not apply to supervisors like him.

Contact John P. Martin at 215-854-4774 or jmartin@phillynews.com, or follow @JPMartinInky on Twitter.

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