Judge turns down Msgr. Lynn's request for bail

Msgr. William J. Lynn was sentenced to 3 to 6 years.
Msgr. William J. Lynn was sentenced to 3 to 6 years.
Posted: August 08, 2012

Citing the "serious nature of his conduct," a Philadelphia judge denied a request Monday by lawyers for Msgr. William J. Lynn to free the 61-year-old former archdiocesan official on bail while he appeals his child-endangerment conviction.

Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina rejected the motion by defense lawyers Jeffrey M. Lindy and Alan J. Tauber after an often-acrimonious 15-minute hearing.

On July 24, Sarmina sentenced Lynn to three to six years in prison after a jury found him guilty of child endangerment in the landmark Catholic clergy sex-abuse trial.

Lynn was not at the hearing. He had waived his right to be present and is at the state prison at Camp Hill, near Harrisburg.

Lynn - the first Catholic Church official charged and convicted of a supervisory role in the church sex-abuse scandal - was secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004, responsible for investigating allegations against priests. Though Lynn was never accused of sexual abuse, prosecutors alleged that he enabled priests to prey on children by moving them among Philadelphia-area parishes.

Lindy told Sarmina he believed Lynn should be granted bail pending appeal because there is "better than a 50-50 chance" the state Superior Court would agree with the defense claim that prosecutors improperly used the child-endangerment law to charge a church official who acted only as a supervisor.

"This is the first case in the history of the commonwealth in which the [child endangerment] law has been applied against a supervisor at Msgr. Lynn's level," Lindy argued.

Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington said that under state criminal court rules a defendant convicted and sentenced to more than two years in prison has no right to bail. "This is absolute ignorance of the law," Blessington said. "It's literally a waste of the court's time."

In another development, Lindy said that he and Tauber would not represent Lynn in his appeal.

Lindy said church officials had told him they decided to cap the legal costs in Lynn's case by paying an undisclosed flat fee to the Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney law firm.

Lindy, who has represented Lynn for eight years, said the flat fee was "very limited" and would essentially have meant representing Lynn free.

Buchanan lawyer Thomas A. Bergstrom, who, with Lindy and Tauber, defended Lynn at trial, confirmed that he and Buchanan associate Allison Khashkelis would continue representing Lynn on appeal.

Earlier this year, church officials said they had spent $11.6 million in legal costs since the District Attorney's Office began its probe a decade ago.

Even as Lynn's case played out, legal sparring began anew in the Sept. 4 trial of a former archdiocesan priest and a parochial school teacher charged with sexually assaulting a 10-year-old altar boy at a Northeast Philadelphia parish.

The District Attorney's Office filed a motion opposing efforts by former teacher Bernard Shero's lawyer to keep evidence of Shero's attempted suicide out of his trial.

Shero, 49, and former priest Charles Engelhardt, 65, are charged with rape and related sex charges involving molestation of a 10-year-old altar boy at St. Jerome's parish in the late 1990s. Both were originally charged with Lynn and two other priests, but Sarmina agreed to sever their cases.

According to court documents, Shero's lawyer was called on Feb. 9, 2011, and told that Shero would be charged in the church sex-abuse case and should surrender to detectives the next day.

When Shero did not appear, the documents read, detectives went to his Bristol apartment. Inside, they found Shero staggering and incoherent and learned that he had overdosed on sleeping pills.

On Shero's dining room table was a suicide note to his parents. The note, attached to the court filing, tells his parents he will be arrested and adds, "There is no way I could survive another fight. . . . I along with our family will be dragged through the mud and in the end, whether innocent or guilty, I will have nothing and you will have to live with the ridicule and shame."

Defense attorney Burton A. Rose said he could not comment because of a gag order imposed by Sarmina.

In their motion to use Shero's suicide attempt and note to his parents, prosecutors said Pennsylvania courts had long permitted evidence of attempted suicide to prove "consciousness of guilt."

Sarmina has not ruled on the issue.


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

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