When defense lawyers go before Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina on Monday to ask for bail pending appeal for Msgr. William J. Lynn, the guest of honor will not be present.
The 61-year-old cleric, sentenced July 24 to 3 to 6 years in prison after a jury found him guilty of child endangerment in the landmark clergy sex abuse trial involving the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia, is already more than 100 miles away in the state prison at Camp Hill near Harrisburg.
At sentencing, Lynn told his lawyer he did not want to be returned to Philadelphia for his bail hearing, which would have required a rigorous prison bus ride as well as a likely stay at the state prison at Graterford in Montgomery County before his court date.
Lynn was the archdiocesan secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004, a job in which he was responsible for investigating allegations that priests sexually abused minors. Though Lynn personally was never accused of sexual abuse, city prosecutors maintained that he enabled deviate priests to prey on children by moving them among Philadelphia-area parishes.
In court filings, Lynn’s attorneys have argued that he should be released on bail pending appeal because there is “better than a 50-50 chance” that the state Superior Court will find the prosecution’s extension of the child endangerment statute improper in charging a church supervisor.
Lynn has never missed a court appearance, say his lawyers, who ridiculed the prosecution’s claim that he might flee the country and find sanctuary in the Vatican in Rome, which has no extradition treaty with the United States. They say he is also wedded to the Philadelphia area: he was born and raised here, educated and worked here and has his large extended family living here and in full support of him.
Regardless of Judge Sarmina’s ruling on Lynn’s bail motion, Lynn’s ties to the Philadelphia area are unlikely to carry much weight with the state Department of Corrections. Since being ordered to begin serving his sentence on July 24, , Lynn has been on an odyssey that took him from solitary confinement – for his protection – at Philadelphia’s Curran-Fromhold Correctional Center to Graterford and then to Camp Hill, the state prison system’s diagnostic center where new inmates are evaluated before final assignment.
Although Lynn’s final destination is unknown, one indication might be in the experience of former Philadelphia priest Edward V. Avery. Avery, 69, was supposed to have gone on trial with Lynn but pleaded guilty on the eve of trial to sexually assaulting a 10-year-old altar boy.
Avery, who Sarmina sentenced to 2-1/2 to 5 years in prison, is now housed at the state prison at Laurel Highlands, in Somerset County in Western Pennsylvania.
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