Judge sends Roman Catholic supervisor back to prison

Thomas Bergstrom, defense attorney for Monsignor William Lynn, says he plans to file an emergency petition to get Lynn freed on bail. (ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)

A COMMON PLEAS judge yesterday ordered Monsignor William Lynn - the nation's first Catholic Church official convicted of endangering children in his role as a supervisor - back to prison.

Lynn, 64, dressed in a white turtleneck, gray sweatshirt and blue jeans, his pink-hued face appearing rounder than it did when he was released from prison in January 2014, seemed resigned to his fate.

During the half-hour hearing before Judge M. Teresa Sarmina, Lynn solemnly looked in front of him, his head bowed, his hands clasped on the defense table.

After Sarmina heard arguments about whether she should allow Lynn to remain under house arrest at St. William Parish in Northeast Philadelphia while remaining appellate issues are resolved in the state Superior Court, she revoked his bail and had him taken into custody.

"Can you call for a sheriff, please?" Sarmina asked a court officer before she left the courtroom. Moments later, Lynn quietly left the room with a deputy.

Yesterday's bail hearing was prompted by a state Supreme Court decision on Monday, which reversed a Dec. 26, 2013, state Superior Court ruling, which had overturned Lynn's 2012 jury conviction and Sarmina's three-to-six-year sentence on a count of endangering the welfare of children.

Lawyers yesterday argued over the interpretation of the state Supreme Court ruling.

Defense attorney Thomas Bergstrom contended the ruling only determined that Lynn was a supervisor. He contended the ruling did not reinstate the 2012 felony conviction and sentence.

Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington argued the top court did indeed reinstate the conviction and sentence.

"A reversal of a reversal is the status quo," Blessington said, and thus Lynn "needs to go back to prison, where he belongs."

Lynn was released from state prison on Jan. 2, 2014, a week after the state Superior Court overturned his conviction and sentence, and ordered him to be discharged. At that time, he had served 18 months behind bars.

Sarmina had allowed him out under bail, but ordered that he live under house arrest, pending prosecutors' appeal to the state Supreme Court. He was under house arrest for almost 16 months - until yesterday.

Lynn was the Archdiocese's secretary for clergy from June 1992 to June 2004. He was convicted of a count of endangering the welfare of children for his supervision of now-defrocked priest Edward Avery, who pleaded guilty in March 2012 to sexually assaulting an altar boy in 1999.

Superior Court, in reversing Lynn's conviction and sentence, ruled in part that Lynn was not criminally liable because he did not directly supervise any child.

But the state Supreme Court on Monday said "the plain language" of the law in effect at the time did not require Lynn to have direct supervision of children.

After yesterday's hearing, Bergstrom said he planned to file an emergency petition in Superior Court to ask for Lynn to be freed on bail again.

"We're not going to surrender to this," he vowed.

On Twitter: @julieshawphilly