Lawyers for Msgr. Lynn seek dismissal of retrial for prosecutorial misconduct

Monsignor William Lynn leaves the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia on Monday, January 6, 2014. Monsignor Lynn was released from prison after his conviction was reversed.

Lawyers for Msgr. William J. Lynn - the Philadelphia archdiocesan official who served 33 months in prison before winning a new trial for his role in the Catholic Church sex-abuse scandal - have asked a judge to dismiss the case because of prosecutorial misconduct.

In a motion this week, defense attorney Thomas A. Bergstrom contended that prosecutors withheld evidence that might have cleared Lynn in his first trial in 2012.

Lynn was not accused of sexually molesting children; the child endangerment charge involved his supervisory role as secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004. In that role, he was responsible for investigating allegations against priests and recommending action to the archbishop.

The defense motion also challenged Lynn's retrial as selective prosecution, noting that the grand jury that recommended charges against Lynn also was "highly critical" of Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua and his successor, Cardinal Justin Rigali, but that they were not charged by District Attorney Seth Williams.

Bevilacqua, 88, his memory erased by old age, died in January 2012, one year after Williams announced charges against Lynn. Rigali retired in 2011 at age 76.

Bergstrom's motion also says it seeks dismissal because Williams decided to retry Lynn in the midst of his own problems.

Williams has acknowledged potential violations of state and city ethics rules for not disclosing about $160,000 in gifts. The motion also cites prosecution of Williams' ex-girlfriend for slashing tires on several city vehicles and a purported federal probe of Williams' personal and political finances.

On Friday, before he understood that a gag order had been put in place, Williams released a statement standing by Lynn's retrial. The defense allegations, he said, were "simply an outlandish effort by the defense to distract and shift the blame from the crime committed by . . . Lynn."

Bergstrom also declined to comment Friday after a status hearing in Lynn's case, citing Common Pleas Court Judge Gwendolyn N. Bright's gag order.

Bright set Jan. 5 - Lynn's 66th birthday - for a hearing on the motions.

The defense claim of withheld "exculpatory evidence" at the first trial involves the investigation by Detective Joseph Walsh during the grand jury probe. Testifying at trial, Walsh guided the jury through the church files involving deviant priests.

Bergstrom cited a Nov. 29 interview of Walsh by defense lawyers where the retired detective "revealed highly exculpatory and relevant information that was concealed from Lynn in his first trial."

In June 2012, Lynn was found guilty of child endangerment. A month later, Lynn was sentenced to three to six years in prison.

On Aug. 2, Lynn was freed on $250,000 bail after the state Supreme Court rejected the district attorney's appeal of last December's Superior Court order of a new trial.

One difference between Lynn's first trial and the second will be the lengthy review of historical cases of clergy sex abuse.

Superior Court ruled that the volume of historical cases - 21 dating to 1940, detailing how the archdiocese handled allegations of child sexual abuse by priests - was prejudicial.

In its own pretrial motion filed this week, the District Attorney's Office proposed scaling back the number of "prior bad acts" cases from 21 to 12.

The defense motions also make clear the retrial will focus heavily on a single, problematic allegation of child sexual abuse.

Lynn was accused of child endangerment for letting the Rev. Edward V. Avery, who had a history of sexually abusing children, live in the rectory of St. Jerome Catholic Church in Northeast Philadelphia. There, Avery was accused of assaulting a 10-year-old altar boy in 1999. Bergstrom said he now has reports not available to him at Lynn's trial that the now-28-year-old accuser was deemed not believable.

jslobodzian@phillynews.com

215-854-2985 @joeslobo

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