A Philadelphia judge presiding over the Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia priest sex-abuse trial must decide if the reports from five people in 2010 that they were abused sexually by defrocked priest Edward Avery can be admitted into evidence in order to bolster the prosecution’s case.
Evidence regarding Avery, who pled guilty to sexually abusing a 10-year-old boy just before the trial started, started Monday and is slated to continue later this week.
Prosecutors want to use the evidence of those other alleged victims not against Avery, who already pled guilty to the first-degree felony of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, but against Avery’s co-defendant, Monsignor William J. Lynn. Lynn is on trial for allegedly endangering the welfare of the 10-year-old Avery abused, endangering the welfare of a 14-year-old who another co-defendant allegedly tried to rape and conspiring with Avery and the third co-defendant to endanger the two youths. Lynn’s job from 1992 to 2004 as the archdiocese’s secretary for clergy was to serve as the personnel director for priests and to investigate and monitor priests who were reported to have sexually abused youths.
Prosecutors said those other victims would bolster their argument that Avery was a powder keg waiting to explode into further sexual abuse.
“It’s a crime just to put the powder keg out there,” prosecutor Patrick Blessington argued.
One of Lynn’s defense attorneys, Jeffrey M. Lindy of Lindy & Tauber, said that the crux of the case is what Lynn knew, but Lindy said no pastor, no nun, nor any other church official had any idea of these five victims until 2010, which was six years after Lynn was the secretary for clergy.
“How do any of these other victims go to the time bomb that Mr. Blessington says is Edward Avery?” Lindy asked.
Lindy argued that the admission of those five cases “does not shed light on what Monsignor Lynn knew.”
Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge M. Teresa Sarmina said Monday that she is not convinced there is a sufficient nexus between Lynn’s knowledge of the threat that sexually abusive priests, including Avery, posed to children and teenagers and the five victims who came forward many years later.
Even if Lynn had issued a bulletin to every parish Avery had served in asking for people to come forward, Sarmina said that the victims might not have necessarily come forward. They did not come forward in 2002 after the first grand jury investigation by the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office into sexual abuse by priests, Sarmina said.
All of the evidence in the case, including that of instances of sexual abuse or improprieties by priests who Lynn supervised but which are not involving criminal charges, show that it takes victims of sexual abuse a very long time to come forward, Sarmina said.
“There is a lot of shame and attention bestowed on you” by revealing that you were sexually abused, Sarmina said.
While anyone doing a job learns as they go along, Sarmina said she did not see how victims coming forward in 2010 would have helped Lynn learn about the threat posed by Avery to the 10-year-old he abused in 1999.
But Blessington said the fact that more victims came forward shows that Lynn did not do everything he could have. “The fact he didn’t look is instructive in and of itself,” Blessington said.
Sarmina said that prosecutors can develop in court today — outside of the earshot of the jury — the nexus they argue connects Lynn to other of Avery’s victims.
Sarmina also said that she was contemplating only allowing the jury to hear when the alleged victims came forward, when they were allegedly abused by Avery and perhaps what their racial background is.
After Avery’s guilty plea, he was immediately sentenced to serve 30 to 60 months in prison as part of a negotiated plea deal with prosecutors, The Legal previously reported.
Avery’s guilty plea encompasses his act of engaging in oral sex with a 10-year-old in the spring of 1999 while he was a priest at St. Jerome Parish in Philadelphia, The Legal previously reported.
Avery’s guilty plea also encompasses that he, Lynn and other archdiocese officials acted in concert with Avery “with a common purpose to conceal Avery’s known acts of sexual abuse of [another] minor [than the one Avery abused in 1999]” so Avery could remain in ministry and in contact with altar servers and other children without the knowledge of the parishioners, The Legal previously reported.