Defense attorneys for the Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia official accused of endangering the welfare of a man set to testify today that he was abused by a defrocked priest will have to take their chances that prosecutors might be able to tell the jury about the ex-cleric’s guilty plea.
Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge M. Teresa Sarmina said Tuesday she would not prospectively rule on whether prosecutors could introduce defrocked priest Edward V. Avery’s guilty plea to sexually abusing D.G. until after cross-examination is conducted by the attorneys for Monsignor William J. Lynn. The Legal is not naming the alleged victims.
Lynn is on trial for allegedly endangering the welfare of the 10-year-old Avery abused, endangering the welfare of a 14-year-old whom the Rev. James J. Brennan, a co-defendant in the trial, allegedly tried to sexually abuse, and conspiring with Avery and Brennan 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.
Sarmina suggested that Lynn’s defense attorneys make a motion that, if prosecutors do want to introduce the evidence of Avery’s guilty plea to counteract the defense cross-examination of D.G., that they need to bring in Avery in person.
Having Avery testify in person that he entered a guilty plea might raise the issue of Lynn’s constitutional Sixth Amendment rights, Sarmina said.
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 today. Until his guilty plea, Avery had been a co-defendant of Lynn in the case.
Prosecutor Patrick Blessington said that, if D.G.’s credibility is impeached, that it would be fundamentally unfair to not introduce Avery’s guilty plea to abusing D.G.
But Lynn’s defense attorney, Thomas A. Bergstrom of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, said that his co-counsel and he would be cross-examining D.G. at their own peril because Lynn and Avery are charged with conspiring together to endanger D.G.’s welfare.
Sarmina did say that, if only a court reporter is called to read a transcript to the jury about Avery’s guilty plea, that the court reporter could only indicate Avery pled guilty to sexual abuse, not that Avery also pled guilty to conspiracy. But Sarmina said she did not know yet, if Avery is called in person, if the parameters of his testimony would be limited just to the sexual abuse charge.
Another issue in the case is if the reports from five people in 2010 that they were abused sexually by Avery can be admitted into evidence in order to bolster the prosecution’s case.
That issue will be addressed later.
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 Lynn. Prosecutors said those other victims would bolster their argument that Avery was a powder keg waiting to explode into further sexual abuse. Defense attorneys said no church official had any idea of these five victims until 2010, which was six years after Lynn was the secretary for clergy.
After Avery’s guilty plea was taken, 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