Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge M. Teresa Sarmina denied a request to release Monsignor William J. Lynn on house arrest while he awaits sentencing.
Lynn had his bail revoked at the request of prosecutors in the wake of his conviction of endangering the welfare of a child June 22.
Lynn is the first Catholic Church official in the country who did not directly abuse a child to be convicted of a crime related to failing to protect children from abusive priests.
Sarmina did not give a specific reason why she was denying the defense request, but she did mention that the commonwealth’s legal research had shown that Lynn’s willingness to sign an affidavit that he would waive his rights to fight extradition was legally meaningless.
“From the case law it sounds pretty worthless,” Sarmina said.
Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, through Chief of Special Investigations Patrick Blessington and Assistant District Attorney Mariana Sorensen, said in court papers that after consulting with canon lawyer the Rev. Thomas Doyle, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs and the Department of Justice’s attache in the U.S. Embassy in Rome, they concluded “that anticipatory waivers of extradition executed in U.S. courts are unenforceable, even in countries that have extradition treaties with the United States.”
At a prior hearing, Sarmina said she was considering releasing Lynn on house arrest if he would sign a waiver of his right to fight extradition and if such a waiver would be honored by the Vatican.
Blessington had raised in a hearing last month that Lynn might be at risk of cutting off his electronic monitoring bracelet and fleeing to the Vatican or another country as one reason why he should not get out on house arrest pending his sentencing.
Lynn did say he would sign a waiver of his rights to fight extradition.
Further, the prosecutors said in court papers, the Vatican has not signed a treaty and has no provision in canon law to give force to Lynn’s waiver of extradition.
Doyle, who testified as an expert witness on behalf of prosecutors, advised that “he is aware of other cases in which dioceses and religious orders have sent priests accused of sexual abuse of children to the Vatican after arrest warrants have been approved,” the prosecutors said in court papers. “In those cases, Doyle said, the Vatican has ignored, refused, or returned the requests for extradition. He advised that there is no legal basis or reason to believe that a waiver signed by Lynn would cause the Vatican to extradite him.”
The Department of Justice opined that waivers of extradition are not considered a condition of bail that would ensure a defendant’s appearance at trial, the prosecutors said in court papers.
Case law also does not support such a waiver, the prosecutors said.
While Lynn’s attorney, Thomas A. Bergstrom of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, acknowledged that the case law did not support the defense position, Bergstrom said that Lynn’s willingness to sign such a waiver was a good-faith effort to show he was not going to flee.
“If he were any other defendant, he would be out on bail,” Bergstrom said.
Lynn’s family also was ready to post 10 percent of Lynn’s bail because the judge said it should be increased to $100,000 and Lynn also was ready to turn in his passport, Bergstrom said.
When Sarmina asked if Bergstrom would serve Lynn’s sentence in lieu of him, Bergstrom said he would because of his faith in his client.
Sarmina did grant a defense request to move up Lynn’s sentencing to July 24 because he waived his right to a pre-sentencing investigation.
Blessington objected to moving the sentencing date up.
But Sarmina said that she favors zealous advocacy, which is not always supported in the Criminal Justice Center, and such advocacy cannot always get “smacked down.”
Blessington said that he had jury duty the week of Lynn’s sentencing. Sarmina said the court would ensure that Blessington was necessary to the proceeding.
After 13 days of deliberation, more than two months of testimony and almost 1,900 documents admitted into evidence, 12 Philadelphia jurors said they were firm in finding Lynn had endangered the welfare of a 10-year-old altar boy when he was sexually assaulted by a priest who the official recommended for his clerical assignment.
Lynn was acquitted of conspiring with that boy’s abuser, defrocked priest Edward V. Avery, to endanger the welfare of D.G. or other minors.
Lynn also was acquitted of endangering the welfare of M.B., who said Lynn’s co-defendant, the Rev. James J. Brennan, tried to rape him.
The Legal is not naming the known and alleged victims.
The jury was hung on the attempted rape and endangering the welfare of child charges Brennan faced. Sarmina declared a mistrial.
At the close of the prosecutors’ case-in-chief, Sarmina acquitted Brennan and Lynn of a charge of conspiracy.