Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge M. Teresa Sarmina denied Monsignor William J. Lynn’s release on bail during the appeal of his conviction of endangering a 10-year-old boy sexually abused by a priest who Lynn recommended to live in the boy’s parish.
Lynn is the first Catholic Church official in the country to be convicted of harming sexual-abuse victims whose abuse he was responsible for investigating.
Jeffrey Lindy of Lindy & Tauber argued that, among other reasons, Lynn should be released on bail because his appeal raises novel legal issues. Lynn’s prosecution is the “first case in the history of the commonwealth where the term supervisor [under the pre-2007 endangering the welfare of a child statute] was applied” to someone like Lynn, who had been at least two degrees removed from supervising convicted abuser and former priest Edward V. Avery, Lindy said.
Twelve Philadelphia jurors said in a June 22 verdict they were firm in finding Lynn had endangered the welfare of a 10-year-old altar boy, D.G., when he was sexually assaulted and abused by a priest who Lynn recommended for his clerical assignment.
Lynn was acquitted of conspiring with that boy’s abuser, Avery, to endanger the welfare of D.G. or other minors. When Avery pled guilty to abusing D.G., he was sentenced to 30 to 60 months in prison.
The Legal is not naming the known and alleged victims.
Pennsylvania has not created a constitutionally protected right to bail, Sarmina said, and Lynn should not be released because his conviction is a felony and because of the seriousness of his conduct.
Prosecutor Patrick Blessington said there is no constitutional right to bail, being released on bail is a “rules right rather than a constitutional right,” and a convicted defendant no longer even has a rules right.
Blessington also said Lynn’s defense counsel “gives the court no literal basis” to release Lynn on bail.
Lindy said it would be “a wild abuse of discretion” for Sarmina to not consider any factors at all under the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure in releasing Lynn pending appeal, but Sarmina said that under Pennsylvania case law, when deciding to release a defendant on post-trial bail, there is “no list of factors the court” must consider.
Lynn waived his right to attend the hearing.
In another development Monday, Lindy said his firm is withdrawing from representing Lynn because the archdiocese is not paying enough for Lynn’s appeal.
A “nominal fee” is being offered to Lynn’s co-counsel, of counsel Thomas A. Bergstrom and associate Allison S. Khaskelis of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, and no fee was offered to Lindy & Tauber, but only that the firm could stay involved, Lindy said.
Lindy said he believes in indigent representation and he is active in representing people pro bono or with reduced fees, but “I don’t represent corporations for free. I represent indigent people for free.”
A source said the archdiocese wants to pay a flat fee of $25,000 for Lynn’s appeal to the Superior Court and the Supreme Court.
Kenneth A. Gavin, associate director of communications for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, said in an emailed statement: “Monsignor Lynn’s counsel is strongly convinced that there were many errors at trial and the sentence is disproportionate to other punishments meted out to administrators for this same charge. This strong belief and care for Monsignor Lynn and his family has resulted in Monsignor Lynn’s primary counsel, Tom Bergstrom, deciding to complete the appeal for Monsignor Lynn largely on a pro bono basis.”
Howard D. Scher, co-managing shareholder of Buchanan Ingersoll, said, “We are undertaking the representation of Monsignor Lynn” on his appeal and it would not be appropriate to discuss fee arrangements.
Sarmina said in court she was surprised that post-trial motions challenging her sentencing of Lynn as an abuse of discretion were not being filed.
Lindy said in an interview that the endangering the welfare of a child issue is a strong appellate issue, and “we were in a hostile forum” at the trial court and it is more beneficial to advance to an appellate bench that would “fairly and dispassionately consider our legal arguments.”
“If the case can be won, this is where the case can be won. We’ve been setting up the issue since well before the indictment when I was representing Monsignor Lynn alone and we continued to set it up when Tom and I were co-counsel,” Lindy said. “This is the seminal issue of the case. To now offer a nominal fee to Buchanan and to offer no fee to me, it makes no sense.”
Lindy represented Lynn starting in 2004 after Lynn testified before the first Philadelphia investigating grand jury that looked into sexually abusive priests and how the archdiocese handled complaints about that abuse.
Buchanan Ingersoll started representing Lynn a few weeks before Lynn was charged after a second investigating grand jury.