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October 20th, 2014

Philadelphia’s Priest Sex Abuse Case – Update on Msgr. Lynn’s Appeal: Hearing Expected

For immediate release, October 2014

The Philadelphia priest sex abuse criminal trials have garnered national attention and no doubt changed the way prosecutors view and now prosecute those who are complicit when it comes to the sex abuse of children.

In 2012, a Philadelphia area upper level priest was tried and convicted of putting innocent children in harm’s way, by shielding reasonably known pedophile priests and simply reassigning them to unsuspecting parishes in the Philadelphia area. In 2012, Monsignor William Lynn was convicted of endangering the welfare of a child and was sentenced to 3-6 years in prison.

He appealed, and the Pennsylvania Superior Court overturned his conviction, finding that the District Attorney’s office had failed to prove that he had supervisory duties with respect to children and therefore, he could not be guilty of endangering the welfare of a child. Read more about the legal issues in this monumental priest abuse case.

After his appeal was successful, he was released on bail pending a subsequent appeal by the DA’s office to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

2014 Timeline – The DA’s Appeal to the PA Supreme Court

January 2014: DA’s office files Petition for Allowance of Appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, citing two appellate issues:

The Superior Court erred in holding that a church official who systematically reassigned pedophile priests in a manner that risked further sexual abuse of children did not endanger the welfare of children.

If, as the Superior Court held, it was legally impossible for defendant to endanger the welfare of children in his individual capacity, the evidence was sufficient to prove his guilt as an accomplice.

May 2014: PA Supreme Court grants the DA’s appeal and certifies the appeals issues:

1. Was the evidence insufficient to prove endangering the welfare of children because defendant did not have direct contact with children?

2. Assuming arguendo the defendant could not endanger the welfare of children in his individual capacity, but as part of a general scheme placed a known sexual predator under his control in a position that promoted the risk of further sexual assaults, was the evidence sufficient to convict him as an accomplice?

July/August 2014: Appellant (DA) and appellee (Lynn) file briefs in support of their positions.

September 2014: Appellee files Petition Seeking Argument Date

What’s Next?

While oral arguments are not permitted in every case, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is likely to grant Lynn’s petition and set a date for oral argument. Given the importance of this case, the court is unlikely to decide the issues without oral argument. However, due to court scheduling and hearing sessions, the hearing date is likely to be scheduled sometime in 2015.

Read a detailed analysis of the legal issues in the appeal.