Msgr. William Lynn, the first U.S. Catholic Church official to be convicted of covering up clergy sex abuse, is now expected to be retried in 2019, more than two years after he left prison a free man.
During a brief status hearing Monday, Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington said his office is mulling an appeal to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania that could change the complexion of the new trial. The decision will easily send the possible start of a new trial into next year.
Lynn’s first trial in 2012 included testimony about nearly two dozen examples of alleged clergy sex abuse unrelated to Lynn’s actions as a supervisor with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
In 2016, the state Supreme Court vacated Lynn’s conviction after it affirmed that jurors were “prejudiced” by hearing hours of testimony about those “prior bad acts,” some of which dated back to the 1940s.
The Superior Court of Pennsylvania recently affirmed that Lynn’s next trial should only cover a few of these “prior bad acts.” But the district attorney’s office has pushed to include more, which could lead to the office filing a petition asking the state Supreme Court to hear an appeal.
A gag order is in place barring attorneys from speaking to reporters about the case.
Lynn, 67, was released on bail in August 2016 after the Supreme Court’s decision.
He remains a free man after serving nearly three of a 3-6-year sentence after he was convicted of one count of endangering the welfare of a child. He had been scheduled to be released on parole that October.
The jury during Lynn’s first trial found that he recommended the archdiocese transfer a known pedophile priest to a parish in Northeast Philadelphia. That priest, the former Rev. Edward Avery, later pleaded guilty to sexually molesting a 10-year-old altar boy there in the late 1990s.
Avery remains in prison, along with former school teacher Bernard Shero, who was also convicted of sexually abusing the boy, known as “John Doe,” in court documents.
A second priest, the late Rev. Charles Engelhardt. was also convicted. He died while appealing his case from prison.
If convicted again, legal experts said, Lynn would only serve a few months in prison — at most.