Philly DA seeks rehearing in overturn of Lynn conviction in church sex abuse scandal

 Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, left, and Hugh Burns, chief of appeals with the district attorney's office, discuss their move to ask the Pennsylvania  appellate court to reconsider its decision overturning the conviction of Monsignor William Lynn on charges of child endangerment. (Kimberly Paynter/NewsWorks)

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, left, and Hugh Burns, chief of appeals with the district attorney's office, discuss their move to ask the Pennsylvania appellate court to reconsider its decision overturning the conviction of Monsignor William Lynn on charges of child endangerment. (Kimberly Paynter/NewsWorks)

The attorney for Monsignor William Lynn — the first Roman Catholic Church official in the country to be convicted for mishandling allegations of clergy sex abuse — is hitting “pause” on his plans to seek Lynn’s early release. 

The Philadelphia district attorney’s office is asking the state appellate court that last week overturned Lynn’s conviction to reconsider that decision.

“That stops everything at the moment,” said Lynn’s attorney, Thomas Bergstrom, who was seeking to have him released before a new trial is scheduled. 

At a news conference Monday, District Attorney Seth Williams said his priority is making sure the landmark conviction remains in place. 

“If necessary we will … have another trial,” Williams said. “But we hope it doesn’t get to that.

“We’d like to spare the victim from having to come back to court and all of the witnesses from having to testify and be revictimized by having to share such personal stories,” he said.

On Dec. 22, a Pennsylvania Superior Court panel awarded Lynn a new trial, with two of the three judges agreeing with his attorney that the trial judge allowed too many victims unrelated to his case to testify. On Monday, Philadelphia prosecutors filed a petition for an “en banc reargument” — a request that all nine Superior Court judges hear the case.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests or SNAP applauded the D.A.’s latest legal move. 

“Our view is that when an institution is riddled with deception, callousness and recklessness, such evidence is crucial and is the only way to expose and prevent more corruption,” said SNAP Philadelphia director Karen Polesir in a statement. 

This is the second time a Superior Court panel has overturned Lynn’s conviction on charges of child endangerment. The first time was in 2013, but that decision was later reversed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and Lynn was sent back to prison. He has served about two years in a prison north of Scranton.

Williams said Monday he is willing to take the case back to the state Supreme Court, if his office’s request for reargument is denied. He would not say whether he would continue to pursue the case if the appeal process lasts beyond Lynn’s six-year sentence. Lynn will be eligible for parole in about one year. 

“I’m willing to cross that bridge when we get to it,” Williams said. 

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