The Philadelphia Courts website still lists Tuesday as the start of Monsignor William Lynn’s retrial, but an unresolved defense appeal means the former church official won’t face another jury for months, perhaps not until 2018.
Lynn, currently a free man, was convicted in 2012 of recommending the Archdiocese of Philadelphia transfer a known pedophile priest.
Much of Lynn’s three-month trial focused on clergy sex abuse allegedly committed by 21 priests over several decades. Some examples dated back to the 1940s — well before Lynn was a supervisor with the archdiocese.
Common Pleas Court Judge Gwendolyn Bright, who is presiding over the case, has ruled that Lynn’s next trial will spend far less time on these “prior bad acts.”
In late April, Bright ruled that prosecutors could detail allegations against three priests, according to court documents. Lynn’s lawyer then filed an appeal to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania.
Lynn, 66, isn’t expected to appear in a Philadelphia courtroom until late October — for a status hearing about the appeal.
Whenever Lynn’s new trial starts, it will be closely watched by abuse survivors and advocates who want the Catholic Church to be held accountable, said Brian Roewe, a staff writer with the National Catholic Reporter.
“That’s something [they’ve] been pushing for throughout this entire process — is that not only that the priests who sexually abused children be convicted, but the people who are responsible for overseeing them,” said Roewe.
Veteran defense attorney Frank DeSimone said there’s a good chance that will happen — clergy sex abuse charges are a difficult obstacle to overcome. But DeSimone added it’s possible enough time has passed that the charges won’t galvanize jurors as much this time around. There was a lot of anger and raw emotion in 2012.
“The allegations are still going to be the same, but maybe now they’re not as fresh and maybe some of the anger has subsided,” said DeSimone.
There’s a gag order in the case barring attorneys from talking to reporters.
Lynn was freed after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court vacated his conviction in 2016.
The high court affirmed that jurors were “prejudiced” by hearing all those hours of testimony about the sexual abuse of children that was unrelated to Lynn’s actions.
Lynn had served nearly three years of a three- to six-year sentence and was scheduled for parole. If convicted again, legal experts expect Lynn would only serve a few months — if any time — behind bars.