Common Pleas Court Judge Gwendolyn Bright ruled Thursday that Monsignor William Lynn should be given the chance to avoid a new trial.
A hearing on his lawyer’s motion to dismiss the case is scheduled for Jan. 11. Bright may also decide then what evidence will be permitted at a new trial scheduled to start in mid-May.
Lynn’s lawyers asked Bright to preclude evidence about former priest Edward Avery’s conviction, as well as abuse allegations tied to a dozen other archdiocesan priests.
Lynn was the first American Catholic Church official to be convicted of covering up clergy sex abuse of children. He was released from prison in August after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court vacated his 2012 conviction. The high court affirmed that jurors were “prejudiced” by hearing hours of evidence about abuse unrelated to Lynn’s actions as a supervisor with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
During Lynn’s three-month trial, prosecutors presented 21 examples of the Philadelphia archdiocese covering up child sex abuse, some dating back to the 1940s, long before Lynn was in charge of assigning priests.
At the time of his release, Lynn, 65, had served nearly three years of a 3-6 year sentence and was slated for parole.
Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams at the time vowed to retry Lynn, saying he would “continue to use every available legal option at my disposal to prosecute pedophile priests and those who shield them to the fullest extent of the law.”
Lynn’s lawyers contend favorable evidence from police detective Joseph Walsh — the commonwealth’s key witness — was “intentionally concealed” from Lynn during the first trial, violating constitutional law.
Walsh “was a source of numerous pieces of information that would have been exceedingly damaging to the commonwealth’s case — none of which was provided to Lynn,” wrote defense attorney Thomas Bergstrom in a motion filed last month.
Bergstrom also argued that Lynn is being “singled out” simply because he is a Catholic priest.
There is a gag order barring lawyers from speaking to reporters about the case.
The motion by Lynn’s lawyers seeking to limit the evidence at a new trial — should Bright deny the motion to dismiss — is an effort to ensure that jurors are not prejudiced against Lynn.
Bergstrom argued that none of the “prior bad acts” — the accounts of those 21 priests — should be admitted as evidence.
“The jury will have its own common-sense knowledge of the dangers of potentially abusive priests. Therefore, it need not be given numerous examples,” wrote Bergstrom.
The motion also seeks to keep out details about Avery, saying “there is no legal connection” between the two now that Lynn has been acquitted of conspiring with Avery.
Avery, who pleaded guilty to molesting a 10-year-old altar boy at Philadelphia’s St. Jerome’s parish in 1999, was sentenced to prison.
Lynn, whose job it was to supervise priest assignments, moved Avery to St. Jerome’s after allegations of sex abuse at another parish came to light years earlier, according to court documents.