In a brief filed this week, Lynn's lawyers say the monsignor was convicted on June 22 of one count of endangering the welfare of a child [EWOC] "based upon a novel and controversial theory of liability that held him criminally responsible for inadequately supervising a priest ... alleged to have sexually abused a child."
The state's 1972 child endangerment law was usually applied to parents, guardians, and those in direct contact with children, say defense lawyers Thomas A. Bergstrom, Allison Khaskelis, and Alan J. Tauber. Lynn is the first supervisor in the history of Pennsylvania to be charged under the old child endangerment law, even though he never had any direct contact with the child, the lawyers argue.
The defense lawyers say they have a "substantial legal claim" because in 2005, then-District Attorney Lynne Abraham agreed that the old state endangerment law did not apply to Lynn, Cardinal Bevilacqua or other members of the hierarchy of the archdiocese of Philadelphia.
A 2005 grand jury report concluded: "the offense of endangering the welfare of children is too narrow to support a successful prosecution of the decision makers who are running the Archdiocese. The statute confines its coverage to parents, guardians, and other persons 'supervising the welfare of a child.' High level Archdiocesan officials, however, were far removed from any direct contact with children."
The l972 EWOC law states: "A parent, guardian or other persons supervising the welfare of a child under 18 years of age commits an offense if he knowingly endangers the welfare of a child by violating a duty of care, protection or support."
"Pennsylvania appellate courts that have examined the [old] statute have uniformly concluded ... that those responsible for 'supervising the welfare of a child' are parents, parental surrogates or direct supervisors of children only," the lawyers argued.
In 2006, the district attorney's office "zealously advocated for an an amendment of the EWOC statute to cover supervisors and employers that would make church hierarchy and corporate managers liable going forward," the defense lawyers wrote.
As part of that lobbying effort, Assistant District Attorney Mariana Sorensen argued in an Oct. 1, 2006 article in the Allentown Morning Call that the legislature should "promptly enact the Philadelphia grand jury recommendations to: make the law against endangering the welfare of children explicitly apply to supervisors who place children in the care of those known to be dangerous to children ... What criminal law reforms cannot do is identify or hold accountable past abusers and enablers who have successfully concealed their offenses until after the statute of limitations has run."
The amended law, which took effect in 2007, says, "A parent, guardian or other person supervising the welfare of a child under 18 years of age, or a person that employs or supervises such a person, commits an offense if he knowingly endangers the welfare of the child by violating a duty of care, protection or support."
Then in 2011, a new district attorney, Seth Williams, and a new grand jury decided the old 1972 law did apply to Lynn, and the monsignor was indicted for endangering the welfare of a child. In their brief, Lynn's defense lawyers refer to the change of policy as "an unprecedented flip-flop of statutory interpretation" that has never been explained.
Lynn was sentenced to three to six years in prison by Judge M. Teresa Sarmina, who also denied him bail. In their appeal to Superior Court, Lynn's defense lawyers contend that the 61-year-old monsignor deserves bail because he has been a priest for 36 years, has deep ties to the community, and no previous record of criminal behavior, so he is not a flight risk.