Philadelphia priest's lawyers say key witness lied to convict their client
Attorneys for Catholic Monsignor William Lynn say a defrocked priest who testified against him lied.
September 20th, 2012
08:00 AM ET

Philadelphia priest's lawyers say key witness lied to convict their client

By Sarah Hoye, CNN

Philadelphia (CNN) - Defense attorneys for a senior Roman Catholic official convicted in the child sex abuse scandal said this week that prosecutors persuaded a defrocked priest to falsely admit to sexually abusing a 10-year-old boy in exchange for their client’s conviction.

Monsignor William Lynn, 61, was found guilty in June of one count of child endangerment, and is serving a sentence of 3 to six years at a minimum-security facility. The trial judge denied bail pending his appeal.

The trial marked the first time U.S. prosecutors charged not just the priests who allegedly committed abuses, but also a church leader for failing to stop them.

In a motion to reconsider bail pending an appeal filed Monday in Pennsylvania Superior Court, defense attorneys say they learned in August that defrocked priest Edward Avery passed a polygraph test before the trial and revealed that he did not know, and never touched, the former altar boy he pleaded guilty to abusing.

“This came to my attention very late in the game,” said Thomas Bergstrom, defense attorney for Lynn. “Ultimately, (Avery) did plead guilty because prosecutors were dangling 20 years in prison in his face if he didn’t plead.”

Just days before the landmark trial began in March, Avery, 70, pleaded guilty to involuntary deviant sexual intercourse and conspiracy to endanger the welfare of a child. He was sentenced to 2½ to five years.

Avery pleaded guilty to a crime he didn't commit because there was a credible accusation against him from a different victim and the prosecution offered him a “sweet deal,” Bergstrom said.

“I’m not looking to undo his plea,” Bergstrom said. “I don’t have to be the judge here in terms of deciding if what he says is truthful. I should have been told about this so I could have decided how to respond.”

Avery’s alleged abuse of the boy - who testified during the trial - was a major portion of the 2011 grand jury report that charged three Philadelphia priests and a parochial school teacher with raping and assaulting boys in their care. Lynn was charged with covering up allegations of molestation and rape against priests by transferring them to other parishes.

Avery, who was defrocked in 2006, and another priest, the Rev. James Brennan, were accused of sexually abusing children between 1996 and 1999. Before Avery pleaded guilty, both were slated to go on trial with Lynn. The same jury that convicted Lynn was unable to reach a verdict against Brennan, who was accused of the attempted rape of a 14-year-old. The Philadelphia district attorney's office announced it would retry Brennan.

Although Lynn did not sexually abuse any children, he failed to take the “appropriate steps” to remove predator priests from ministry, Common Pleas Judge Teresa Sarmina said at sentencing. “He has been sentenced for his own actions done knowingly.”

Hugh Burns, chief of the appeals unit in the Philadelphia district attorney’s office, said Avery pleaded guilty to sexually abusing the former altar boy under oath and of his own free will.

“He pleaded guilty because the evidence against him was compelling, and because he was in fact guilty,” said Burns, who referenced Avery’s testimony from his sentencing.

Polygraph results are inadmissible in court, Burns said, and added that his office will file an official response to the motion.

“Frankly, this is the first I've ever heard of a defendant arguing not that he didn't do what he was accused of doing, but that his accomplice supposedly didn't do what the accomplice pleaded guilty to having done. This is a desperation argument with no legal validity.”

On Tuesday, attorney Jeff Anderson and co-counsels Marci Hamilton and Dan Monahan announced the filing of eight new lawsuits for nine alleged victims of clergy abuse against the Philadelphia Archdiocese, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, Cardinal Justin Rigali, Lynn and seven priests accused of sexual abuse.

“We have not received copies of the cases that the plaintiffs have said they intend to file, so we cannot provide more detailed information on those particular lawsuits at this time. We believe lawsuits are not the best mechanism to promote healing in the context of the very private and difficult circumstances of sexual abuse. We will work to assure all victims of sexual abuse receive appropriate assistance,” said Kenneth Gavin, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

The lawsuits bring the total filed against the archdiocese by Jeff Anderson & Associates to 16 complaints on behalf of 17 accusers.

“Bringing these cases is important because until there is accountability it is difficult to begin a journey of healing. With the filing of these cases today, these courageous survivors can start to heal,” said Anderson, who is also handling lawsuits for alleged victims of sexual abuse by Jerry Sandusky at Penn State.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Bishops • Catholic Church • Christianity

soundoff (31 Responses)
  1. Winston5

    Skum. Of. The. Earth.

    September 21, 2012 at 10:45 pm |
  2. pitiful subst!tute for ScottCA

    who needs jeezus when we have Eddie Long???

    September 20, 2012 at 11:50 pm |
  3. pitiful ScottCA subst!tute


    September 20, 2012 at 11:41 pm |
  4. Atheism is Great for Kids and Grown-Ups Too!

    It's really best for all people including children to have an agnostic approach to god, and an atheistic approach to all religion. It keeps things simple for kids, and lets them be all that they can be. They just need to be taught that some things, like all religion, were just made up by salesmen and politicians from long ago. (Yes, charlatan folklore and spam started long before the Bible; what would make you think they hadn't?) And they need to be taught that other things, like God, we really don't know a damn thing about.

    Atheists have strong minds and don't need a religion. Many religious folk have the best intentions. But too often, religious folk run and hide their misdeeds within their religion (and by doing so, they disserve society). And too often, religious folk are easily offended when someone mocks their make-believe characters – and, as we can see they can get really CRAZY!

    Although there are many religious folk with good intentions – some selflessly helping others, religions and religious organizations are, as a whole, just big old clubs – each trying to out do each other and inspiring hate and division (often disguised as love) along the way. The problem is that people too easily buy into religion and don't realize how unfounded it all is. And when they buy into it, they buy into a lot of really old, really weird tenets that are nothing but harmful for the human species.

    Take Christianity, for instance. Just look at all the things that Christians argue about amongst themselves today – abortion, men's and women's roles in the church, celibacy, contraception, acceptance of gays, etc. Most of these issues have their roots in the conflicted, unfounded tenets of early Christianity. Non-Mormons harp on Joseph Smith these days. But we really don't have any more proof at all to believe that Paul, the self-proclaimed "apostle" was anything more than an ordinary man who needed to make up religious "sales literature" to survive and spread his own personal beliefs. And yet a good chunk of the NT is attributed to Paul and accepted by many Christians. And a lot of what he wrote about has to do with many of the issues I mentioned above that have Christians fighting amongst themselves hundreds of years later. It's way too unfounded to argue over.

    Get a good cup of tea, and sit down and collect your thoughts. If you find it helpful to pray to a god (something you know nothing about), fine. But it is really healthier for the mind to leave behind all the characters that people over the centuries have invented or given powers to, for which there is little or no foundation. Because with those invented characters and powers – that's where division and hate join the little party in your mind. That's where, in your mind, you are inheriting the division and hate from ordinary politicians, lobbyists and salesmen from long ago. My goodness.

    mama kindless

    September 20, 2012 at 9:48 pm |
  5. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    September 20, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
    • Jesus

      Prayer does not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs! –

      September 20, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
    • hal 9001

      I'm sorry, "Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things", but your assertions regarding atheism and prayer are unfounded. The degree to which your assertions may represent correct statements is 0.0. To help you understand the degree to which your assertions may represent correct statements, I will access my Idiomatic Expression Equivalency module (IEE). Using my IEE module, the expression that best matches the degree to which your assertions may represent correct statements is: "TOTAL FAIL, DUDE".

      I see that you repeat these unfounded statements with high frequency. Perhaps the following book might help you overcome this problem:

      I'm Told I Have Dementia: What You Can Do... Who You Can Turn to...
      by the Alzheimer's Disease Society

      September 20, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
  6. Mickey1313

    The lawyer is lieing, and the fact that the priest is going to minim security its rediculous. This pedo should go to real pound you I'm the pooper prison

    September 20, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
  7. Bootyfunk

    aaawwww.... i just feel so bad for these priests. sure, they were successfully able to cover up literally hundreds of church molestations, but they got caught for one. man, that must suck. and now maybe someone lied... kind of like these priests have done to protect child molesters in their ranks for years and years and years... aaawwwww....

    September 20, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
  8. Portland tony

    Cash always heals wounds and makes lawyers well. Well off that is. It's turning into a a lawyer's feeding frenzy. By all means punish the abuser....and set aside a stipend depending on the nature of the abuse for perhaps schooling or psychology counciling...but jeez. You don't see many law suits against indigent molesters.

    September 20, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • Portland tony

      That's psychological ...counseling ..

      September 20, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • midwest rail

      I had no idea that indigent molesters had a parent organization transferring them around the country to protect them from discovery/prosecution.

      September 20, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • Chris

      Are you talking about Planned Parenthood?

      September 30, 2012 at 6:44 am |
  9. Honey Badger Dont Care

    Let me guess, this priest is saying that it was the one armed man that diddled all of those choir boys and not him.

    September 20, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • sam stone

      Or that the choir boys were complicit in that they seduced the innocent men of the cloth

      September 20, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
  10. Reality

    The "vomit-inducing" ped-ophilia and coverup will simply hasten the decline of all religions as they finally go extinct from their own absurdity.. It is time to replace all religions with a few rules like "Do No Harm" and voluntarily convert all houses of "worthless worship" to recreation facilities and parks.

    September 20, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Houses of worship are private property. Let them be used for whatever the owner wants to use them for.

      September 20, 2012 at 11:24 am |
    • derp

      "Let them be used for whatever the owner wants to use them for"

      yes, by all means if a dress wearing ped op hile wants to butt romp a six year old that's his business.

      September 20, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
  11. sunny

    Looks like the mcpoyle twins are at it again

    September 20, 2012 at 10:41 am |
  12. Which God?

    If this is true, then the prosecutors should be going to jail. They are as didgusting as anyone who would abuse a child

    September 20, 2012 at 8:53 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      It wouldn't be the first time a prosecutor has corrupted a trial for their own advancement.

      September 20, 2012 at 9:08 am |
    • sam stone

      nor would it be the first time a defense lawyer lied

      September 20, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      I'd go so far as to say that every defense lawyer has lied in every case they've ever fought, even if their client is innocent.

      September 20, 2012 at 9:48 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      and who says this lawyer isn't lying about a witness lying?

      September 20, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • derp

      I live here in the Philly area. The priest wasn't lying. He gave explicit details that matched identically to the accuser. The defense is grasping at straws to try and keep a child fvcker out of jail.

      September 20, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
  13. AvdBerg

    For a better understanding of the history and doctrines of the Catholic Church and all its deceptions, we invite you to read the articles ‘The Mystery Babylon’, ‘Popes and the Princes of This World’, ‘S.exual Abuse in the Churches’ and ‘S.exual Abuse – Vatican Involvement’, listed on our website http://www.aworlddeceived.ca

    All of the other pages and articles listed on our website explain how and by whom this whole world has been deceived as confirmed in Revelation 12:9.

    September 20, 2012 at 8:45 am |
    • ...


      September 20, 2012 at 8:50 am |
    • mama kindless

      Revelation?? Everyone knows whoever wrote that mess was high as a kite. Probably crashed his camel in a marijuana field. My goodness. St. John, the Deluded, evidently.

      September 20, 2012 at 9:13 am |

      This poster is a TROLL on this site. They are proven liars and only want to sell their book to support their cult plus their website also full of lies. Don't bother visiting their site, click the report abuse link to get rid of this TROLL!

      September 20, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      oh man, just read ‘S.exual Abuse in the Churches’ and ‘S.exual Abuse – Vatican Involvement’. the pictures of priests molesting children in different parts of the vatican were great shots. they had a great photographer.

      September 20, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • Gerald

      Why don't you try reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church or any of the many good Catholic websites out there. Going to AVBerg's website is like learning about the US from an Islamic website.

      September 26, 2012 at 8:22 am |
About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.