Friday, May 01, 2015

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Reinstates Priest's Child Endangerment Conviction; Trial Court Orders Him Back To Prison

On Monday in Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Lynn, (PA Sup. Ct., April 27, 2015), the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, in a 4-1 decision, reinstated the conviction of Msgr. William J. Lynn who had been sentenced to prison for 3 to 6 years on charges of endangering the welfare of children. Lynn is the first U.S. priest criminally convicted of covering up sexual molestation of minors by another priest. An appeals court reversed the conviction, holding that the statute under which Lynn was convicted only applies to a person who is directly in charge of a child, not to someone supervising the person in charge. (See prior posting.) Now the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has reversed the appellate court, holding "the statute is plain and unambiguous that it is not the child that Appellee must have been supervising, but the child’s welfare." The court explained:
[T]he requirement of supervision is not limited to only certain forms of supervision, such as direct or actual, as the Superior Court held. By its plain terms it encompasses all forms of supervision of a child’s welfare.... Further, as the Commonwealth correctly argues, supervision is routinely accomplished through subordinates, and is no less supervisory if it does not involve personal encounters with the children. Like Appellee, school principals and managers of day care centers supervise the welfare of the children under their care through their management of others. Depending upon the facts, they could be criminally liable for endangering the welfare of the children under their supervision if they knowingly place sexually abusive employees in such proximity to them as to allow for the abuse of these youth.
Chief Justice Saylor filed a dissenting opinion.

As reported by the Philadelphia Daily News, in January 2014 after the state appeals court (Superior Court) reversed Lynn's conviction, Lynn was released from prison on bail, but ordered to remain under house arrest pending the appeal to the state Supreme Court.  Yesterday a common pleas court judge ordered Lynn back to prison. Lynn's attorney said he will file an emergency petition with the Superior Court seeking Lynn's release on bail again while additional issues are resolved on appeal.