A shocker in Philly

No, I’m not talking about the hiring of Chip Kelly away from the Oregon Ducks (who play all of ten minutes from my home). Here is the surprising news, as mentioned by David Pierre, Jr., a contributor to CWR, on his MediaReport.com site:

The conviction of Philadelphia’s Msgr. William J. Lynn last June was historic and widely trumpeted by an overheated media, as Lynn became the first member of the Catholic hierarchy to be found guilty in a criminal court for endangering children.

And the sole reason Lynn sits in jail today is because former priest Edward Avery had pleaded guilty to sexually violating a 10-year-old boy in the late 1990s. Prosecutors claimed that Lynn should not have placed Avery into a ministry assignment because the priest had a prior abuse accusation dating back to the 1970s. Had Lynn kept Avery out of public ministry, prosecutors charged, he would not have been able to abuse the 10-year-old.

But in a truly shocking development, Avery took the witness stand today in a Philadelphia courtroom and recanted under oath his guilty plea.

This remarkable turn-around indicates that Msgr. Lynn may likely be sitting in jail based on a crime that never even happened!

The Philly.com site reports:

Avery’s admission potentially plunged three separate cases into turmoil: his own, the case against Engelhardt, and last year’s conviction against Lynn.

After hearing about Avery’s testimony, Lynn’s lawyer said he plans within days to ask a Superior Court or Common Pleas Court to reconsider Lynn’s case.

“If there’s a question about (Avery’s) guilt, then there’s no way you convict Lynn, because Lynn was only convicted as a derivative of Avery,” said the lawyer, Thomas Bergstrom.

Bergstrom said he could ask Lynn’s trial judge, M. Teresa Sarmina, for a new trial based on the newly disclosed evidence, or he could ask a superior court judge to free Lynn on bail while the new evidence is investigated.

Bergstrom said he believes Avery told the truth today. “I think they forced him into this plea and they made a deal for him that he couldn’t turn down,” he said.

The BigTrial.net site has many more details:

The rape that Avery pleaded guilty to supposedly happened in a storage closet at St. Jerome’s parish after a 6:30 a.m. Mass back in 1999. But Avery said he almost never said Mass at St. Jerome’s, because he was employed as the chaplain at Nazareth Hospital. He was at the hospital every day of the week, beginning at 3 a.m., and he stayed on the job until 8 p.m., Avery said.

This was his routine 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Avery testified. At Nazareth Hospital, Avery said Mass every day, and the service was televised, he testified.

McGovern asked Avery if he was friends with McGovern’s client, Father Charles Engelhardt, on trial at the second archdiocese sex abuse trial for allegedly raping Billy Doe.

“We were acquaintances,” Avery said.

A 2011 grand jury report said that after Father Engelhardt had sex with Billy in the sacristy at St. Jerome’s, he told Father Engelhardt [sic; should be “Father Avery”] about it. According to that grand jury report, Father Engelhardt [sic, ditto] allegedly went to Billy and said he heard about his “session” with Father Engelhardt, and that Billy’s session with Father Avery would soon begin. Then Avery raped the boy.

Did you ever discuss with my client having sex with Billy Doe, the defense lawyer asked.

No way, Avery said. The only thing he remembers discussing with Engelhardt was Pasta Night, which was every Wednesday at the St. Jerome rectory, where both Engelhardt and Avery lived at the time.

Why did you take the plea bargain, McGovern asked.

“To get a lesser sentence,” Avery said. “Every motion that was made was turned down. The options were less and less. I didn’t want to die in prison. That’s why I took the plea.”

Read more here.

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About Carl E. Olson 1200 Articles
Carl E. Olson is editor of Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight. He is the author of Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?, Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"?, co-editor/contributor to Called To Be the Children of God, co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax (Ignatius), and author of the "Catholicism" and "Priest Prophet King" Study Guides for Bishop Robert Barron/Word on Fire. His recent books on Lent and Advent—Praying the Our Father in Lent (2021) and Prepare the Way of the Lord (2021)—are published by Catholic Truth Society. He is also a contributor to "Our Sunday Visitor" newspaper, "The Catholic Answer" magazine, "The Imaginative Conservative", "The Catholic Herald", "National Catholic Register", "Chronicles", and other publications. Follow him on Twitter @carleolson.