A defense lawyer for Msgr. William J. Lynn has publicly accused District Attorney Seth Williams of professional misconduct.
In a letter hand-delivered on Friday, defense lawyer Thomas A. Bergstrom ripped the D.A. for teeing off on his client during a Thursday press conference about the arrest of another priest, Father Robert L. Brennan. The defense lawyer said he intends to report the D.A. to the state disciplinary board. A spokesperson for Williams did not respond to a request for comment.
At the press conference, D.A. Williams took the occasion to lambaste the monsignor, now in jail serving a 3 to 6 year sentence after his conviction last year on a charge of endangering the welfare of a child. But according to the district attorney, Lynn was also guilty of conspiring to keep abusive priests in active duty, so they could harm more children.
"The case of Robert Brennan presents another instance of abuse under the watch of Msgr. Lynn, secretary of clergy under Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua," Williams said. "The actions Lynn took to shield predator priests from exposure and prosecution led to the victimization of untold numbers of Philadelphia area children."
After Brennan was removed from one church after a complaint of abuse, Lynn recommended that Father Brennan be recycled to Resurrection of Our Lord Parish, Williams said at the press conference. Even though doctors had warned that Brennan had exhibited evidence of pedophilia, and had a recurring behavior pattern that "presents future risk," Williams said.
"Two years before the incidents with which Brennan is now charged, the pastor at Resurrection reported to Secretary for Clergy Lynn that the rectory staff had observed Brennan inappropriately touching and wrestling with several adolescent boys in the sacristy and the rectory," Williams said. "Still, Lynn did nothing. He did not recommend removing the priest from his position, and Brennan continued as assistant pastor ... In that capacity he met, supervised and abused the victim who has now come forward."
"Lynn never reported to law enforcement any, any of the many allegations he heard about Brennan," the district attorney said at the press conference. "Some of Brennan's victims testified before the grand jury; others have come forward since to describe how he [Brennan] molested and sexually assaulted them."
"Yet these victims were unable to press charges because the crimes fell outside the statute of limitations," Williams said. "Thus, with the assistance of Lynn and others in the archdiocese, Brennan until today escaped prosecution for his decades-long sexual abuse of boys whom he encountered as a priest."
Father Brennan, 75, was charged with rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and aggravated indecent assault. According to the D.A., Brennan abused the altar boy between 1998 and 2001, when he was between 11 and 14 years old at Resurrection of Our Lord Parish in Northeast Philadelphia.
In his letter to D.A. Williams, Bergstrom wrote:
Dear District Attorney Williams:
Your recent statements to the press concerning Monsignor William Lynn in connection with the arrest of Father Robert Brennan display a total disregard for the facts of records and reveals conduct on your part that is very troubling and violative of the Rules of Professional Conduct (Rules 3.8 and 8.4) As you well know, Monsignor Lynn was never charged with those offenses you so blithely lay at his door step; and apparently, you have forgotten completely that a jury acquitted him of conspiracy. His lone conviction involves a single count of Endangering the Welfare of a Child he never knew or harmed.
Finally, your posturing that Monsignor Lynn would have been charged with Endangering, along with Father Brennan, but for the statute of limitations, ignores the reality that your right to have charged Monsignor Lynn at all is presently before the Superior Court. I find it unprofessional and appalling that while this appeal is pending you would embark on a campaign to continue to vilify Monsignor Lynn without benefit of factual or legal support.
Very truly yours,
Thomas A. Bergstrom