Key witness could be in doubt in landmark church retrial

Associated Press

January 31, 2020

By Mary Claire Dale

An aging monsignor who was the first U.S. church official ever tried and sent to prison over his handling of priest-abuse complaints could soon be retried in the 2011 case with one thing missing — the victim.

The only accuser whose complaint fell within the statute of limitations is a young man with a history of drug addiction who gave a sordid and unusual account of abuse: he said he was sexually assaulted by two priests and his sixth-grade teacher in the late 1990s. His credibility has long been questioned, even by a retired police detective working for Philadelphia prosecutors.

They have not committed to calling the chief accuser at the March 16 retrial of Monsignor William Lynn, the longtime secretary for clergy at the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Lynn was convicted in 2012 of felony child endangerment, but the conviction has twice been overturned.

Common Pleas Judge Gwendolyn Bright, in a ruling Friday, said prosecutors don’t have to tell the defense if they’ll call the accuser, a policeman’s son dubbed “Billy Doe” in court records.

That means Lynn, now 69, could be retried in a case without a known sex-abuse victim. He served 33 months of a three- to six-year prison term before winning a new trial and being released on bail.

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