Philly stunner: convicted priest at center of Lynn case recants

From the Philadelphia Inquirer: 

Ten months ago, defrocked Catholic priest Edward V. Avery began serving a sentence of 21/2 to 5 years in prison after pleading guilty to sexually molesting a 10-year-old altar boy from the Northeast.

On Thursday, Avery, 70, returned to a Philadelphia courtroom and recanted his guilty plea – denying any contact with the alleged victim and tossing into turmoil the trial of a former St. Jerome’s parish priest and a schoolteacher charged with serially sexually assaulting the same boy in 1998 and 1999.

Avery’s testimony could also affect last year’s landmark clergy sex-abuse trial that ended with the conviction of Msgr. William J. Lynn.

Lynn, 62, was convicted June 22 of child endangerment for placing Avery in position to abuse the St. Jerome’s altar boy. Lynn, once a top aide to Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua, was the first church official nationwide convicted of covering up or enabling clergy sex abuse, and was sentenced to three to six years in prison.

After hearing of Avery’s testimony Thursday, Lynn’s lawyer said he planned within days to ask Superior Court or Lynn’s Common Pleas Court trial judge 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 Thomas Bergstrom.

He said he learned last week about Avery’s planned testimony. He said he also told the imprisoned monsignor, who Bergstrom said was “anxious, he’s hopeful.”

Bergstrom said he believed Avery’s recantation. “I think they forced him into this plea, and they made a deal for him that he couldn’t turn down.”

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