Monsignor William Lynn is on trial in Philadelphia over felony charges of endangering children and conspiracy that he shielded sex abusers . It is thought to be one of the first trials in the nation on this theory of prosecution. The central theory of the state’s case is that Monsignor Lynn knowingly allowed priests who had sexually abused minors to be reassigned to positions where teachers or parents would not know about the charges. Lynn’s defense is that he notified his supervisors and he should be found not guilty. One problem with that defense is that it did not work in the Nazi war crimes trials or any other trial that I am aware of where blame is shifted up the chain of command.
Under Tennessee criminal law , it appears that Monsignor Lynn could be convicted on these charges. Tennessee has a provision under it’s criminal code called criminal responsibility . Basically , the law provides that you responsible for the conduct of another if you assist in the crime . Criminal responsibility also provides that you are liable if one has a duty to prevent the commission of a crime or promotes or assists in its commission. Clearly , Mr. Lynn knew of the sex abuse and transferred these priests where they could resume their abuse.
Criminal responsibility could even be brought in other types of cases . In the past several weeks , a women was charged with vehicular homicide. Reports from the news indicate she may have been over served at a bar. Under the doctrine of criminal responsibility the bartender or the bar could be charged .
One thing that makes it an easier case for the state is that they are trying one of the priests for an attempted rape of a young boy. The evidence may show up to 20 other cases where Lynn swept these allegations under the rug.