Having spent about eight years as a reporter covering various court beats, I was surprised when Monsignor William Lynn was jailed immediately after his conviction on a charge of child endangerment. The practice I've witnessed countless times, except for gangsters, drug dealers and other violent criminals, is for the defendant to be free on bail pending sentencing. And even then, the judges I covered - some very tough judges in the federal court - often allowed defendants to remain free pending appeal.At a hearing in Philadelphia today, prosecutor Patrick Blessington came up with a surprise piece of information to support his call for Lynn to remain in jail pending his Aug. 13 sentencing: a Chicago Tribune article reporting that since 1985, some 32 priests who were charged or under investigation in child-abuse cases fled the country. Only five returned to face trial.I hadn't caught that troubling story when it ran in March and, as the Philadelphia Inquirer makes clear, neither had Judge M. Teresa Sarmina, who "appeared to be taken aback."Blessington warned her that the Vatican doesn't have an extradition treaty with the U.S., implying that Lynn could find refuge there.It sounds as if the judge had been ready to release Monsignor Lynn to house arrest pending sentencing, a not-unexpected ruling for a defendant who has deep roots in the community. Typical precautions could include having the defendant wear an electronic monitoring bracelet and turn in his passport. Instead, the judge wants a further guarantee; she asked the lawyers to conduct research into whether a letter from Lynn waiving extradition would be binding.This means the monsignor will continue to be held in the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility (No. 1102886) - at least until a July 5 hearing is held.
Paul Moses, a contributing writer at Commonweal, is the author of The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi's Mission of Peace (Doubleday, 2009) and An Unlikely Union: The Love-Hate Story of New York's Irish and Italians (NYU Press, 2015). Follow him on Twitter @PaulBMoses.