PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - Attorneys for the highest-ranking U.S. Catholic church official convicted in a child sex abuse scandal asked an appeals court on Tuesday to overturn the ruling because the law he was prosecuted under was not in place at the time of his crimes.
An attorney for Monsignor William Lynn said the Philadelphia District Attorney's office acknowledged in its brief to the court that Lynn's conviction was "ex post facto," Latin for after the fact.
"They have to use the new statute in order to have this court confirm his conviction," attorney Thomas Bergstrom told a three-judge Pennsylvania Superior Court panel.
The child endangerment statute in effect when Lynn was secretary of clergy for the Philadelphia Archdiocese, from 1994 to 2004, applied to "a parent, guardian or other person supervising the welfare of a child under 18 years of age."
The law was amended in 2007 to include those who oversee the people supervising the child, such as Lynn.
Assistant Philadelphia District Attorney Hugh Burns said the earlier law did include Lynn and the 2007 change was only meant to clarify the law, not to change it.
Lynn was not accused of personally molesting children. He was instead convicted in June 2012 of endangering the welfare of a child by reassigning a priest with a history of sexual abuse to a Philadelphia parish that was unaware of his past.
That priest, Edward Avery, later pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a 10-year-old altar boy in the Philadelphia parish.
Lynn was sentenced to a three- to six-year prison term.
The appeals panel did not indicate when it would rule. Lynn was not present in court.
(Reporting by Natalie Pompilio; editing by Andrew Hay)