PHILADELPHIA – The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia helped post the $250,000 bail needed to release a former church official who has been imprisoned for 18 months in the clergy-abuse scandal.
Monsignor William Lynn’s attorneys posted the bail on Tuesday after a state appeals court last week overturned his conviction for child endangerment. Lynn was expected to be released later this week after electronic monitoring can be arranged.
Lynn became the first U.S. church official ever convicted for his handling of abuse claims and was sent to prison in July 2012 for three to six years. But the mid-level appeals court found that the child-endangerment felony didn’t apply to him, because he did not directly supervise children when he served as the archdiocese’s secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004. The law was changed in 2007.
Lawyers for Lynn also surrendered his passport, another bail condition.
Ken Gavin, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said the church “assisted” with the $25,000 needed to post bail.
As a condition of his release, Lynn must live in Philadelphia while prosecutors ask the state Supreme Court to restore his conviction. Lawyers did not immediately know where he would be staying.
Gavin said it was too soon to know if or when Lynn might return to ministry. Lynn last worked as the pastor of St. Joseph’s Parish in suburban Downingtown.
Lynn, who turns 63 on Sunday, has spent most of his incarceration at Waymart, a state prison in northeast Pennsylvania with dormitory-style housing. His lawyers say he has held up well.
The appeal to the state Supreme Court could be a long process. Prosecutors have until the end of Jan. 25 to file their petition asking the high court to hear the case. It could take another few months, or more, for the court to decide whether to take it up.
District Attorney Seth Williams, who pursued the novel child-endangerment charges against the church administrator, called the Superior Court’s unanimous, three-judge decision “disappointing and puzzling.”
“The evidence at trial showed that Lynn … methodically and deliberately distributed dangerous pedophiles around the Delaware Valley like time bombs,” he said Monday. “The way the Superior Court panel read this law is not how this law is supposed to work.”
Defense lawyer Thomas Bergstrom called the appeal “a fool’s errand.”
“A lot of it’s rhetoric,” he said after Monday’s bail hearing. “The single charge he was convicted of has now been reversed. He’s been ordered to be freed.”