- Monsignor William Lynn, 62, oversaw hundreds of priests in the Philadelphia Archdiocese
- Archdiocese helped pay 10 per cent of Lynn’s $250,000 bail
- His attorney said today: ‘He’s been in prison 18 months for a crime he didn’t commit…it’s incredible’
Associated Press Reporter
00:35 GMT, 3 January 2014
00:49 GMT, 3 January 2014
Set free: Monsignor William Lynn was released from prison Thursday after winning an appeal of his landmark conviction in the priest-abuse scandal
A Roman Catholic priest who won an appeal of his landmark conviction in the priest-abuse scandal left state prison today after 18 months behind bars.
Monsignor William Lynn left the prison in Waymart in northeastern Pennsylvania, prison spokeswoman Terri Fazio said, and was being taking by the Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office to a city jail, where he would be fitted with an electronic monitoring device.
After that, he’ll be released, probably to the custody of a family member, one of his lawyers said.
The attorney, Thomas Bergstrom, declined to say where in Philadelphia his client will live while prosecutors appeal the Superior Court ruling.
Lynn, 62, was the first U.S. church official ever charged for hiding complaints that priests were molesting children. He was the point person for those complaints in Philadelphia from 1992-2004.
Prosecutors charged him with felony child endangerment. But the appeals court said the law that existed at the time didn’t cover people who don’t directly supervise children.
Lynn’s lawyers, including Jeffrey Lindy and Alan Tauber, had made that argument even before his 2011 indictment, but Common Pleas Judge M. Teresa Sarmina sent the case to trial.
Lynn was sprung from the Waymart prison just hours after the Roman Catholic Church helped him post 10 per cent of his $250,000 bail.
District Attorney Williams criticized the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for putting up the money for Lynn’s bail.
Outraged: District Attorney Williams criticized the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for paying 10 per cent of Lynn’s $250,000 bail
‘It is disgusting that they would pay to free this man,’ Williams said at a news conference Tuesday, Philly.com reported.
Williams, who described himself as a practising Catholic and former altar boy, said he was ‘shocked and overwhelmed’ by the decision of the church to help bail out Lynn.
The prosecutor has vowed to appeal the Superior Court decision by next month’s deadline.
‘William Lynn is no patsy. He is no fall guy,’ Williams said. ‘He is a cold, calculating man who endangered the welfare of countless children for decades by moving known predators throughout the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.’
The Philadelphia archdiocese has been in the crosshairs of city prosecutors since 2002, when the priest-abuse scandal broke in Boston.
Lynn, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua and other church officials — accompanied by lawyers — were grilled for days by an earlier grand jury that issued a damning report in 2005 but concluded that no charges could be filed.
Lynn (left) leaves Philadelphia Criminal Justice Center for a lunch break on March 26, 2012 in Philadelphia during his trial on covering up pedophile abuses
Prosecutors tried again under District Attorney Seth Williams, who charged three priests with new sexual assault allegations in 2011 and Lynn with protecting the accused predators by hiding complaints in secret files.
Bevilacqua, by then frail and elderly, was a potential witness in Lynn’s case but died before trial. By that time, his mild-mannered successor, Cardinal Anthony Rigali, had been replaced in Philadelphia by dynamic Archbishop Charles Chaput.
Chaput has twice visited Lynn in prison and has said that no one person should become the scapegoat for the abuse crisis. Bergstrom, his attorney, said Lynn has become just that.
‘There’s clearly some reason to believe that that’s what happened here,’ Bergstrom said.
Public outcry: Bob Hoatson, of West Orange, N.J., and with Road to Recovery, demonstrates outside the criminal justice center December 30
Lynn, at his July 2012 sentencing, told Sarmina he tried his best to address the festering sex-abuse problem. He also voiced regret over his climb up the archdiocesan hierarchy.
‘I am a parish priest. I should have stayed [one],’ Lynn said.
Sarmina acknowledged that Lynn sometimes sent accused priests for therapy, but she said he ultimately protected the church’s reputation over the souls of children. She sentenced him to three-to-six years in prison.
Lynn’s conviction stems from the transfer of accused priest Edward Avery to a new parish, where he was later accused of raping a former altar boy in the church sacristy.
Defense: Lynn’s attorney Thomas Bergstrom (left) said his client (right) has become a scapegoat for the sex abuse crisis
Avery pleaded guilty and is serving 2 1/2- to five years in prison, although he denied the assault when called to testify at Lynn’s trial.
Lynn remains a priest in good standing with the church, and could return to ministry. He last served as pastor of St. Joseph’s in Downingtown, an affluent suburban parish whose members supported Lynn at his trial.
A spokesman for the archdiocese did not immediately return a phone message Thursday.