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Monsignor William Lynn posts bail, but not immediately freed from prison

Monsignor William Lynn leaves the Criminal Justice Center, Tuesday, March 27, 2012, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Monsignor William Lynn leaves the Criminal Justice Center, Tuesday, March 27, 2012, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Attorneys on Tuesday posted bail for Monsignor William Lynn, but the jailed former Catholic official isn't a free man yet.

Lynn's lead attorney Thomas Bergstrom said the legal team still has to straighten out issues related to the terms of Lynn's electronic monitoring, one of the conditions of his release.

"That could take a while," Bergstrom said, though he declined to speculate exactly how long.

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, according to the Associated Press.

Ken Gavin, a spokesman for the archdiocese, told the AP that the church "assisted" with the $25,000 needed to post bail. He 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.

Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Teresa Sarmina during a hearing Monday set Lynn's bail at $250,000 and ordered he surrender his passport and undergo weekly reporting and electronic monitoring. 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.

Sarmina in 2012 sentenced Lynn, former Archdiocese of Philadelphia secretary for clergy, to 3 to 6 years in prison after he was convicted of felony child endangerment for transferring priests accused of child sex abuse to other parishes rather than reporting them to law enforcement. But a three-judge Superior Court panel on Thursday unanimously overturned Sarmina's ruling, finding the state's child-endangerment law was wrongly applied in the case.

Lynn's conviction came after he admitted to fielding a complaint in the 1990s that former priest Edward Avery - who is now serving a 2 1/2- to 5-year jail sentence - sexually assaulted an altar boy. Lynn recommended Avery be sent to rehabilitation and several years later reassigned him to work at another parish, where Avery again sexually assaulted a child.

The appellate court ruled that, under Pennsylvania law at the time of Lynn's conduct, only parents and caregivers were classified as having direct control or supervision over children's welfare. Therefore, the court found, Lynn could not be convicted of child endangerment for his actions, even if he did put children in harm's way. The law was amended to extend to institutional officials like Lynn in 2007, three years after he stepped down from his post.

District Attorney Seth Williams strongly opposed both the Superior Court's reversal and Sarmina's decision to grant Lynn bail. He argued Lynn could pose a flight risk and that, since Williams plans to appeal, the conviction may be upheld. “In their ruling last week the Superior Court panel said that Lynn’s actions did not endanger the welfare of children under the law," Williams said Monday in a statement. "But the evidence established that Lynn did endanger the welfare of children. The law is clear and it says that endangering the welfare of children is a crime. And in fact, I can say with confidence that the way the Superior Court panel read this law is not how this law is supposed to work.”

Williams said his office "“will do whatever we can to make sure this decision does not stand.”

Alex Wigglesworth For Philly.com
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