Criminal Justice

Church official gets $250K bail after reversal of landmark conviction

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Updated: The first Roman Catholic church official criminally convicted over his handling of child sex-abuse allegations against other priests sought and got bail that will allow him to be released from prison, following an appellate court’s reversal last week of his conviction.

At a Monday hearing, Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina set bail for Monsignor William Lynn at $250,000 while a government appeal proceeds, according to the Associated Press, the Philadelphia Inquirer and WPVI. Assuming that he makes bail, electronic monitoring will also be required.

Lynn, 62, has already served 18 months of a his three- to six-year sentence. However, a three-judge Superior Court panel ruled Thursday that the child-endangerment law under which Lynn was convicted did not apply to him.

Accused of enabling predator priests by transferring them to new parishes, Lynn was charged under a theory that a child endangerment law revised in 2007 applied to his indirect role overseeing the welfare of a child who was abused by a priest after such a transfer in the late 1990s.

But it doesn’t, the Superior Court panel held: “The plain meaning of the statute requires that, for a person who is not a parent or a guardian of the endangered child to be subject to criminal liability, he must at least be engaged in the supervision, or be responsible for the supervision.”

An earlier Associated Press story discusses in detail the 43-page opinion (PDF) reversing Lynn’s conviction.

“He’s been in prison 18 months for a crime he didn’t commit and couldn’t commit under the law,” defense attorney Thomas Bergstrom said of Lynn. “It’s incredible what happened to this man.”

The district attorney is expected to appeal the reversal of Lynn’s conviction, arguing that the revised 2007 law should be applied to his case retroactively, and has scheduled a press conference later today.

Updated at 10:45 a.m. to include bail conditions from revised Associated Press coverage.

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