Lynn leaves state prison, must face Sarmina

Posted: January 04, 2014

PHILADELPHIA Msgr. William J. Lynn was released from state prison Thursday, but before he returns to private life, he must again face the judge who put him behind bars.

After serving about 18 months in prison, Lynn left the prison in Waymart, in Northeastern Pennsylvania, on Thursday, a week after an appeals court overturned his child-endangerment conviction. Prosecutors are challenging the decision.

On Monday, Lynn is to appear before Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina, who in 2012 sentenced him to three to six years in prison for his role in enabling priests to abuse children. The judge ordered Lynn to come to court Monday so she could outline his bail conditions personally.

Lynn's attorney, Thomas A. Bergstrom, acknowledged that such a proceeding was unusual.

"The bail's been set, the terms have been complied with, and he certainly understands the conditions," Bergstrom said. "But we'll be there."

Lynn will be free while the state Supreme Court weighs the appeal from District Attorney Seth Williams.

Lynn was taken to Curran-Fromhold Correction Facility on State Road to be fitted with an electronic monitoring bracelet. Bergstrom said he expected the monsignor would be freed Friday.

On Monday, Sarmina set Lynn's bail at $250,000, saying he could remain free while the District Attorney's Office appeals the decision.

Prosecutors had argued that Lynn was a flight risk, and in addition to the monitoring, Sarmina ordered Lynn, 62, to surrender his passport and report weekly to a parole officer.

Bergstrom had asked that Lynn's bail be set at no more than $50,000 and rejected the idea that Lynn would flee, but said Lynn would "live with" the monitoring.

Lynn, who as the archdiocesan secretary for clergy supervised priests, was the first Catholic Church official in the country to be tried and imprisoned for crimes related to sex abuse in the church.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia confirmed that it "assisted" with providing the required 10 percent of Lynn's bail, but did not elaborate.

Bergstrom said Lynn would be released to family members and planned to live in Philadelphia for the time being, but he declined to say where.

It is not clear whether Lynn could return to the archdiocese in some professional capacity. Spokesman Ken Gavin has said that he could not comment because the situation is developing.

After a three-month trial in 2012, Lynn was convicted of endangering children in the late 1990s by allowing a sexually abusive priest to live and celebrate Mass at a Northeast Philadelphia parish, where the priest later assaulted an altar boy.

The Superior Court panel reversed the conviction, finding that prosecutors and the judge had misapplied the law when they prosecuted Lynn under the state's child-endangerment statute. Not until 2007 could supervisors like Lynn be held criminally responsible under the endangerment law, the higher court found.

On Thursday, Barbara Dorris, head of the St. Louis-based Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, called on Archbishop Charles J. Chaput not to give Lynn a job.

"There's some doubt about whether Msgr. Lynn can be criminally prosecuted for his wrongdoing," the statement said. "There is no doubt, however, that he did wrong . . . knowingly putting proven, admitted, and credibly accused child molesters into new parishes without warning parents or telling police."


asteele@phillynews.com

610-313-8113 @AESteele

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