In 2012, Monsignor William Lynn was convicted of child endangerment and sentenced to three to six years in prison. On Thursday, a Pennsylvania appeals court overturned the conviction and ordered Lynn’s release from prison. The former church official was accused of reassigning priests who were known sexual predators to different parishes.
Lynn served as the secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004. In the 1990s, priest Edward Avery was accused of sexually abusing a child. Lynn eventually reassigned the priest to another parish, where he reportedly abused another child in 1998. Avery was criminally charged and pleaded guilty to the abuse.
As a result of Avery’s conviction, Lynn was charged with child endangerment. His defense team argued that Pennsylvania’s child endangerment law did not apply to their client as he was not a “parent or caretaker.”
As reported by ABC News, Common Pleas Judge M. Teresa Sarmina sided with the prosecution, finding Monsignor William Lynn guilty and sentencing him to three to six years in prison. Defense attorney Thomas Bergstrom said his client was convicted of “a crime he didn’t commit and couldn’t commit under the law.”
The appeals court agreed with Bergstrom, reversing Lynn’s criminal conviction. In their decision, they found that the former secretary was not responsible for supervising “the welfare of any particular child.”
Monsignor William Lynn’s conviction was a landmark decision as he was the first US Catholic official to be charged with facilitating sexual abuse by priests. Time reports that prosecutors have a right to request a retrial.
Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams said he is disappointed with the court’s decision. Although he is exploring several options, he said his office will “most likely be appealing” the decision.
Monsignor William Lynn served 18 months of his initial sentence. His attorney hopes he will be released before the end of the week.
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