Williams vows to retry Lynn after former Catholic Church official is set free on bail

Listen
A judge has ordered Monsignor William Lynn

A judge has ordered Monsignor William Lynn

Monsignor William Lynn, the first Catholic Church official to be convicted of covering up clergy sex abuse of children, will be released on bail as he waits for the start of a new trial next year.

Common Please Court Judge Gwendolyn N. Bright granted the defense request Tuesday during a brief motions hearing.

Lynn, who was not present for the proceeding, is scheduled to appear in court Thursday after posting $25,000 bail. Thomas Bergstrom, his lawyer, said his client would temporarily stay in Reading, Pennsylvania, with his sister’s family.

Bright’s decision comes a week after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court vacated Lynn’s 2012 conviction and sentence. That outcome affirmed a lower court ruling that said jurors were “prejudiced” by hearing hours of evidence about abuse unrelated to Lynn’s actions as a supervisor with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

Lynn was convicted of endangering the welfare of children in 2012. He has served nearly three years of a three- to six-year sentence and was slated for parole in October.

Following Tuesday’s hearing, Assistant District Attorney Brian Zarallo told reporters it’s worth retrying the case even though another conviction might only send Lynn to prison for a few months.

“This level of institutional sexual abuse and the cover-up that ensued is something where the victims deserve justice and the people of the commonwealth to delve into this and have this matter to come to a conclusion that’s in accordance with the law,” said Zarallo.

In a statement, District Attorney Seth Williams said he “will continue to use every available legal option at my disposal to prosecute pedophile priests and those who shield them to the fullest extent of the law.”

The move drew applause from SNAP — the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. The group said another trial would deter others from covering up abuse, though it has mixed feelings about Lynn’s release from prison.

“We would prefer that he was still in jail and serving the rest of his time … keeping the children in the archdiocese safe, but we’re trying to remember that he did serve time in jail and did show that anyone who does anything to harm children will pay the price,” said Karen Polesir, spokeswoman for the Philadelphia chapter of SNAP, the Survivors Network for Those Abused by Priests.

Bergstrom said Williams is misguided, but he’s prepared to represent Lynn again.

“It’s pretty clear that he was a scapegoat for others and he remains so, but if we’re going to retry the case, we’ll retry it,” said Bergstrom. He added that Lynn could be sentenced to only a few months in prison if he’s convicted.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia declined comment.

During Lynn’s three-month trial in 2012, prosecutors presented 21 examples of the Philadelphia archdiocese covering up child sex abuse, some dating back to the 1940s, long before Lynn was in charge of assigning priests.

Zarallo said that type of evidence would be limited during Lynn’s next trial.

Lynn was secretary for clergy for the archdiocese from June 1992 until June 2004.

In that role, Lynn supervised assignments for priests, including former Rev. Edward Avery, who molested a 10-year-old altar boy at St. Jerome’s parish in 1999.

Lynn moved Avery to St. Jerome’s after allegations of sex abuse at another parish came to light years earlier, according to court documents.

Avery pleaded guilty to sexual assault before Lynn’s trial and was sentenced to prison

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.