By Steve Tawa, Pat Loeb and Ileana Diaz
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A Philadelphia judge said Monday that she will order Msgr. William Lynn released on bail while his conviction on child endangerment charges works through the appeals process.
At the Criminal Justice Center, Philadelphia Common Please Court judge Teresa Sarmina said that she wants Lynn, 62, to appear in person before her when she outlines the full conditions of his bail.
An appeals court last week overturned Lynn’s 2012 conviction in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia child sex abuse case (see related story), saying the particular law under which he was found guilty did not apply to him at the time (see related story).
Sarmina, who oversaw the 2012 trial, acknowledged today that she may have erred but thinks she will be upheld when the Philadelphia district attorney appeals the case.
Hugh Burns, from the Philadelphia DA’s office, told the judge today that the DA will be filing an appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The DA charged that Lynn routinely returned predatory priests to positions within the archdiocese where they continued to have contact with children.
Lynn has already served 18 months of a 3-6 year sentence at a prison in upstate Waymart, Pa., near the New York State border.
Last week the Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled that Msgr. Lynn had been wrongly convicted for his handling of priest abuse cases in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. The appeals court ordered Lynn released from prison but, because the DA is appealing the case, his release was delayed.
Judge Sarmina says Lynn will have to post ten percent of a $250,000 appearance bond and submit to electronic monitoring of his whereabouts while he is out on bail.
Lynn’s defense attorney, Thomas Bergstrom, says last week’s Superior Court decision vindicates their claim that the child endangerment law during Lynn’s tenure as secretary of clergy did not apply to him.
Today, he took umbrage with those who say his client got off on a technicality.
“Wait a minute — that’s not a technicality. That’s a constitutional right. You have a constitutional right to be tried under the law, and he was tried under a law that didn’t apply to him,” Bergstrom said.
Lynn served as secretary of clergy between 1992 and 2004. The law covering those who abetted child endangerment initially covered only parents and caregivers, but was amended in 2007 to cover those who supervised people in contact with children.
In response to the judge’s latest decision, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), released a statement that reads, in part:
“We are grateful that Msgr. Lynn spent months locked up and hope he will again. We are disappointed that he’s been freed and we hope he will not flee the country or take any further steps now to help child molesting clerics in any way. Msgr. Lynn’s callousness, recklessness and deceit caused kids to be hurt and predators to walk free. We hope that Pennsylvania’s highest court will reinstate his conviction.”
Philadelphia DA Seth Williams said he will fight to get Lynn back behind bars.
“I am disgusted by the Superior Courts’ cavalier and disregard for child victims of pedophile priests and Monsignor Lynn’s role.”
“The battle to get him back behind bars where he belongs has just begun,” Williams said on Monday.
“In their ruling last week the Superior Court panel said that Lynn’s actions did not endanger the welfare of children under the law. 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.
“Let’s be clear William Lynn is no patsy, he is no fall guy. He is a cold, calculating man who endangering the welfare of countless children for decades by moving known predators throughout the Archdiocese of Philadelphia,” Williams also said.
And as they fight the case, Lynn is one step closer to getting out of prison, upsetting those who fight for sex abuse victims.
“We believe he should stay right in jail,” says Bob Hoatsen, an advocate for abuse victims.
Stay with CBS Philly, KYW Newsradio 1060, and CBS-3 for updates on this developing news story.