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Monsignor Lynn to have bail hearing Monday

A state Superior Court panel of judges overturned conviction, but a Common Pleas judge will decide if he can be released on bail.

Monsignor William Lynn has spent 18 months in jail, but his case was overturned Thursday by a three-judge appeals panel.
Monsignor William Lynn has spent 18 months in jail, but his case was overturned Thursday by a three-judge appeals panel.Read moreDAVID MAIALETTI / Staff

A COMMON PLEAS judge who once excoriated Monsignor William Lynn for shielding "monsters in clerical garb" will now decide if he'll be able to get out of prison.

Judge M. Teresa Sarmina will preside Monday over a bail hearing for Lynn, who on Thursday learned that the Superior Court of Pennsylvania had overturned his 2012 conviction on a felony child-endangerment charge.

The three-judge appeals panel sided with Lynn's lawyers, who argued that the state child-endangerment law that was in effect while Lynn served as the secretary for clergy for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia applied only to parents and guardians of children.

Thomas Bergstrom, one of Lynn's attorneys, had hoped that Lynn, 62, would be released from a state prison in Wayne County within a day or two.

Instead, the prospect of freedom will have to wait until Monday, when the bail hearing unfolds at the Criminal Justice Center in Center City.

Bergstrom will again appear before Sarmina, who presided over Lynn's trial last year and sentenced him to three to six years in prison. Lynn is not expected to attend.

"It should be a quick hearing," Bergstrom said. "It will probably be contentious."

At Lynn's sentencing hearing last year, Sarmina lambasted the monsignor for his handling of Edward Avery, a now-defrocked priest who was the subject of a sexual assault allegation in the mid-1990s.

Lynn, who from 1992 to 2004 was in charge of fielding sexual-abuse complaints against Archdiocesan priests, knew of the allegation, but later recommended that Avery be assigned to a parish with a school.

"You knew full well what was right, Monsignor Lynn, but you chose wrong," Sarmina said during the hearing.

Avery ended up at St. Jerome in Northeast Philly. He pleaded guilty last year to sexually assaulting an altar boy, known as "Billy Doe," at the parish in 1998.

"The decades-long inaction of Lynn put countless children in harm's way and he is where he belongs - behind bars," the District Attorney's Office said in a statement yesterday. "We will be fighting bail of any kind for this defendant in court next week."

District Attorney Seth Williams on Thursday said his office would likely appeal the Superior Court's ruling.

Bergstrom said that in addition to overturning Lynn's conviction, the Superior Court judges ruled that he should be released from prison immediately.

As a matter of procedure, though, it falls to the lower court to rule on Lynn's bail, he said.

Lynn, who was the first Roman Catholic Church official in the U.S. to be convicted of a crime related to clergy abuse, has spent the last 18 months behind bars.