After almost three years in prison for a conviction that has been reversed, Msgr. William J. Lynn went free Tuesday on $250,000 bail pending a new trial over his handling of Catholic priests accused of sexually abusing children.
Officials at the state prison in Waymart in Northeastern Pennsylvania confirmed that Lynn - Inmate KQ4194 - was released on bail Tuesday afternoon.
For Lynn, 65 - the first Catholic Church official convicted for supervising pedophile priests - the bail ruling by Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Gwendolyn N. Bright meant freedom and reunion with family.
But freedom was tempered by District Attorney Seth Williams' announcement that he will retry Lynn on the same charge of child endangerment.
Bright ordered Lynn to appear at a hearing Thursday to schedule the trial, which she said would not happen until next year.
After the brief hearing, defense attorney Thomas A. Bergstrom criticized the decision to retry Lynn.
"I'm not surprised and, frankly, we're prepared to try a fair trial any day," Bergstrom said.
Bergstrom called the case against Lynn "over the top, inaccurate and dishonest, but [Williams] is just hell-bent on trying this case. . . . For some reason, he continues to want to beat up on this guy.
"He's done 33 months along with 18 months' house arrest for something the Superior Court has now ruled was an unfair trial," Bergstrom said.
Williams said the retrial was necessary because, "as secretary for clergy, Msgr. Lynn helped create a playbook for handling someone who alleges that an archdiocesan priest is a pedophile."
That playbook, Williams said, involved sending accused priests for therapy in a church-run clinic and then moving them to a different parish without telling pastors or parishioners about the pedophile in their midst. Some of those priests then preyed on other children.
Williams said the jury at Lynn's 2012 trial convicted him in spite of Lynn's testimony in his own defense: "He didn't say it didn't happen. He just said his supervisors were more responsible than him."
"This case is very important for the community, for victims and institutions that shield pedophiles to know that we won't allow it," Williams added.
Bergstrom said Lynn would initially live with family near Reading.
Bergstrom said he did not know if Lynn would resume pastoral duties pending trial, but added that Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput has kept in regular contact with Lynn in prison.
Lynn was charged in February 2011 following a Philadelphia grand jury report. The archdiocese has funded his defense through the 13-week trial in 2012, two rounds of appeals to the state Supreme Court and now the retrial to come.
Tuesday's bail hearing came one week after Pennsylvania's Supreme Court affirmed a Superior Court opinion reversing Lynn's 2012 conviction and ordering a new trial.
Lynn was not accused of molesting children. Instead, prosecutors alleged that as secretary for clergy - responsible for investigating allegations against priests and recommending action - Lynn continued the church's long-standing practice of rotating pedophile priests from parish to parish.
To establish that Lynn was part of the archdiocese's governing culture, prosecutors at trial introduced historical information on clergy sex abuse including about two dozen case histories, some dating to the 1940s.
The first round of appeals in Lynn's case established that church officials can be held criminally liable for the crimes of clergy they supervise.
But in December, after a second round of appeals on a different issue, Superior Court ruled that the historical cases prosecutors used in Lynn's trial tainted the jury's ability to reach a fair verdict. It was this ruling that the District Attorney's Office unsuccessfully sought to reverse.