Msgr William Lynn’s conviction overturned

The most high profile cleric imprisoned in the United States arising from investigations of sexual abuse of children has been freed after his conviction was ruled unsafe. 

Msgr William Lynn of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia was not implicated in the actual abuse of children. However, as a supervisory priest for the archdiocese in his role as secretary for clergy, he became the focus for a grand jury investigation when clerical abuse cases came to light in 2005. He was subsequently sent forward for trial in 2011 on charges of negligence and child endangerment and later sentenced to a term of three to six years in prison. 

Following a re-examination of the case, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court said that cases of historical abuse introduced at Lynn’s trial had tainted the jury’s ability to reach a correct verdict and ruled a retrial is warranted. It ordered the release of the cleric on $250,000 bail. That order saw Msgr Lynn freed with just three months left on his original sentence. 

The court has now set May 1, 2017 as the date for the priest’s new trial for child endangerment. Msgr Lynn’s lawyer, Thomas A. Bergstrom, criticised the retrial decision and insisted that the priest had been used as a “pawn” by Church authorities once the scandals broke.

“He went to the secret archive and found the names of 35 priests who had abused children,” Bergstrom said. “He brought that list to [Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua] for action. The cardinal shredded that list. When a cardinal said to move a priest to a designated parish, Lynn would handle the paperwork.”