December 27th, 2013
08:12 AM ET

Philadelphia Priest To Be Released From Prison After Appeals Court Reversal

The first Roman Catholic priest in the United States imprisoned for covering up the crimes of offending priests was ordered to be released Thursday after an appeals court reversed his conviction.

Monsignor William Lynn has been in prison since he was convicted in July 2012. He was convicted of one count of child endangerment and sentenced to three to six years.

Attorney Thomas Bergstrom said Lynn could be released as soon as Friday, depending on paperwork.

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams said his office likely will appeal the ruling.

"I am disappointed and strongly disagree with the court's decision," he said.

Lynn's conviction was for not removing a defrocked priest, Edward Avery, from active ministry in the 1990s after learning Avery had molested a teen.

According to, Lynn's attorneys convinced the three-judge Superior Court panel that the laws at the time only applied to people who directly supervised children.

Bergstrom spoke to CNN's Chris Cuomo on Friday and said his client shouldn't have been convicted in the first place.

"The reality is they knew going in that this law didn't apply to him. It didn't apply to him. That's the end of the story."

He added: 'There are many priests who have been prosecuted, at the end of the day – you've got to take a look at the law and you can't be strictly guided by emotion here."

The founder of Opus Bono Sacerdotii, a Detroit organization that provides assistance to accused priests, told the ruling will make prosecutors "reflect on who is really accountable for the damage that may have been done to victims of sexual abuse."

Marci Hamilton, a lawyer for alleged victims suing Lynn and the Philadelphia archdiocese, called the decision a "very technical reading of the law," the website reported.

Lynn, now 62, made no statement Thursday, but after he was convicted 18 months ago he said: "I've tried to serve God as best I could. My best was not good enough.

The landmark trial marked the first time U.S. prosecutors had charged not just the priests who allegedly committed abuses, but also church leaders for failing to stop them.

Days before the trial began in March 2012, Avery pleaded guilty to involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and conspiracy to endanger the welfare of a child after admitting that he sexually assaulted the 10-year-old altar boy during the 1998-99 school year. Avery, 71, was sentenced to 2½ to five years. He remains in prison.

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  1. whyadamlanzadidit

    Msgr Lynn ADMITTED in court that he hid and moved 37 known child rapists since 1994. This was organized crime, and he was at the center of it, along with Cardinal Bevilacqua, Bishops Cistone & Cullen, and 2 other high priests.

    The goal of the Catholic church is to see if they could use their power and money to help him get away with it. This is exactly what satan’s church would do.

    May God have no mercy on those that support this organized child sex crime syndicate, claiming to act in God’s name, and acting exactly in defiance of what Jesus said in Matthew 18, were Jesus said Catholics will not be forgiven.

    December 27, 2013 at 1:00 pm | Reply

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