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The Superior Court of Pennsylvania has overturned the 2012 conviction of Mgr William Lynn, a former chancery official in the archdiocese of Philadelphia currently serving a three- to six-year jail term for child endangerment.
The unanimous decision by the three-judge panel stated that the conviction was “fundamentally flawed”.
Lynn was convicted under a 1972 law that states “A parent, guardian or other person supervising the welfare of a child under 18 years of age commits a misdemeanour of the second degree if he knowingly endangers the welfare of a child by violating a duty of care, protection or support.”
Mgr Lynn supervised the clergy, not the children, and the Superior Court ruled that law could not be construed to apply to him.
Thomas A. Bergstrom, Lynn’s defence lawyer, said: “This whole prosecution was totally dishonest from day one. They had to know that that statute didn't apply to Lynn. And their attempt to justify it just doesn't wash.”
Today bail was set at US$250,000 for Lynn, and Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina ruled that he must surrender his passport and be subject to electronic monitoring and weekly reporting while on bail, the Philadelphia Enqurier reported. He must post $25,000 to be released.
Mr Bergstrom said he believed it would be a week or more before Lynn would leave jail.
The Philadelphia District Attorney, Seth Williams, who led the prosecution, said he strongly disagreed with the court ruling overturning Lynn’s conviction, and his office would determine whether or not to appeal the case or seek a new trial.
Lynn’s conviction was the first time a curial official had been sentenced to jail for their failure to remove clergy suspected of child abuse.
Later in 2012, Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City-St Joseph became the second curial official convicted of child endangerment, but Finn was given a sentence of two years’ probation.