PHILADELPHIA — The first American church official convicted for his handling of priest abuse complaints could soon leave prison because the Pennsylvania Supreme Court agreed Tuesday that his conviction was flawed.
Monsignor William Lynn, who served two cardinals at the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia, has been imprisoned for nearly three years for child endangerment.
But the high court on Tuesday declined to reinstate his 2012 conviction. A lower appeals court had found the trial judge allowed too much indirect testimony from other church abuse victims.
Defense lawyer Tom Bergstrom will ask that his client be released this week. Lynn, 65, has nearly served the minimum of his three- to six-year term.
“He was in the middle of this thing by direction of the cardinal,” Bergstrom said. “He was thrown into this melting pot of awfulness, without a whole lot of experience (and) without a whole lot of education. … And he did his best.”
Prosecutors could ask to retry the case. A spokesman for District Attorney Seth Williams said the office would review its options.
After two grand jury investigations, prosecutors found that Lynn played a key role in helping the archdiocese transfer known pedophile priests through his job as secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004.
The trial revealed that his bosses kept a half-century of abuse complaints in secret, locked files under Lynn’s control and that he reviewed them to compile lists of suspected pedophiles.
He was charged, though, with enabling the abuse of a single 10-year-old altar boy by a priest transferred to the parish despite other complaints.