PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The first U.S. church official convicted over his handling of priest-abuse complaints could soon leave prison after 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 almost three years for child endangerment.
But the high court 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 after two grand jury investigations found that Lynn played a key role 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.
Lynn 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.
Common Pleas Judge M. Teresa Sarmina, in sentencing Lynn, said he had "enabled monsters in clerical garb ... to destroy the souls of children."
Lynn's novel case has reached the state Supreme Court twice, and he has been in and out of prison amid several rounds of appeals.
Prosecutors could ask to retry the case. A spokesman for District Attorney Seth Williams said the office would review its options.
Lynn, during several grueling days on the stand, said he tried his best but "my best was not good enough."