Priest in U.S. church abuse case seeks release from jail

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 26, 2012 5:10 PM
Priest in U.S. church abuse case seeks release from jail

By Dave Warner

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - A monsignor on Tuesday asked a judge to free him from jail following his conviction in the Roman Catholic Church's child sex abuse scandal, saying he was not a flight risk and is prepared to waive his right to fight extradition.

William Lynn, 61, the former secretary of the clergy for the Philadelphia Archdiocese, has been behind bars since Friday when he became the only senior church official convicted for covering up the abuse.

He faces up to seven years in prison when he is sentenced on August 13 for endangering the welfare of a child.

At a court hearing, prosecutors fought Lynn's effort to be placed under house arrest at the Philadelphia home of a relative to await sentencing.

Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington called Lynn a flight risk who might head to another country including Vatican City, which has no extradition treaty with the United States.

"It's about flight ... now that he knows what jail is like," Blessington told Judge M. Teresa Sarmina in Common Pleas Court. "It is incomprehensible that he will not get the maximum sentence," he said.

"I have not made up my mind, Mr. Blessington," responded Sarmina, who set another hearing on the matter for July 5.

In the meantime, she told Blessington to prepare waivers for Lynn to sign dropping his right to fight extradition were he to flee from the United States.

Lynn, who was dressed in black clerical garb but without a clerical collar, rose in response to Lynn's questions and said he was prepared to sign the waivers.

Sarmina insisted that defense lawyer Jeff Lindy thoroughly brief his client on the consequences were he to flee.

At one point, Sarmina said to Lindy, "Would you be happy to forfeit your fee if he fled?"

"For this guy? Absolutely," responded the lawyer, who has repeatedly said that Lynn is not a flight risk.

Lynn's relative has agreed to take him in if he is released, and "she is perfectly ready to accept him," said another defense lawyer, Thomas Bergstrom.

Lynn, who oversaw hundreds of priests in the Philadelphia Archdiocese, was convicted of covering up child sex abuse allegations, often by transferring priests to unsuspecting parishes.

The case rocked the Philadelphia Archdiocese, the sixth largest in the nation with 1.5 million members.

(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Xavier Briand)