A Pennsylvania court ordered the release of a jailed church official Thursday, after reversing his conviction for allegedly mishandling a clergy sex-abuse scandal.
Monsignor William Lynn, 62, was the first U.S. Catholic official to face legal action in the cases of Catholic priests accused of sexual abuse and is serving a three to six-year sentence. A Superior Court panel of three judges unanimously struck down prosecutors’ contention that Lynn was guilty of child endangerment, the Associated Press reports.
Prosecutors accused Lynn of concealing abuse by reassigning priests to new parishes while he served as the archdiocese’s secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004. The jailed church official’s conviction centers on the case of Edward Avery, a priest accused of abusing a child in 1998 after Lynn had relocated him. Lynn’s lawyers argued that the state law at the time was applicable only to parents and caregivers. Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams said he would likely appeal the ruling, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
Lynn has served 18 months of his sentence and his attorneys will push for his release from state prison as early as Thursday.