A former Philadelphia church official who made history when he faced charges of helping to shield pedophile priests is now free after a court overturned his conviction.
Monsignor William Lynn had already posted 10 percent of his $250,000 bail at about 11 a.m., less than an hour after a Philadelphia judge ruled that he could be released on bail. By 3 p.m., Lynn walked out of Waymart State Correctional Institution in northeastern Pennyslvania's Wayne County.
Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams vowed to re-try Lynn on child endangerment charges. Lynn is accused of protecting priests who molested children by moving them around in an attempt to cover up the abuse.
"To the victims, their families and the citizens of our region: Know that my office takes the charges of institutional sexual abuse extremely seriously," District Attorney Seth Williams said in a statement. "I will continue to use every available legal option at my disposal to prosecute pedophile priests and those who shield them to the fullest extent of the law."
The state Supreme Court threw out Lynn's conviction, concluding the 2012 trial judge allowed too many priest-abuse victims not directly tied to the case to testify. Prosecutors had called the witnesses to show a pattern of behavior at the Philadelphia Archdiocese.
Lynn's attorney, Tom Bergstrom, told NBC10's Rosemary Connors that Lynn plans to live with his sister and her family. He is due back in Philadelphia court on Thursday morning for a status hearing.
Lynn was the first U.S. Roman Catholic Church official ever charged and convicted of helping to shield child molesters within its ranks.
A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia on Tuesday referred all questions back to Lynn's attorney.
Appeals courts have wrestled with the legality of his conviction.
Lynn has been in and out of prison during his appeals. He's served nearly three years of a three- to six-year sentence and was due to be paroled in October. If Lynn is re-tried and convicted again, a judge can sentence him to a maximum of about 2 1/2 months in jail.
After the judge granted Lynn bail, the director of Philadelphia's local chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests issued a statement encouraging more victims of abuse to come forward and push for justice. She also praised District Attorney Seth Williams' vow to re-try Lynn.
"We hope Msgr. William Lynn is convicted again," said Karen Polesir, SNAP's local director. "That will be even more effective at deterring cover ups of child sex crimes."
Despite the decision, Polesir urged victims of priest abuse to "see the glass as half full" in Lynn's case.
"Finally, a Catholic enabler — a church official who put kids in harm's way — has been punished. And he may be punished further," she said. "That should make many employers think again when they're tempted to hide known or suspected child sex crimes."