Philly Priest Jailed by 'Lying, Scheming Altar Boy' Freed

Philadelphia altar boy Daniel Gallagher accused three men of sexually assaulting him. Anis Mili/Reuters

Monsignor William Lynn, who was convicted by the testimony of an alleged sex abuse victim whom a Newsweek story described, in its headline, as a "lying, scheming altar boy" earlier this year, is a free man.

Lynn was incarcerated at the State Correctional Institute at Waymart, Pennsylvania, where he served as prison librarian, checking books in and out for fellow inmates as well as keeping track of periodicals. He was paid 19 cents an hour.

In a one-page decision, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court said on Tuesday that it would not review the reversal of Lynn's conviction by a lower appeals court. The state's highest court wrote that the Philadelphia district attorney's "petition for allowance of appeal is denied."

After serving 33 months in jail, and 15 months under house arrest, the 65-year-old monsignor could be on a bus to Philadelphia as early as Wednesday, his lawyer said. "It's been a long time coming," said Thomas Bergstrom. "We'll file a bail motion first thing in the morning."

Lynn, the former secretary for clergy for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia from 1992 to 2004, was convicted in 2012 by a jury on one count of endangering the welfare of a child and was sentenced to three to six years by Judge M. Teresa Sarmina.

The alleged victim in the case was Danny Gallagher, aka "Billy Doe," a former heroin addict and dealer who had all kinds of credibility problems. A forensic psychiatrist who examined Gallagher wrote that he was "paranoid," had a "passive-aggressive personality," displayed "symptoms of a delusional disorder" and was capable of "manipulating others to his own ends."

In addition, the psychiatrist stated that Gallagher lied to him and provided "conflicting and unreliable information" about his alleged abuse, as well as "conflicting and unreliable information" about the details of the supposed crimes.

Gallagher also told many different accounts of three alleged attacks to authorities and his many drug counselors, in which he was supposedly raped by two priests and a schoolteacher, all of whom were sent to jail on the strength of his testimony. Gallagher's accusations were also contradicted by numerous witness statements taken by the Philadelphia district attorney's own detectives, including interviews with Gallagher's mother and brother, as well as former teachers and priests at St. Jerome's parish in northeast Philadelphia, where the crimes supposedly occurred.

When Gallagher was deposed in a civil case he filed against the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, he was confronted with the many conflicting details of his multiple stories of abuse. His response was that he didn't remember. He said so more than 130 times.

Despite these many memory lapses, the Philadelphia archdiocese settled Gallagher's civil case against the church for $5 million last year, on the eve of Pope Francis's visit to Philadelphia.

In December 2015, the Pennsylvania Superior Court overturned Lynn's conviction for the second time in three years and ordered a new trial. A panel of three Superior Court judges ruled that the trial court had "abused its discretion" by allowing 21 supplemental cases of sex abuse to be admitted as evidence against Lynn.

Those 21 cases dated back to 1948, three years before Lynn was born, and took up at least 25 days of the 32-day trial. In his appeal brief, Lynn's lawyers argued that the prosecution "introduced these files to put on trial the entire Archdiocese of Philadelphia, hoping to convict [Lynn] by proxy for the sins of the entire church."

Asked if there would be a second trial, Bergstrom replied, "That's up to the DA."

Cameron Kline, a spokesperson for Philadelphia DA Seth Williams, said, "The office is currently reviewing the decision."