(CBS/AP) PHILADELPHIA - A judge indicated Tuesday she may release Monsignor William Lynn, a Roman Catholic church official convicted of child endangerment, to await sentencing.
Common Pleas Judge M. Teresa Sarmina said it may depend on the Vatican agreeing not to harbor him Lynn, in the event he flees to Rome after being found guilty of covering up child sex abuse complaints.
Lynn is the first U.S. church official prosecuted for his handling of child abuse complaints. He was convicted last week of one felony child endangerment count.
Judge Sarmina ordered Lynn to remain jailed for now, pending a July 5 court date when she will reconsider the request.
The jury convicted Lynn, 61, of endangering a victim of now-defrocked priest Edward Avery, who is in prison after admitting he sexually assaulted an altar boy in church in 1999. Lynn knew Avery had been credibly accused of abuse years earlier. As secretary for clergy, Lynn had Avery sent for sexual-offender treatment, but knew he was later sent to live in a parish.
Lynn faces up to seven years in prison when he is sentenced Aug. 13. His lawyers insist he is not a flight risk and want him released on house arrest until then. He surrendered his passport to the court Tuesday.
"He doesn't want to go to France. He doesn't want to go to Spain. He doesn't want to go to the Vatican ... He just wants to go back to St. Joe's Parish in Pennsylvania," defense lawyer Tom Bergstrom said after the hearing.
But prosecutors urged the judge to keep Lynn in jail, offering up a news story that said that 35 Roman Catholic priests have fled during criminal cases. Most apparently fled before trial, often to their native country, Sarmina noted.
Sarmina warned Lynn on Tuesday that he would give up his appeal rights if he flees. She also said she would double his bail to $100,000 if she releases him.