updated 11/26/2008 4:00:23 PM ET 2008-11-26T21:00:23

A key figure from the civil rights movement sentenced to 15 years in prison for incest has been released on bond while he appeals his conviction.

It's unlikely the Rev. James L. Bevel will ever serve another day in jail even if his conviction stands because he's been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Doctors estimate the 71-year-old has only a few months to live.

Bevel was a top lieutenant to Martin Luther King Jr. and architect of the 1963 Children's Crusade in Birmingham, Alabama.

In April, a jury convicted Bevel of incest for having sex more than a decade ago with his then-teenage daughter.

Prosecutors opposed Bevel's release. He served about seven months of his 15-year sentence.

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