Monday, October 8, 2012

Prosecutor: Claim of False Confession "Utterly Frivolous"

The district attorney says a defense motion to reconsider bail in the case of Msgr. William J. Lynn, based upon allegations of a false confession by an alleged co-conspirator, former priest Edward V. Avery, is "utterly frivolous," and should be denied.

The Commonwealth's answer to a motion for reconsideration of bail was filed Sunday in the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, Eastern District, by Assistant District Attorney Hugh J. Burns Jr., chief of the district attorney's appeals unit. In his answer, Burns says the best evidence against the notion that Avery gave a false confession came from the former priest himself.

In an attachment, Avery's "written guilty plea colloquy" says that on March 22, the day he pleaded guilty, Avery signed his name on a document that says, "I admit I committed the crime[s]" of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and conspiracy to commit endangering the welfare of a child ... "Nobody promised me anything or threatened me or forced me to plead guilty. I, myself, have decided to plead guilty. I know what I say today is final."

Lynn, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's former secretary for clergy, was convicted June 22 of one count of endangering the welfare of a child, specifically a former ten-year-old altar boy, known as "Billy Doe," in civil proceedings. Avery pleaded guilty on March 22 to involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with the boy, as well as conspiring with Lynn to endanger the welfare of the boy.

A jury, however, acquitted Lynn of the conspiracy charge that Avery had pleaded guilty to. After the trial, the defense alleged in a motion for reconsideration of bail that they did not know that Avery had passed a polygraph, and told the person who administered the polygraph that he never even met the boy.

The prosecutor, however, said that once a defendant comes into court and pleads guilty, the ballgame is over.

"It is well established that one who pleads guilty will not later be heard to claim that he lied in his colloquy," Burns wrote in his answer. "The Commonwealth had no duty to negotiate with Avery in a manner favorable to him. Defendant's lament [meaning Lynn] is one familiar to conspirators who have misplaced their confidence in a fellow criminal who later decided to reveal all and seek a favorable plea. It is not somehow a basis for relief."

The prosecution claims in its answer that since lie detector tests are not admissible as evidence in a Pennsylvania criminal trial, the prosecutors were not required to turn that evidence over to the defense.

Furthermore, Burns states that Lynn is not entitled to bail, and that contrary to defense claims, he does pose " "substantial flight risk." The monsignor is a "high-ranking official in the Philadelphia Archdiocese of a worldwide organization, the Roman Catholic Church, that has both diplomatic and non-diplomatic facilities in many nations," Burns wrote.

"While the Church obviously has no policy of harboring fleeing felons, the evidence at trial established that numerous individuals within that organization are closely associated with defendant and may be willing to assist him out of personal interest. In this regard, to the best of the Commonwealth's information, defendant's counsel fees continue to be paid by the Philadelphia Archdiocese, notwithstanding the fact that he has been convicted by a jury of using his clerical office to endanger children."

If Lynn fled the state, "the defendant's faculties as a priest" have not been limited in any way, Burns wrote. "Wherever he goes, defendant will continue to fully possess every priestly faculty unless and until his ecclesiastic superiors take official action to curtail them. Thus, if he fled the jurisdiction and his appeal was quashed he could continue to function as a priest, with the added bonus of not having to serve his 3 to 6 year prison term."

In their court filing, the prosecutors say that Avery was one of a long line of abuser priests that Lynn gave favorable treatment to, at the expense of former and future victims.

"The evidence at trial revealed that Avery was not the only predator defendant harbored and protected, and that his handling of Avery was no aberration," Burns wrote. "It was rather part of a continuous, systematic practice of retaining abusive priests in ministry, with continued access to minors, while taking pains to avoid scandal or liability for the Archdiocese."

"The Commonwealth presented evidence relating to numerous priests whom Lynn recommended for continued assignments after learning that they had abused children," Burns wrote. He cites a  familiar litany of the cases of 13 priests presented at Lynn's trial as supplemental evidence of a pattern of conduct. The names on the list include some of the archdiocese's premier abusers, such as Stanley Gana, Nicholas Cudemo and David Sicoli. Unlike Lynn, all three known abusers are still at large.
 

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