Saturday, December 28, 2013
Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams is asking Judge M. Teresa Sarmina to deny bail to Msgr. William J. Lynn, on the basis that Lynn is a "flight risk" who may seek refuge in the Vatican.
A panel of three Superior Court judges on Dec. 26th reversed Lynn's "historic" 2012 conviction on one count of endangering the welfare of a child, and said that the monsignor should be "discharged forthwith." But the D.A. isn't going along with the higher court's opinion at a bail hearing scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday before Judge Sarmina.
Lynn was labeled a "flight risk" in a six-page answer to a petition for a bail hearing filed by Hugh J. Burns, Jr., chief of the D.A.'s appeals unit. The monsignor is a "high ranking official [in] a worldwide organization, the Roman Catholic Church, that has both diplomatic and non-diplomatic facilities in many nations," Burns wrote.
The evidence presented at Lynn's trial "established that numerous individuals within that organization are closely associated with [Lynn] and may be willing to improperly assist him out of personal interest without proper sanction," Burns wrote.
In response, Lynn's lawyer, Thomas A. Bergstrom, said, "The whole thing is idiotic. These guys [in the district attorney's office] are the most unprofessional lawyers I've ever run across in my life. They simply ignore the law and they're gonna continue to do it. But that [Superior Court] order applies to them as well."
Contrary to what the D.A. is peddling, Bergstrom said, there is no evidence to support the contention that Lynn might flee to the Vatican.
"It's very difficult to respond to an idiotic statement like that when it's not based on fact, it's just fiction," Bergstrom said. "It's almost delusional."
Bergstrom said the last time this issue was raised in Judge Sarmina's court, when Lynn was denied bail after his 2012 conviction, Lynn told him, the Vatican? I can't even get the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to take my calls.
In his six-page brief, however, D.A. Burns outlines a possible international Catholic conspiracy to assist Lynn if he becomes an international fugitive en route to Vatican City.
"The Holy See maintains diplomatic relations with 179 sovereign states, including every nation in the Western hemisphere, Europe, India, and all but three countries in Africa," Burns wrote. The D.A.'s office in the past has consulted with William Nardini, a Department of Justice attache to Rome, and "Mr. Nardini confirmed that the Vatican City State has no extradition treaty with the United States," Burns wrote.
In a footnote, Burns argues that officials within the Archdiocese of Philadelphia "are sympathetic to defendant, and possibly disposed to assist him, without regard to his conduct endangering children."
If Lynn becomes an international fugitive and decides to flee to another country, Burns said, the principle of "dual criminality" may come into play. Under dual criminality, Burns warned Judge Sarmina, "a fugitive may be extradited only if the acts constituting the offense are criminal in both the jurisdiction in which the fugitive is found and the jurisdiction to which the fugitive's extradition is sought."
"Thus, it might prove to be the case that defendant could be extradited from another country only if that country has an extradition treaty, and it punishes the conduct of endangering the welfare of children as a felony as does Pennsylvania," Burns wrote.
Burns argues that letting Lynn out of jail now would be "premature" because the appeal process has not been exhausted. Translation: the district attorney may not be through playing politics with the case, even though a higher court has said the jig is up.
The unanimous Superior Court opinion didn't have much impact on the D.A.'s office, where Seth Williams' self-described "historic" prosecution of the church depends on the monsignor remaining in jail as a scapegoat for D.A. Williams' bottom-feeder style of justice.
In Seth Williams' world, archbishops and bishops get a pass, and the guy who carried out their orders gets prosecuted for the collective sins of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia over the past 40 years.
The unanimous opinion of the three Superior Court judges to reverse Lynn's conviction "is not a proper basis for granting bail pending appeal," Burns wrote. If the order of the Superior Court was "instantaneously effective," Burns said, Lynn "would not require bail at all and the Superior Court would not have referred this request" to Judge Sarmina.
While the lawyers slug it out, Lynn remains a prisoner at SCI-Waymart in Wayne, about 2 1/2 hours north of Philadelphia. In anticipation of his release, prison officials had discussed transferring Lynn to the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility on State Road in Philadelphia, but Lynn's lawyers objected, because of concerns for their client's safety.
So it appears likely that officials at SCI-Waymart will continue to hold Msgr. Lynn until Judge Sarmina decides on whether to grant bail.
If Sarmina decides not to release Lynn, Bergstrom said he would "cross the street" after the bail hearing, and immediately file a brief with the Superior Court, seeking to have Lynn released.