By Ralph Cipriano
A week after a panel of Superior Court judges reversed his landmark conviction and ordered him to be "discharged forthwith," Msgr. William J. Lynn remains in jail.
It's not known whether Lynn will be out by Sunday, his 63rd birthday. But on 12:30 p.m. Monday, the prisoner is scheduled to return to the courtroom of Judge M. Teresa Sarmina, for another ritualistic humiliation.
"I want him in front of me when I tell him what his conditions are," Judge Sarmina warned ominously from the bench last week, regarding what she described as her "conditions pending bail." This is the same judge who presided over Lynn's now discredited show trial in 2012, a judge whose application of the law in that case was unanimously panned by a panel of three Superior Court judges as "fundamentally flawed."
Sarmina isn't through with Lynn yet. Concerned about about the monsignor's possible flight to the Vatican, the judge has ordered the official scapegoat of the archdiocese prosecution to turn in his passport and put up $250,000 bail. She also wants the monsignor to wear an electronic ankle bracelet, and report on a weekly basis to a Philadelphia parole officer.
Not to be outdone in theatrics, District Attorney Seth William threw a temper tantrum outside the Union League on New Year's Eve over Lynn's impending release.
If nothing else, the judge and the district attorney have definitely put a damper on the monsignor's victory party.
"She keeps throwing up roadblocks," Lynn's lawyer, Thomas A. Bergstrom, said of Judge Sarmina. "And he [District Attorney Williams] keeps pouring gasoline on the fire."
And the media keeps letting both of them get away with it.
"It is disgusting that they would pay to free this man," Williams told reporters at what The Philadelphia Inquirer described as a "hastily called press conference." The archdiocese, Williams said, is conducting "business as usual" by "protecting their own." The church has closed churches and schools, the D.A. complained, but they have the money to bail out Lynn. As a Catholic and a former altar boy, Williams declared, "I am shocked and overwhelmed."
In Bergstrom's view, Seth Williams has crossed a line here.
"If he's going to criticize the archdiocese this way he might as well criticize the panel of Superior Court judges who studied the case and found his position in the case to be lacking in fact and in law," Bergstrom said of the D.A. "In my view the archdiocese all along supported Msgr. Lynn because they knew full well what the Superior Court found, that the [state's original child endangerment] law didn't apply to him."
"Why shouldn't they [the archdiocese] post his bail," Bergstrom asked; "He [Msgr. Lynn] is innocent."
In Bergstrom's view, Williams' conduct is unbecoming of his office and position as the city's top law enforcement officer.
"All of a sudden he [Williams] is now judge, jury and executioner, and he's still railing about this man being guilty, and he's innocent," Begrstrom said of his client.
Lynn has served more than 18 months at SCI-Waymart, some 2 1/2 hours north of Philadelphia. When the Superior Court issued its Dec. 26th opinion reversing Lynn's conviction, officials at the Waymart prison were ready to release Lynn and send him off to the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility on State Road in Philadelphia, in preparation for the prisoner to be "discharged forthwith."
But Bergstrom objected, saying he didn't know if the monsignor would be safe at the local prison. Especially when, thanks to Judge Sarmina, it became obvious that Lynn's expected release was not going to happen right away.
"We had to fight to keep him there," at Waymart, Bergstrom said. In the view of prison officials, Bergstrom said, Msgr. Lynn is a free man because of the Superior Court opinion reversing his conviction, and ordering him to be "discharged forthwith."
"But she [Judge Sarmina] disputes that, saying he [Msgr. Lynn] is still under a sentence of the [trial] court," Bergstrom said. As far as Bergstrom is concerned, Judge Sarmina's application of the law continues to be "fundamentally flawed." But, Bergstrom said, he doesn't anticipate filing any challenges to Judge Sarmina's conditions of bail.
"As long as he [Lynn] is comfortable and safe," Bergstrom said.
[This morning, the Associated Press, quoting a state prison spokesman, said that Lynn had left the Waymart prison, and was being transported by the Philadelphia sheriff's department to a city jail, where he will be fitted with an electronic ankle bracelet. By the end of the day, Lynn was in custody at Curran-Fromhold in Philadelphia, as news helicopters circled overhead.]
I missed the D.A.'s so-called "press conference." I used to be on his email list, but he no longer invites me to his press conferences, or sends me alerts telling me what he's up to. He also doesn't answer any of my questions. This has been going on for more than a year. Why? Because I raised questions about his self-described and now discredited "historic" prosecution of the church.
Williams doesn't want to answer any of those questions. He has no answers. What he does know how to do, however, is to keep inciting on behalf of mob rule. And the rest of the press corps continues to let him get away with it.
Williams's latest diatribe is a puzzler on several fronts.
The high amount of bail wasn't Lynn's fault. It was Judge Sarmina who set bail at $250,000. The archdiocese has already shelled out at least $1 million for Lynn's trial defense. Lynn is basically a pauper. Who did Williams think was going to post this kind of bail on his behalf? The ACLU?
So all of the principal characters in this show trial continue to play on according to type.
The judge still treats Lynn, who just got his conviction reversed, as a dangerous criminal, about to flee the country, and run off to Vatican.
The district attorney is carrying on like Al Sharpton.
And the media continues to give both of them a pass.
The media, however, has an obligation in this case to set the record straight.
They have trumpeted Seth William's 2011 grand jury report as gospel, the same grand jury report that has more than 20 factual mistakes in it. The same grand jury report that relied on a faulty interpretation of the law, as well as a thoroughly discredited and unreliable "victim" dubbed Billy Doe.
It's a grand jury report that tarred and feathered Lynn and the rest of the defendants, while they and their lawyers were silenced, under years of judicial gag orders.
Nobody did more tarring and feathering than The Philadelphia Inquirer, the same newspaper that uncritically reported the judge's recent draconian bail conditions, as well as Seth Williams's recent temper tantrum.
A data base search of the Inquirer displays 160 stories that mention that 2011 grand jury report.
For more than a year now, I have published stories on this blog, as well as in a long National Catholic Reporter piece, that have drawn on formerly secret grand jury transcripts and police records to raise serious questions about the D.A.'s now-unraveling "historic" prosecution of the church.
It's a local and national issue; its even an international issue. Officials at the Vatican have closely followed the Lynn case.
As the city's paper of record, what has the Inquirer done about a controversy in their backyard concerning the church and a landmark legal case?
They have willfully ignored it.
It gets worse.
When the Catholic League wanted to pay the Inquirer $58,000 to publish a two-page ad in that newspaper that would have raised questions about the D.A.'s historic prosecution, mainly through the reporting on this blog, what did the Inquirer do?
They turned down the money; they refused to publish the ad.
The Inquirer took a stand against the First Amendment.
Meanwhile, they keep enabling Judge Sarmina and Seth Williams in their continued efforts to tar and feather a man that a higher court just said should never have been charged in the first place.
Ralph Cipriano can be reached at Ralph@bigtrial.net.