Wednesday, January 15, 2014
To Taleah Grimmage, Juror No. 7 in the Msgr. Lynn case, the news that Lynn's conviction had been reversed came as a "slight shock."
"While I still think he [Msgr. Lynn] ultimately played a part in the atrocities that occurred, he certainly was not the ONLY person that should have been held responsible," Grimmage wrote in an email. "[I'm looking at YOU Cardinals Krol and Bevilacqua]."
Grimmage, who voted to convict Lynn in 2012 after sitting through a 13 week trial, as well as 13 days of deliberations, said she never understood the district attorney's strategy of charging Lynn with endangering the welfare of a child. She did, however, believe the D.A. had succeeded in sending a message to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
As far as the monsignor is concerned, Grimmage was curious to know what effect being "unjustly" imprisoned for 18 months has had on the monsignor, who so far, has declined to talk to reporters.
"Maybe this experience has brought him closer to God," she said.
"As I understand it," Grimmage wrote, Lynn's conviction "was overturned based on the fact that the statute they used to charge him, only applied to people who had direct contact or interaction with a child."
Lynn was convicted by the jury of one count of endangering the welfare of a child. In 2005, former District Attorney Lynne Abraham and a grand jury stated that Lynn could not be charged under the state's original 1972 child endangerment law. D.A. Abraham and the 2005 grand jury declared that the original law applied only to adults who had direct contact with children, such as parents, teachers and guardians, and not to Lynn, who was basically a supervisor of priests who had contact with children.
On Dec. 26th, a panel of three Superior Court judges unanimously reversed Lynn's conviction, saying the state's original child endangerment law did not apply to him.
"I think that it certainly is curious that the state decided to use this particular statute," Grimmage said. "I don't know if they really banked on it not being overturned so much as they wanted to send a message to the Archdiocese."
"I also think it's interesting that you can be the [indirect] supervisor or someone in contact with children and not be held responsible for what happens to them."
"I find this whole thing odd," she wrote. "We need to extend the catch of all responsibility to not just schools and daycare centers, burt churches too! ... I think we should all be held collectively responsible for one another."
As a direct result of the 2005 grand jury report, the state amended the child endangerment law in 2007 to include supervisors such as Lynn.
Grimmage never saw the monsignor as a central player. Back in 2012, she had this to say about the monsignor: "Personally, I think Father Lynn was just a cog in a wheel. I think that he was a very good 'yes man' who unfortunately was left holding the bag. I don't think Lynn is a malicious person, and I think in his mind he was doing what he thought was appropriate."
Grimmage said in 2012 that every juror believed there was a conspiracy among the hierarchy in the archdiocese; she just didn't buy the D.A.'s theory that it was a conspiracy to harm children.
Two of the district attorney's original charges against Lynn, for conspiracy to endanger the welfare of a child, were thrown during the trial by Judge M. Teresa Sarmina as unproven.
"We ALL agreed that they [the archdiocese] conspired to hide things from the parishioners and keep things hush-hush to continue receieving monies and etc.," Grimmage wrote in 2012. "As a result kids were endangered, but we didn't believe the endangerment was the actual goal."
In her most recent comments, Grimmage recalled that several parishioners from St. Joseph's in Downingtown showed up at the Lynn trial to talk about "how great he [Lynn] was as a pastor."
"Perhaps they will reinstate him as a parish priest," she wrote. "Basically with this being overturned, he's not a convicted felon."
There will always be, however, people who think of him that way. When he left the Criminal Justice Center after being granted bail on Jan. 6th, two hecklers chased the monsignor down the street, loudly calling him a pedophile.
Lynn is currently under house arrest at St. William's rectory in Northeast Philadelphia. He wears an electronic monitoring bracelet on his ankle. He is restricted to staying on two floors of the rectory. He reports to his parole officer every week, and needs special permission to visit his lawyer or his doctor.
In addition, the archdiocese has said that Lynn remains on administrative leave and cannot publicly function as a priest.
"If I were Monsignor Lynn," Grimmage wrote, "I'd pocket my severance package and move faaaar away for a long time. I'd be curious to hear about his experience in prison. Biblically speaking, you have several people who have been imprisoned [unjustly]. Joseph and Paul come to mind."
"Maybe this whole experience has brought him closer to God."
Ralph Cipriano can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.