Friday, August 29, 2014

Superior Court Seals Allegations Of Prosecutorial Misconduct

Reprinted with permission from yesterday's National Catholic Reporter.


PHILADELPHIA — Defense lawyers for a priest and a Catholic school teacher convicted of raping a former altar boy claim that prosecutors didn’t tell them about a witness who would have bolstered the testimony of a key defense witness and called into question the accuser’s credibility.

Claiming prosecutorial misconduct, defense lawyers are seeking a new trial because they charge that prosecutors violated Brady v. Maryland, a landmark 1963 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that says prosecutors can’t withhold “exculpatory evidence” that could clear a defendant.

In a strange twist that confounds legal experts, the court ordered the filings to be sealed.

The charge of prosecutorial misconduct is in an application to amend the appellant brief filed July 9 in Pennsylvania Superior Court by Burton A. Rose, a lawyer for former teacher Bernard Shero. Michael J. McGovern, who is also seeking a new trial for his client, Fr. Charles Engelhardt, filed the same application to amend on July 10.

The same day, the district attorney's office asked the court to seal the records in the cases. On July 29, the dockets in both cases recorded that the seal was granted, but no reason was stated regarding why.

“That’s a very extraordinary remedy,” said Alan J. Tauber, a former defense lawyer for Msgr. William J. Lynn, who was also sent to jail because of accusations from the same former altar boy. “I don’t know what basis they would have to put this under seal.”

A spokesman for the district attorney’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Judge Grants Bail For Accused "Rogue" Cop; Meanwhile, Defense Lawyers Sound Pretty Cocky About Their Guys Beating The Rap

Former Officers Thomas Liciardello [left] and Michael Spicer
By Ralph Cipriano

U.S. District Court Judge Eduardo C. Robreno let former Philadelphia Police Officer Michael Spicer out of jail this afternoon, setting bail at $175,000.

In a second bail hearing, Robreno adjourned court after two hours of arguments. The judge wanted to give himself some time overnight to ponder whether he should also let out of jail Officer Thomas Liciardello, the man the feds say is the alleged ringleader of a band of rogue cops.

Federal prosecutors have charged six former members of the city's Narcotics Field Unit in a 26-count racketeering indictment with stealing more than $500,000 in cash, drugs and personal property, while allegedly using excessive force, kidnapping drug dealers and falsifying police reports to cover their tracks.

Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey has already waved the white flag, calling the allegations "one of the worst cases of corruption I have ever heard." Ramsey suspended all six cops for 30 days, with the intention of firing them. He also announced at a press conference that he plans on destroying the former cops' badges. How's that for a presumption of innocence?

Not to be outdone, U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger wanted to see the six former cops held in jail without bail until trial because they supposedly were flight risks and posed a danger to the community.

But five of the six former officers are now out on bail, and the judge was considering whether to let the sixth officer out of jail. Meanwhile, today in court a couple of defense lawyers sounded pretty cocky about the chances of their guys beating the rap when the government's much ballyhooed police corruption case finally comes to trial.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Grudge Match: Msgr. Lynn Vs. D.A.

By Ralph Cipriano

In a grudge match before the state Supreme Court, defense lawyers for Msgr. William J. Lynn will square off against District Attorney Seth Williams.

At stake is the freedom of Lynn, whose historic June 22, 2012 conviction on one count of endangering the welfare of a child was reversed on Dec. 26, 2013 by the state Superior Court.

Both the district attorney and Lynn's defense lawyers have filed briefs in anticipation of a yet-unscheduled hearing before the state's highest court. The district attorney began his 33-page filing on July 10th by charging that Lynn "was a high ranking Archdiocesan official specifically responsible for protecting children from pedophile priests."

"Instead, he relocated them, as part of a general scheme of concealment, in a manner that put additional children at risk of being sexually molested," the district attorney wrote. In reversing Lynn's conviction, "The Superior Court erred and should be reversed," concluded the brief filed by Chief of  the D.A.'s Appeal Unit Hugh J. Burns Jr., Deputy District Attorney Ronald Eisenberg, First Assistant District Attorney Edward F. McCann Jr., and D.A. Seth Williams.

In their 55-page brief filed on Aug. 1st, defense lawyers Thomas A. Bergstrom and Allison Khaskelis, go on the attack, charging that the "Commonwealth's brief is replete with factual errors." The defense lawyers ripped the D.A.'s brief as an "unfair attempt to deflect this court's attention from the narrow issue actually before it," namely whether the state's original 1972 child endangerment law applied to Lynn. The defense lawyers further accuse the district attorney of "shrouding the narrow issue in a cloak of hysteria and emotions."

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Man In the Mirror

By Ralph Cipriano

Sometimes you can conduct an exhaustive nationwide search for a talented top executive and never realize that the perfect candidate is right under your nose.

Or in the case of H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest, that ideal candidate is staring back at you in the mirror.

After Lenfest and the late Lew Katz won the May 27th auction to buy the Inquirer, Daily News and for the inflated price of $88 million, Katz introduced Lenfest as interim publisher of the Inquirer. And then Lenfest announced that his first order of business was to find a new publisher.

Lenfest was quoted in the Inquirer as telling employees that he already had identified five potential candidates and that he expected the hiring process to take several months. But it didn't take that long.

In the interim, for the past couple months, Lenfest's name has appeared at the top of the Inky masthead alongside the title of interim publisher. Last Tuesday, "interim" was dropped from the title and Lenfest simply became publisher.

There was no public announcement, no installation ceremony. No smoke signals emanating from 8th and Market. Just the dropping of one word, interim, from the masthead. Talk about anticlimactic.


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