Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Moses, Solomon And The Monsignor

By Ralph Cipriano
for Bigtrial.net

Under a stained glass dome and bronze statues of Moses and Solomon, the state's highest court this morning debated the fate of Msgr. William J. Lynn.

"God save the Commonwealth and this honorable court," the court crier shouted in the packed, ornate chambers of the state Supreme Court on the fourth floor of the state Capitol in Harrisburg.

Up at the raised mahogany bench, Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille got things rolling by announcing, "The issue here was this application of the [child] endangerment statute."

That really is the issue in the Lynn case. The other justices, however, did not seem to want to stick to that script as they fired one extraneous shot after another at Thomas A. Bergstrom, the monsignor's defense lawyer.

After it was over, Bergstrom had the dazed look of a hockey goalie. His adversary from the D.A.'s office seemed to get off much easier, but he did have to concede a few key points that could be fatal.

Assistant District Attorney Hugh J. Burns Jr. chief of the Philadelphia D.A.'s appeals unit, was the leadoff speaker at today's oral arguments, which lasted less than an hour.

In the Lynn case, Burns didn't have the law on his side so the fast-talking, heavyweight appeals specialist basically did some nimble tap dancing around the facts while tossing around phrases such as "legislative intent," "common-sense manner," and "accomplice liability."

"Could you slow down a little bit?" Castille interrupted him. "You're going to overwhelm us with facts."

That seemed to be the game plan as Burns attempted to paper over the facts of the case, which are pretty straight-forward.

In 2005, former District Attorney Lynne Abraham and a grand jury looked at state's original 1972 child endangerment law and concluded it didn't apply to Msgr. Lynn, a supervisor of priests, rather than somebody who had direct contact with children, such as a parent or guardian.

In 2007, Abraham led a statewide campaign to change the state's original child endangerment law to include supervisors with oversight of people who came into contact with children, supervisors such as Lynn. The state Legislature complied with the D.A.'s request by amending the state child endangerment law to include supervisors.

In 2011, a new D.A., Seth Williams, decided without any official explanation to charge Lynn with child endangerment under the old state law, the same law that D.A. Abraham and the 2005 grand jury  had said in writing didn't apply to Lynn.

The state Superior Court saw the logic of this last December, when they tossed Lynn's conviction on child endangerment charges by saying -- drum roll please -- the original state law didn't apply to Lynn.

D.A. Seth Williams appealed the reversal of Lynn's conviction to the state Supreme Court, and the Supremes decided to review the case.

Without the law on his side, Burns launched a political broadside at Lynn that seemed to appeal to some justices.

Lynn, the former secretary for clergy for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, was responsible for investigating allegations of sexual impropriety against priests. But in making his argument, Burns gave Lynn more power than he actually had.

"Instead of protecting children he [Lynn] protected priests by reassigning them," Burns charged. Under the original child endangerment law, Lynn may have not had direct oversight over children, Burns said, but by keeping track of abuser priests, Lynn was indirectly responsible for the welfare of children. So he should have kept problem priests like Edward V. Avery out of St. Jerome's parish in Northeast Philadelphia, Burns said, where Avery supposedly raped a 10-year-old altar boy named "Billy Doe."

It sounded great unless you knew the facts of the case, which are that Lynn didn't have the authority to assign or reassign priests. In the imperial Philadelphia archdiocese, only the late Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua had that kind of authority.

But that didn't stop Burns from inventing his own story line.

"He [Lynn] put Avery in a parish with children," Burns said. The monsignor, Burns said, was "guilty of accomplice liability."

That's when Castille butted in and said under the law of accomplice liability Lynn "had to have knowledge" of what Avery was doing, didn't he?

Burns had to admit that Lynn "didn't have knowledge of what Avery was doing." But the monsignor had to know he was "creating a danger to children" by putting Lynn in a parish with children, Burns argued.

That appealed to Justice Debra Todd who asked Burns if it were true that Lynn was aware that Avery was continuing to moonlight as a disc jockey, a job where he had molested a previous victim.

Burns was happy to answer that question in the affirmative.

But Justice Thomas G. Saylor brought Burns back to the simple facts in the case when he asked if the state legislature's decision to amend the child endangerment law back in 2007 was a response to what the first grand jury had decided was a deficiency in the original law.

It sure was, no matter how much further tap-dancing Burns did about the broad legislative intent of the original law.

When it was Tom Bergstrom's chance to speak, the defense lawyer quoted the 2005 grand jury report that said that the original child endangerment law applied to people in close proximity to children, such as parents and guardians. The 2005 grand jury report concluded that the original child endangerment law did not apply to Lynn and other "high-ranking archdiocese officials," Bergstrom said, because they were "far removed from direct contact with children."

In Pennsylvania, we have "35 years of precedent," Bergstrom said. The original child endangerment law was only applied to people with direct contact with children, such as parents or guardians.

"Before you spin off," Justice Max Baer told Bergstrom, didn't Lynn assign Avery to St. Jerome's parish?

"He did not," Bergstrom shot back. "Cardinal Bevilacqua assigned Avery to St. Jerome's."

Bergstrom insisted that under the old state law, in order to be guilty of child endangerment, Lynn had to have "some involvement with the child."

"He didn't even know this child existed," Bergstrom said of the alleged victim in the case.

The justices wanted to know if Lynn supervised Avery.

No, Bergstrom said.

Why then is Lynn getting reports on Avery if he isn't Avery's supervisor, the justices wanted to know.

It was up to Lynn to keep tabs on Avery, Bergstrom said, but when it came to the chain of command, Avery was under the supervision of the priests at St. Jerome's, and the officials at Nazareth Hospital, where Avery worked as a chaplain.

In order to be guilty of child endangerment under the original state law, Lynn had to have direct contact with the child, Bergstrom argued.

"He [Lynn] is not involved with a child," Bergstrom said. Lynn was secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004. Billy Doe was allegedly sexually abused during the 1998-99 school year, but didn't report the abuse until 2009.

Lynn "didn't know about it until he was charged," Bergstrom said.

Chief Justice Castille thanked both lawyers for their arguments. We have your briefs, the chief justice said, and we'll be reading them. With that, the hearing was over. The court supposedly has some three months to make a decision on the case.

35 comments:

  1. Great job Ralph.

    It sounds as if the justices were wondering if Lynn could be prosecuted under either law. If he couldn't be prosecuted under the revised law, certainly the issue is moot under the old law - the legislature revised the law but not to the extent that it covered a person in an admin role, rather than a supervisory role. So the questions sound like softball questions designed to avoid the issue of which law applied. If neither applies, then there is no reason to deal with the question of why the law was changed and everybody can go home.

    Justice Baer's question implies he already knew the answer, so it seems the court may already be 2 or 3 on the side of affirming or improv. One assumes the justices have read the case. In any case, I can't see 4 votes for a reversal here.

    Any questions from Stevens or Eakins?








    ReplyDelete
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    1. Acquittal for Lynn. Bottom line, you cannot prosecute someone for allegations under a law that was PASSED AFTER the allegations happened.

      Delete
    2. Except that it wasn't a separate law passed later. It was an amendment to a previous law. Sometimes a court will determine that an amendment to a previous law was an attempt to clarify the previous law.

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  2. The Catholic Church is organized to thoroughly and deliberately confound the public. Layers upon layers of bureaucracy are put in place to shield clerics from responsibility and accountability. By the time the chain of command is exhausted, no one is responsible for anything. It's what Msgr. Lynn is trying to convince the appellate justices. Even though he had enormous powers and responsibilities as director of clergy personnel, he claims now he wasn't accountable for assigning pedophile priests nor did he have direct contact with children when he was in charge of clergy personnel. But when he went to the Cardinal on numerous occasions with his lists of recommended clergy assignments, are we to believe that it was the Cardinal and not Lynn who "really" assigned these men? Who did the research on the men requesting assignments or on those "due" for reassignment? Whom did pastors confer with when asking for certain men or making sure certain men were or were not assigned to their parishes? Who met with hundreds (perhaps thousands) of priests regarding problems, issues, and questions about their clerical assignments and ability to fulfill those assignments? Who received complaints about clerical malfeasance, addictions, sexual abuse, and other problems? Not Msgr. Lynn? Of course he was given that information, and he had a profile on every cleric who served in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. But he wasn't their supervisor? There is a bridge in Brooklyn I want to sell you.

    Robert M. Hoatson, Ph.D.
    Road to Recovery, Inc.
    Livingston, NJ 07039
    862-368-2800

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hoatson - I hope you've been laicized.

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    2. Dear Anonymous (I wish you would tell us your name):

      Yes, I have been laicized - voluntarily, at that! I petitioned the Vatican and was granted laicization in record time, while pedophiles and their enablers continue to have every need cared for without being disciplined or laicized. My salary and benefits were cut on more than one occasion by the bishop who didn't like that I stood up for victim/survivors. I left the priesthood with nothing while the Archbishop continues to care for the pedophiles and their enablers. And pedophiles and their enablers (like Msgr. Lynn) not only collect salaries and benefits and pensions - they get their lawyer fees paid for too. You don't see anything wrong with this picture, Anonymous?

      Robert M. Hoatson, Ph.D.
      Road to Recovery, Inc.
      Livingston, NJ 07039
      862-368-2800

      Delete
    3. I agree. I think that's exactly what the Pa. Supreme Court is either confounded by or thoroughly annoyed with. Did anyone know what Lynn's job was? Did his own lawyers demonstrate that they understood what his job was? It may come down to what Lynn perceived his job to be according to his testimony at trial.

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  3. Lynn is more dangerous then any sexual abuser.

    Speaking only about Avery the self admitted sexual abuser of Danny and other past documented wrongdoings with other children in the past, at least Avery could claim he has some type of mental deficit, alcoholism, or did not have a great relationship with his mother.

    Although these are only excuses for why he abused it does not give him the green light to prey and eventually attack his victim, but what is Lynn's excuse ?

    How can Lynn defend his actions for putting children in harms way ? Was it simply he did not care ? Was he protecting some image of the Catholic Church or can he defend his actions by simply saying " I dropped the ball" ?

    Lynn is the one who let the pit bull loose in a smorgasbord of children, any size, any color hair, or any color eyes Avery wanted. It is sad Danny was on Avery's menu.

    We now see Lynn not trying to defend his actions but his lawyers looking for a loophole in the law to set him free.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wrong! The one who is more dangerous than any sexual abuser is DA Seth Williams and his not caring attitude in taking a law not suitable for use to put Lynn, Englehardt, Shero and Avery in prison based on the false allegations and wildly diverse fabrications of Danny which change by the minute.

      If Seth can put Lynn in prison, any teacher, parent, coach principal, school administrator, can be put in prison by any opportunistic DA seeking political gain for himself.

      Finally, State Supreme Court did not have to hear this case. If not for Chief Justice Ron Castille, a Philly Democrat, the case would have been refused due to the blatant poor lawyering by DA Seth Williams and his minions. Now the State Supreme Court is asked to correct a mess created by the DA and that is way below their standards to have to do so.

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    2. Obviously you're into scapegoating. Someone must pay for the sins of the clergy. The big boys got passes, the little guy got sent to jail for a crime that never happened.

      Mob justice. It's Ok when they come for Lynn; it may not be Ok if they come for you.

      Delete
    3. Anon @ 9:20- Seriously? Have you not been reading this blog regarding Danny and his antics/lies at the behest of the DA? Ralph has documented, repeatedly, the "case" Danny has against the archdiocese. Are you not aware of the plea deal Avery made the day before Lynn's trial started?

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    4. Right. We assume that people who commit heinous crimes are somewhat crazy, but we have to be more alarmed when the sane people allow the crazy crimes to happen. I think overall we're more worried about what the sane people are doing than what the insane or mentally challenged are doing. That's why the cover-up is always worse than the crime.

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    5. No respectable DA or ADA would take a case from Danny knowing full well the glaring holes in the many stories he tells about his alleged abuse and cannot get his stories straight in spite of his self created heroin addiction. Danny wasted many people's time and cost innocent people their freedom while leaving exposed the DA for liability.

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  4. @anonymous - Avery did not abuse Billy Doe. He took that plea only to avoid a much longer sentence were he found guilty. He was justifiably concerned, perhaps even intimidated, by Sarmina's pro prosecution, pre-trial rulings.

    Why not take the time to read the research done by Ralph Cipriano. Avery successfully passed 2 polygraph tests on the matter. I wonder if the DA even took the time to 'box' Billy.

    Personifying the apex of political ambition, the DA undoubtedly ran with the tale even though some (as of yet unnamed) in his office were apparently against the prosecution. Hopefully, Father Engelhardt's untimely death may now encourage them to come forward now.

    To save face even at this point, neither the DA nor the trial judges will admit that they were wrong. Damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead.

    I hope the time comes when they have to face the music and - at the very least - eat humble pie.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. i doubt you will ever a word from Detective Walsh, Detective Hunter or Gallagher. May the false imprisonment and now death of an innocent man continue to be a burden to them day in and day out.

      Delete
    2. Cowards!!!

      In bed with Williams, the FOP and James Gallagher Sr. is where thy are.

      Delete
  5. SETH DON.T TELL THE TRUTH WILLIAMS PUT THIS JUNKIE PIECE OF SHIT BILLY DOE ON THE STAND. HE MIGHT HAVE DONE IT FOR PERSONAL GAIN AT THE TIME BUT THE AGGRAVATION ITS CAUSED HIM AND HIS PEERS. IM SURE TODAY HE WISH.S HE DID HIS HOMEWORK ONE THING FOR SURE NO MATTETR WHAT HAPPENS IN THESE CASES SETH DONT TELL THE TRUTH WILLIAMS THE CATHOLIC RACISTS CAREER IN POLITICS IS PRETTY MUCH OVER ANYBODY WITH HALF A BRAIN IN THE BUSSINESS CANT AFFORD THE BAGGAAGE THAT COMES
    SETH DONT TELL THE TRUTH WILLIAMS. ITS AN OLD SAYING CAREFULL WHAT YOU WISH FOR YOU MIGHT JUST GET IT.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Please excuse some spelling and other errors thank u

      Delete
  6. I think it is entertaining how I keep reading from those who comment and do not agree what the other person may have to say is the same statement over and over again "have you not read what Ralph has wrote".

    Unless Ralph has died and has risen again his words too should be taken with a grain of salt because the person who has done that is truly the only person besides Avery, Engelhardt, Shero and Danny who knows the real truth. I mean no one including myself.

    The facts that we do know is Avery pled guilty to raping Danny no matter what others may think was the reason why. The other fact we all know is Lynn knew of Avery's past, if he ordered the placement of Avery to St. Jeromes or not he knew Avery was a possible danger to children and allowed it to happen.

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    1. I keep wondering that too because Ralph reported on a whole lot of stuff, including Lynn admitting dropping the ball, etc., the Avery debacle, the failure of defense lawyers to properly subpoena Billy Doe's brother, the failure of defense lawyers to depose the social worker's assistant, the failure of defense lawyers to address the teacher's attempted suicide when being arrested. Lots of other stuff. Ralph took a sharp turn against Billy Doe in the aftermath of the trials, but I read what he wrote all along and he documented some real serious problems which the pro-Lynn people are now, I guess, pretending they never read.

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    2. I think 2 and 1/2 to 5 years sweetheart deal at his advanced age was a pretty good reason to plead out to a single charge, while at the same time the DA is indicating to Avery and his attorney that he has other "alleged victims' just waiting in the wings. .his recantment in open court of that guilty plea and apparent lack of remorse for a rape he never committed probably cost him his first opportunity for parole very recently.......

      as you will recall, Ceisler let the Engelhardt jury deliberate and pass judgment on conspiracy (allegedly with Avery) despite more than one defense motion to dismiss those conspirary charges as unsubstantiated, all motions denied (and part of the Superior Court appeal currently being debated) and then, in a stunning reversal at sentencing, she threw out those charges completely but the damage was already done as she erroneously and deliberately had those 12 jurors consider guilt for conspiracy charges "related to AVERY" that never should have existed....

      I disagree with your position that no one knows the truth, I believe there are many people starting with some of those detectives in the DA's office that knew the truth about those bizarre and absolutely false assault allegations involving Danny Gallagher that turned the other way ..........their silence and the silence of those jurors after reaching those verdicts speaks volumes

      Superior Court now has a job to do, and I hope they make the correct decision and reverse those convictions of Fr Engelhardt and Bernard Shero.....



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    3. @ Anonymous 12:17 and SarahTX2 - are you saying there has been no misconduct by Sarmina and/or Ceissler? And are you saying there has been no misconduct by Seth Williams or anyone else on his staff?

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  7. I think this case hinges on legislative intent. "Legislative intent" is a big part of interpretation of a law by an appellate court. It is always considered when a court has to determine the reach of a law. It refers to what the legislators intend to cover with the law they are passing, because laws don't detail every, single specific case where the law applies. This Court could determine that the purpose of the later amendment to the endangerment law was to clarify the legislative intent of the original law.

    Would have been nice to hear what questions were posed to Bergstrom that left him apparently dazed and confused. Was he being questioned about his method of defending Lynn? I hope so. I thought all along that the defense attorneys were doing a terrible job in both trials.

    There seems to be much confusion as to what Lynn's duties were. He wasn't in charge of reassigning Avery. But he was in charge of receiving reports on Avery. He either was or wasn't in charge of keeping tabs on Avery. But he was the supervisor in charge of monitoring pedophile priests. I think he was, wasn't he? If that's what his job was, it seems like his job definitely entailed attending to the possible endangerment of children. Otherwise, there wouldn't be much point in worrying about whether priests are pedophiles. Right?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Isn't there a standard of proof involved in a re-assignment? The AD can't simply pull a priest on an unsubstantiated allegation nor is Lynn a substitute for a police investigation.

      Nevertheless, Lynn could have re-assigned the priest, absent a conviction, simply to separate the priest from the specific child. That seems like a reasonable action to prevent further possible injuries with that child. Lynn simply does not have the power to protect ALL children from the priest, especially absent a proven allegation.

      We could argue all day about whether Lynn's actions protected children or endangered children, but at the end of the day, if the victims aren't filing police reports, Lynn can only do so much, legally.

      Delete
  8. Well its a slippery slope safe to say i dont think there gonna reverse it somebodys got to pay and these guys are it sacraficial lambs hope im wrong. As for those Judges and prosecutors that handled these cases safe to say they wont be handling anything or listening to cases like this in the future including Seth dont tell the truth Williams. Its a win win for everyone isnt Justice in the common wealth wonderfull. You all have a wonderfull holiday time to move on bye.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sorry one more thing
      HEY UNCLE SETH DONT TELL THE TRUTH WILLIAMS THE CHICKENS ARE COMING HOME TO ROOST !!!

      Delete
    2. Dis is Uncle Joe da boss of da South philly Mob! JBs i agrees! Dis Seth is a Jerkoff! !

      Delete
    3. Dis is Uncle Joe again i donts likes dees DAs keeps up da good works JBs

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    4. Hi uncle Joe with Joey going back to college u still having the turkey dinner and toys for the kids this year in So philly and whens the Christmas party

      Delete
    5. JBs i aint havin notin! Im keepin all da Christmas shake downs for mees!!

      Delete
    6. Sorry to hear that.s uncle Joe
      u sure nephew is ok with u keeping the money lol

      Delete
    7. I hstes dat motha Fucker!

      Delete
  9. With society knowing what can happen in prison to those who sexually abuse children. What person in their right mind would ever admit something as guilt to such a crime even for a lighter sentence instead of proclaiming their innocense. But then again child abusers like Avery cannot have a right mind.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Anyone know if Joey had reported yet 30 days are up tmrw . Another Thanksgiving and Christmas for the Boss in the Joint and his kids gotta be without Dad again. Thank God for Debra and Joeys Sisters i guess.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah they are for real not like Uncle Joes people

      Delete

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