Monday, December 28, 2015

Grandstanding D.A. Vows To Keep Monsignor Lynn In Jail

By Ralph Cipriano
The D.A.'s credo: Never let the facts get in the way of a good story

He may have won a new trial but he's not getting out of jail anytime soon.

That's the political reality facing Msgr. William J. Lynn. Last week, a panel of three state Superior Court judges overturned Lynn's 2012 conviction for endangering the welfare of a child, and ordered a new trial.

But at least for the next month, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's former secretary for clergy will continue to work as the prison librarian at SCI-Waymart for 19 cents an hour while lawyers back in Philadelphia continue the battle over his case.

Standing in the way of Lynn's release is Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams, and Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina. At a press conference today, the D.A.  announced he was appealing the decision by the panel of judges to the entire state Superior Court. Williams requested an "en banc" re-argument of the case before all nine judges on the appeals court, rather than just a three-judge panel. If he gets turned down, the district attorney promised, he'll appeal to the state Supreme Court, where the D.A. has a winning track record.

The Superior Court previously reversed Lynn's conviction in 2013 and ordered that he be "discharged forthwith." Lynn got out of jail, but Judge Sarmina placed him under house arrest. The D.A. appealed. The state Supreme Court then reversed the reversal and, at the D.A.'s request, Judge Sarmina promptly sent Lynn back to jail.

At his press conference today, D.A. Williams engaged in some of his usual grandstanding. He managed to screw up the facts of the case and use his own daughters as political props, so he could do more grandstanding. In Philadelphia, this lame act is what passes for the city's top prosecutor.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Lynn's Lawyer Seeks New Judge

Time for more grandstanding?
By Ralph Cipriano

This morning, Thomas A. Bergstrom finally got hold of his client, Msgr. William J. Lynn, to tell him the good news that his conviction had been vacated by the state Superior Court, and that Lynn was going to get a new trial.

The monsignor was "very pleased" to hear it, Bergstrom said. The two men discussed if and when Lynn was going to get out of jail. And then Lynn asked if Bergstrom knew what District Attorney Seth Williams was going to do next.

That's the big question. The district attorney, who has stonewalled this blog for three years, released a statement to The Philadelphia Inquirer that said the D.A. "is committed to protecting all the citizens of Philadelphia against crimes of violence such as those committed by Msgr. Lynn."

The district attorney has 14 days to decide whether he will appeal the latest reversal by the state Superior Court to the state Supreme Court. Frankly, the citizens of Philadelphia are more in danger from the district attorney's crimes of violence against justice in his so-called "historic" prosecution of the church then they are by any of the alleged acts that Lynn was tried for. Especially when you consider the very real possibility that the alleged victim in the case, Billy Doe, the credibility-challenged former altar boy, probably made the whole thing up.

While Lynn was waiting to get out of the prison at SCI-Waymart, his lawyer was busy in Philadelphia filing an emergency motion in Common Pleas Court to get the case reassigned to another judge. Even though his conviction is overturned, Lynn cannot be released from prison without an order from the trial judge, M. Teresa Sarmina.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Msgr. Lynn Gets A New Trial

By Ralph Cipriano

A panel of state Superior Court judges today vacated Msgr. William J. Lynn's prior conviction on endangering the welfare of a child and ordered a new trial.

Lynn,  the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's former secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004, has been in and out of prison since his original conviction three years ago.

In a 43-page decision, the Superior Court judges ruled that the trial court -- Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina -- "abused its discretion" by allowing 21 supplemental cases of sex abuse to be admitted as evidence against Lynn.

The 21 cases dated back to 1948, three years before Lynn was born, and took up at least 25 days of the 32-day trial. In his appeal brief, Lynn's lawyer, Thomas A. Bergstrom, argued that the prosecution "introduced these files to put on trial the entire Archdiocese of Philadelphia, hoping to convict [Lynn] by proxy for the sins of the entire church."

The Superior Court judges agreed, ruling that the "probative value" of the supplemental cases "did not outweigh its potential for unfair prejudice, and that this potential prejudice was not overcome by the trial court's cautionary instructions."

In their decision, the Superior Court judges heavily criticized Judge Sarmina, whom they reversed on the same case for the second time in the past three years.

"None of the evidence concerned the actual victim in this case, and none of it directly concerned [Lynn's] prior dealings with either [former priest Edward V.] Avery or [Father James J.] Brennan," the Superior Court judges wrote about the two co-defendants on trial with Lynn. "In this regard, the trial court has apparently mistaken quantity for quality in construing the probative value of this evidence en masse." The Superior Court judges further declared that the "probative value of significant quantities of this evidence was trivial or minimal."

Friday, December 18, 2015

Prison Librarian Hopes To Get Out Soon

By Ralph Cipriano

The State Correctional Institute at Waymart has a new librarian.

Six days a week, Msgr. William J. Lynn, the former secretary for clergy for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, checks books in and out of the prison library for fellow inmates; he also keeps track of periodicals.

"It keeps him busy," said Lynn's lawyer, Thomas A. Bergstrom. "They have a  huge library and it's really up to date."

As he works his job for 19 cents an hour, the monsignor can't help but watch the calendar and wonder whether he'll be getting out of jail again soon. Lynn has an appeal for a new trial pending before the state Superior Court. It's with a sympathetic panel of judges that has already overturned Lynn's prior conviction once before.

The reason why the wait time on the current appeal is so short is that one of the three Superior Court judges that heard Lynn's appeal, Christine L. Donohue, was elected last November to the state Supreme Court. So the panel of judges has only two weeks left to issue its decision on the Lynn case before Judge Donohue leaves the Superior Court to become Supreme Court Justice Donohue.


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