A hearing where Judge Gwendolyn N. Bright was supposed to rule on a defense motion to dismiss the retrial of Msgr. William J. Lynn because of alleged prosecutorial misconduct has been moved to March 24th, at 2 p.m.
Judge Bright was originally scheduled to rule on the motion to dismiss on March 1st, but the hearing was postponed without any public explanation.
Seven years into the Msgr. Lynn case, Judge Bright has draped a shroud of secrecy over the proceedings by imposing a gag order on the lawyers in the case. As part of that gag order, those lawyers are required to file motions and legal briefs under seal. Two recent pretrial hearings in the judge's courtroom were marked by lengthy back room conferences.
It's hard to understand what the secrecy is all about since the Msgr. Lynn case has been out in public since 2011. That's when our grandstanding and ethically-challenged district attorney, Rufus Seth Williams, released a mistake-filled grand jury report that forever hung the defendants out to dry on bogus rape charges perpetrated by a fraud.
The Msgr. Lynn case was tried in front of a Common Pleas Court jury in 2012, resulting in a guilty verdict on a single count of endangering the welfare of a child.
The state Superior Court in 2013 overturned that conviction and ordered a new trial for Lynn, but that decision was reversed by state Supreme Court in 2015. A year later, in 2016, the state Superior Court again overturned Msgr. Lynn's conviction and ordered a new trial. The state Supreme Court then decided not to take another appeal from the D.A.'s office. That set the stage for the retrial of Lynn, scheduled for May 1st.
All those proceedings transpired in public. The alleged victim in the case, "Billy Doe," AKA Danny Gallagher, has been publicly outed on the cover of Newsweek as a fraud. We also know that Gallagher collected $5 million in a civil settlement with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia that was supposed to be kept confidential.
At a January hearing in Judge Bright's courtroom, Joseph Walsh, the retired lead detective in the case, has come forward to express all the doubts he had about Danny Gallagher's fantastic stories, and the many lies he caught Gallagher in. Walsh has also testified that when he told the lead prosecutor, former Assistant District Attorney Mariana Sorensen, about Gallagher's lack of credibility, she replied, "You're killing my case."
That's the misconduct that the defense claims tainted the prosecution of Lynn; a D.A.'s office where the prosecutor knew that Gallagher wasn't a credible witness -- actually they had to know he was a complete liar -- but they went ahead any way and tried the case, for political gain.
So Judge Bright, seven years into this travesty of justice, why all the secrecy?
In a phone interview, Thomas McGill, the judge's law clerk, acknowledged that the Msgr. Lynn case has already been the subject of local, national and international publicity. The gag order, he said, "is designed to limit" any further publicity, because the judge is concerned about "tainting the potential jury pool."
"The judge has decided that until the case goes to trial there will be no additional publicity concerning the case," McGill said.
Except on bigtrial.net.
Besides the motion to dismiss, the judge has two other pending defense motions to rule on. Thomas A. Bergstrom, Lynn's lawyer, has asked the judge to preclude the 2012 guilty plea of former priest Edward V. Avery from being admitted as evidence. In court in 2013, when he was called as a prosecution witness, Avery publicly recanted that guilty plea. On the witness stand, Avery testified that he never even met Danny Gallagher. But he pleaded guilty because he was facing a long prison sentence, and didn't want to die in jail.
Bergstrom also has filed a motion to preclude any supplemental sex abuse cases from being admitted as evidence in the retrial of Lynn.
A panel of three Superior Court judges ruled in 2016 that the trial judge, M. Teresa Sarmina, had abused her discretion by allowing 21 supplemental cases of sex abuse to be admitted as evidence against Msgr. Lynn.
The 21 cases dated back to 1948, three years before the 66-year-old Lynn was born, and took up at least 25 days of the 32-day trial. In an appeal brief, Lynn's lawyers 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 the judge "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."
At a pretrial hearing, an assistant district attorney said the prosecution would like to introduce at the retrial a dozen supplemental cases of sex abuse. Bergstrom, however, argued to Judge Bright that all 12 cases should not be admitted as evidence because they had nothing to do with Msgr. Lynn.