Thursday, June 14, 2012

Judge's Ruling Sets Off Fireworks

It was another slow and foggy afternoon in Courtroom 304, as Judge M. Teresa Sarmina handled one question after another from an inquisitive panel of jurors.

Then, the jury in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia sex abuse case, now in their eighth day of deliberations, asked the judge this question: If the charge of EWOC -- endangering the welfare of children -- is the result of a criminal conspiracy, does it have to be the intent of a criminal conspiracy?

The judge said no, setting off a free-for-all among lawyers in the case, and a temper tantrum from a prosecutor while the judge just sat there and watched. 

The question that the jury asked could be pivotal to reaching a verdict in this trial, hence the late-afternoon fireworks in Courtroom 304.

Msgr. William J. Lynn, the former archdiocese secretary for clergy, is accused of conspiring to endanger the welfare of children by deliberately keeping Father Edward V. Avery in ministry, even though the priest in 1992 was accused of sex abuse, namely repeatedly fondling the genitals of a 12-year-old boy back in the late 1970s. 

Despite the allegations of abuse, Father Avery was given another assignment the following year, in 1993, at St. Jerome's parish. Later that same year, Father Avery performed oral sex in the church sacristy on a 10-year-old altar boy, and then forced the boy to perform oral sex on the priest.

Father Avery has pleaded guilty to involuntary deviant sexual intercourse with a minor, endangering the welfare of a child, and conspiring to endanger the welfare of a child. The jury, however, was never told that on the eve of trial Avery pleaded guilty, and received a sentence of 2 1/2 to 5 years in jail.

Lynn's defense team argued during trial that Lynn could not have foreseen that Father Avery would sexually abuse the 10-year-old altar boy because the priest had undergone a psychiatric evaluation and was diagnosed as not having a sexual disorder, but instead, a problem with alcohol. In response to the diagnosis, Lynn set up an aftercare program where Father Avery was undergoing weekly psychiatric counseling, as well as treatment from Alcoholics Anonymous.

So, in other words, if endangering the welfare of the 10-year-old altar boy was the result of a criminal conspiracy between Lynn and Avery, did it have to be the intent of the criminal conspiracy? 

The judge answered that question by saying that "intent does not have to be criminal in nature." That prompted objections from the normally placid Thomas Bergstrom, one of Lynn's defense lawyers. 

"It's got to be a knowing violation," Bergsrom insisted. Bergstrom told the judge, "We've taken criminal intent off the table" in a criminal trial, which he said was "really troubling to us" and a "mistake."

That set off Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington, who had been standing and waiting silently for Bergstrom to finish his objections. When Bergstrom interrupted Blessington, the prosecutor began yelling at Bergstrom to "sit down" and "shut up."

"I'm getting tired of these personal attacks," Bergstrom countered. But Blessington was so angry he couldn't stop yelling, as he argued that the defense lawyers in the case were continually abusing the legal process with last-minute, baseless objections.

Bergstrom and Alan Tauber, another defense lawyer, had raised their objections just as a court deputy was about to open a door to allow the jury back in the courtroom, so they could be dismissed for the day. Instead, the jurors had to wait while the lawyers duked it out.

"I've seen better manners in a barnyard," Blessington yelled at Bergstrom. 

"This court is right on the law," Blessington continued yelling. "He [Bergstrom] is wrong on the law," the prosecutor told the judge. "Make him shut up!"

The judge, however, said nothing during Blessington's rage. It was in marked contrast to how the judge usually handles William J. Brennan, the loudest defense lawyer. Brennan has received plenty of admonitions from the judge, as well as a $250 contempt-of-court fine.

As the jury has continued to deliberate without a verdict, and asked question after question, lawyers in the case have been getting tense.

Earlier, Blessington noted that "this is the third or fourth time" that the question of criminal intent has arisen regarding the charge of conspiracy to endanger the welfare of children. "Someone or a group of someones is hung up on this," the prosecutor said.

The jury does seem hung up on something. The joke making the rounds in the courtroom was that the jury hearing the Penn state pedophilia case would come back with a verdict before this jury did.

One local legal commentator on the dispute over criminal intent came down squarely on the side of the defense. 

"Every crime has to have an act and an intent to break the law," said Fred Tecce, a former federal prosecutor and TV commentator. "That's just Law School 101. And instructing a jury that you don't have to have intent to break the law, I don't think it's appropriate."

Earlier, the judge told the jury that she was not going to accommodate their requests for more read backs of testimony.

The jury had requested a read back of Mark Bukowski's two days of testimony. He's the alleged victim who claimed that in 1996, when he was 14, Father James J. Brennan attempted to rape him. The jury had also requested the testimony of Bukowski's mother, as well as the transcript of an interview with Bukowski done by Jack Rossiter, a former FBI agent who was investigating sex abuse allegations on behalf of the church. The jury also asked for the testimony of the former 10-year-old altar boy who had been sexually assaulted by Father Avery.

"You're not gonna have all that stuff read to you, let me start with the bottom line," the judge told the jury on Thursday morning, shortly after they had reported to the courtroom. The judge said she did not want to replay the entire trial, and that it was time for the jurors to rely on their own recollections of the testimony, and their impressions of the witnesses.

The judge said she would produce excerpts of testimony to clear up "some sticking points" among jurors. But when the jury retired to deliberate, they did not ask for any testimony excerpts from their original requests. Instead, they asked for five documents regarding Msgr. Lynn's handling of Father Thomas J. Wisniewski, who was accused in 1992 of sexually abusing a 15-year-old boy. The jury also asked for a report on the psychological evaluation of Father Avery.

The deliberations are scheduled to resume at 9:30 a.m. Friday. 


  1. Hmmm. That was an "interesting" ruling by Sarmina about conspiracy intent. ("The judge answered [the jury's conspiracy] question by saying that 'intent does not have to be criminal in nature'.")

    Lynn is being charged for conspiracy under 18 § 903. That law says:

    § 903. Criminal conspiracy.
    (a) Definition of conspiracy.--A person is guilty of conspiracy with another person or persons to commit a crime if with the intent of promoting or facilitating its commission he:
    (1) agrees with such other person or persons that they or one or more of them will engage in conduct which constitutes such crime or an attempt or solicitation to commit such crime; or
    (2) agrees to aid such other person or persons in the planning or commission of such crime or of an attempt or solicitation to commit such crime.


    The word "intent" and "agree" are right there in the definition.

    It'll be interesting to see how this pans out.

    1. Satan would be very proud of you, Dave Pierre, Mediapreport, as would your book publisher, and the serial child rapists that you defend like Fr Macrae (now in jail for crimes other than the 3 child sex abuses he pleaded guilty to).

      There is no question that Lynn conspired with a lying, demonic Cardinal, 2 bishops, and some other priests to hide 35 known pedophiles from 1994 until 2011. They would have hid them forever if God didn't save a copy of a document that proved that they were all pedophile protectors.

      The problem is that PA law didn't anticipate that the Catholic church would purposely hide the world's largest child rape cult (with full intent), so they didn't write a statute that said that proven pedophiles and proven pedophile protectors should go to jail.

      The Catholic church has now spent $11 million to protect Lynn, who certainly committed crimes against humanity, even though he may get off on a PA law technicality.

      If Lynn gets away with it, you, your book publisher, millions of Catholics, and satan will all be dancing in the streets. That would be a victory for the cult.

      I wonder what God thinks of the cult that would conspire to do this and make a very public effort to get away with it?

    2. Your definition of "criminal conspiracy," according to the rule of law, concerned me as well, but I am hopeful that the jury will assume a broader definition, since it is the simple fact that it was the Church's Modus Operandi, all over the world, to have bishops and Pedophile Priests, sit down and talk about moving the priest to a different parish, so that SCANDAL wouldn't be brought to the Church. Doing things, like shuffling priests to AVOID SCANDAL is the same as a "Criminal Conspiracy" in my book, since the final outcome is often the necessity for another coverup, when another child or children are molested! I hope the jury has some sense.

  2. Recently in my hometown a 23 year old left a party early one Sunday morning and traveled the wrong direction on an interstate. In her intoxicated state, she did not recognize her error. One man swerved to avoid her. His car flipped over, crossed the median and he died. A woman was injured in another attempt to miss the oncoming car. She faces manslaughter and many, many, many years in prison. Others who knew her condition when she left the party may also be charged. While she did not "intend" to kill anyone, she certainly did. I applaud the judge's ruling in this case. While those accused in this case may not have "intended" to conspire to endanger children, they did, in fact, do so.

    1. If she had $11 million worth of Catholic lawyers, she just might get away with it.

      The difference is that she didn't intend to kill people. The Catholic church, on the other hand, had preists that intentionally raped children, monsignors, bishops and cardinals that intentionally hid them and moved them, and every priest that knew about it intentionaly lied or hid the truth about it.

      Now Catholics fight the victims, and the Catholic congregation intentionally allows their leaders to get away with it.

    2. SATAN?????Can the boogey man be far behind? Run for the hills it's SATAN?...........(this is me running).............................. Dana Carvey are you the real Neilallen?

  3. I do not believe that ignorance of the law is a defense. Even if you don't "mean" to be criminal,
    if the consequences are criminal, the action is criminal.

  4. The bailiff opened the door and in came the Mad Hatter offering Judge Sarmina a cup of tea with mustard.

  5. And Judge Samina answered, "Mustard. Let's not get carried away!"

  6. NeilAllen: Your comment, "Now Catholics fight the victims, and the Catholic congregation intentionally allows their leaders to get away with it," is right on the mark! I think that you hit the nail on the head, regarding parishioners, whom I believe should share co-responsibility for the crimes of their Pedophile Priests. I no longer feel sorry for them when their tythes and offering go down a rat hole in defending Pedophile Priests. If they don't like the situation, they are the ones, who have the power to change things, if ONLY they'd speak out!

    1. News Flash! All Catholics are not fighting us victims. The Queenly Billie Donahue and Her hineyness Timmy Dolan are; And let's not forget Miss Prada herself, Ratzi, but 9.9% of Catholics aren't.
      Where exactly is there a place for these confused people to speak? At non existent SNAP meetings?
      In a Principality with "Divine right of Kings" still in effect, i.e. The Church, All decisions come from the top. The only POV heard is from the Princes. Since they pay the fiddlers. They call the tune. In the Church royalty has never died. Like Gloria Swanson's star in Sunset Blvd. The hierarchy lives in their own world and since they own a huge chunk of the planet, who will question them with any real authority? The Church thinks it's Cartman from South Park.

    2. It should have read 99.9% of Catholics. Sorry.

  7. Fred Tecce may be successful with his Law School 101 as a tv commentator, but his comment on this case sounds foolishly naive and unworthy of a former federal prosecutor. Reckless behavior tends to produce reckless results. If I plow into a group of children getting off the bus, I might not have intended to hurt any one of them, but I am responsible for their injuries, no ifs, ands or buts about it. In this case the children were nothing more than collateral damage in the eyes of the bumbling monsignor. If this jury is hung up, it's because they're trying too hard to be hung up. Tsk, tsk.

  8. clearly when over 63 priests engage in sadistic serial rape of defenceless children only a guilty verdict and the maximum alowable punishment would be justice for the victims snd familues.

  9. justice must go forth and the masters at deceit must be held accountable for the deviant and criminal acts against children and their families

  10. Hung jury? let's try it again and let the A/D spend another eleven million. And then do it for another two times. $44 million and then a conviction sounds right to me.

    1. Depending upon Lynn's upcoming sentence, the Archdiocese may want to Appeal, and when She does so, it will cost the good parishioners of Philly several more million dollars. I wonder when they are going to tell Archbishop Chaput, "Enough is Enough!" Has anyone wondered why Lynn didn't try to plea-bargain? He was probably promised by the Archdiocese that he'd never spend a day in jail. Now, in addition to his current conviction, reportedly, Monsignor Lynn faces the possibility of another Civil Trial. He's had a few days to taste prison food, wear a little orange jumpsuit and need to defend himself against his fellow-inmate "Bubba-heads." I can almost guarantee that he'll think twice before he does anything that will add to his upcoming sentence!


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