Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Judge Gives Msgr. Lynn Three to Six Years In Slammer

Judge M. Teresa Sarmina told Msgr. William J. Lynn today that she was sentencing him to three to six years in state prison, because he had turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to the suffering of victims of sex abuse.

"You knew full well what was right, Msgr. Lynn, but you chose wrong," she told the defendant, before imposing sentence. Lynn has been in jail since June 22, when he was convicted by a jury of one count of endangering the welfare of a child, a third-degree felony.

The judge contrasted Lynn's recent service at St. Joseph's Church in Downingtown, where he was pastor from 2004 until his indictment in 2011, to his 12-year-tenure as secretary for clergy for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia from 1992 to 2004.

The judge said she got hundreds of "heartfelt letters of support" on behalf of Lynn, many from parishioners at St. Joseph's, who told her that Pastor Lynn would drop every thing to help someone in need. But the judge said that as secretary for clergy, Msgr. Lynn had displayed insensitivity to victims. He was either promising to do something, and doing nothing, the judge said, or he was doing his best to "callously shield the priests."

As a consequence, the judge said, Lynn allowed "monsters in clerical garb," notorious archdiocese predators such as Stanley M. Gana, and Nicholas V. Cudemo, to "destroy the souls of children" in "the most terrible way."

Judge Sarmina said she believed that Lynn "started out with the best of intentions" when he became secretary for clergy in 1992. That's why, the judge said, she believed that Lynn drew up a list of 35 abuser priests in 1994, because he wanted them removed from active ministry.

But once the monsignor sent the list to his bosses, and heard nothing back, she said he figured out that those abuser priests on the archdiocese payroll weren't going anywhere. At that point, Lynn had a choice, the judge said. He could have "refused to be part of a sham that he knew was harming children," the judge said, or he could choose to stay.

The judge said she believed that Lynn was so hellbent on following the desires of his boss, Cardinal Bevilacqua, that he "steeled himself" whenever he met with victims, to "keep from hearing their pain and turmoil." In his position as secretary for clergy, Lynn had "a huge fiduciary duty" to protect children, the judge said, but "he steadfastly refused to hear and refused to see" the suffering of victims.

The judge said that Lynn was not a scapegoat, but was being "sentenced for choices he made," namely to ignore the suffering of sex abuse victims. Those victims "continue to be punished to this day," the judge said, with depression, failed relationships, drug and alcohol abuse problems, and suicide attempts.

The judge's decision followed more than two hours of legal arguments and tearful pleadings from character witnesses on behalf of the defendant, as well as brief speech from the monsignor himself.

Lynn stood in front of the judge wearing a black short-sleeve shirt, black pants, and his white priestly collar. He noted he had been a priest for 36 years. "I've tried to serve God as best I can," he said. "I've always tried to help people."

He apologized to the family of the victim in his child endangerment case, a former 10-year-old altar boy. He never intended to hurt anybody, Lynn said. He didn't even know the victim. "I never saw him until he testified at this trial."

He did his best, he said, adding, "the fact is, my best was not good enough."

Before the judge passed sentence, the defense presented seven character witnesses. Father Joseph G. Watson said he looked up to Msgr. Lynn since he was an 18-year-old seminarian back in the 1970s, and met the monsignor when he was dean of students at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.

"He taught me about what it means to be a good priest, what it means to be a good man," Father Watson said of Msgr. Lynn. "He's always been a role model."

James Casey Jr., an insurance executive, testified that he knew Msgr. Lynn since he was 12 years old. He credited Msgr. Lynn with helping him through 9/11, when "I did lose a lot of friends on that day."

Casey told the judge how he broke down in tears one day, in front of family, and that week, Msgr. Lynn called, and insisted they have lunch. "His presence, his calmness kind of got me over that," Casey told the judge. Casey said it was "gut-wrenching to think of him [Lynn] sitting in a cell."

Sister John Magdalene Eibell, the principal of St. Joseph's grade school, testified how Pastor Lynn attended every concert, every basketball game. Another parishioner, Amy Zarilli, testified how Msgr. Lynn dropped everything to attend to a dying woman in a nursing home, at Zarilli's request.

Matthew Coyne, a father of seven who was studying to be a deacon, told the judge how Msgr. Lynn led a drive to build a new church at St. Joseph's.  He also looked up to he monsignor, he said, and he and it made him sick how every time somebody said something good about Lynn in the courtroom, people started shaking their heads like "someone's saying something dirty."

Jennifer Catanese, another parishioner at St. Joseph's, told the judge how Msgr. Lynn helped her cope with the death of one of her five children, and a subsequent miscarriage. "He was so warm and kind to us," at her first meeting, she said, before she started crying. "He's always shown such concern for our kids."

The last character witness was Erin Lynn, the monsignor's niece. "He's been our uncle and he supports us in everything," she said. The monsignor was a regular at all of Erin's soccer and basketball games. "He's the reason our family is as close as it is today," she said, blinking back tears.

She described how when the monsignor said Mass, he would gather kids in the family at the altar. "He made them care about the Mass," she said.

Defense attorney Thomas A. Bergstrom then stood to argue for leniency on behalf of the monsignor. He reminded the judge that the prosecution had not proved any "overarching conspiracy." He described the case as "a unique prosecution," because Lynn was found guilty of endangering a child "he never met, he never spoke to, he never touched."

It was also unique because during the trial, Bergstrom said, Msgr. Lynn had been called to account for the sins of archdiocese priests going back to the 1940s. Indeed, almost all of the rapes and molestations the jury heard about, Bergstrom said, happened well before Lynn took office as secretary for clergy in 1992.

"Be lenient with this good and decent man," Bergstrom implored.

Jeff Lindy, another Lynn defense lawyer, went through the traditional goals of sentencing: deterrence from preventing future crimes, deterrence to set an example for society so that others won't commit the same crime, rehabilitation, and retribution, meaning punishment for causing harm. In terms of deterrence, Lindy said, Msgr. Lynn was no longer secretary for clergy, so he was no longer "an instrument of the archdiocese." Therefore, Lynn posed no further threat to society.

Lynn also been through his share of rehab, and retribution, Lindy said. The monsignor has been under investigation for more than a decade, Lindy said. Also, the message has gone out that the crime Lynn committed will no longer be tolerated. His client's face has "been on the front page of every newspaper in the country," Lindy said. Lynn has been publicly humiliated; he's also lost his position as pastor of St. Joseph's, and will probably not get it back, Lindy said.

"He doesn't need rehab," said Lindy, who urged the judge to consider instead of incarceration, restorative sanctions such as probation, house arrest or work release.

Next up was Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington, who promptly took a classless and  gratuitous swipe at Father Watson, the Catholic priest who had testified earlier that Lynn was a role model.

Somebody should ask Father Watson, Blessington yelled, "if he wants to aspire to be as good a criminal as Msgr. Lynn."

That brought a large audible groan from the packed house. As usual, Judge Sarmina did nothing to reign in the rampaging prosecutor.

Blessington then took a swipe at defense attorney Bergstrom, for arguing that the sins of archdiocese priests that Lynn was being held accountable for largely happened before he became secretary for clergy.

"I don't care if it happened in 1910," Blessington fumed. "They want special treatment," Blessington yelled at the monsignor's defense lawyers. But a jury decided that their client was a criminal, Blessington said.

Although the good deeds that the character witnesses talked about were done in public, Blessington said, the bad deeds were recorded on documents never meant to see the light of day.

"The secret archives," Blessington thundered. "The secret life of Bill Lynn!"

"We're talking about children being raped," Blessington yelled. Blessington went through letters that victims sent the judge. He brought up one letter sent by the husband of Diane Drinker, one of the victims of Nicholas Cudemo, who had been repeatedly sexually abused by the predator priest.

When Cudemo showed up to say Mass at the victim's home parish years after she was abused, Drinker sought help from Msgr. Lynn, who told her that Cudemo also had rights.

"Bill Lynn has arguably inflicted more harm on Diane then Cudemo," Blessington quoted the victim's husband as writing to the judge.

Blessington managed to turn the testimony of all seven character witnesses against the monsignor. It was hard to watch good people suffer, the prosecutor said. "All this suffering," Blessington said, including the tears of the character witnesses, happened "because he [Lynn] did what he did," the prosecutor said, jabbing his finger in the direction of the monsignor.

"He didn't show mercy, he doesn't get mercy," the prosecutor thundered. "He gets justice."

Judge Sarmina actually gave the monsignor a break with her three to six year sentence. Lynn was facing three and a half to seven years. The reaction to her decision was mixed.

"I think it was a fair verdict," said Slade McLaughlin, a lawyer who represents the family of the former 10-year-old altar boy who was orally sodomized by Father Edward V. Avery. It was Lynn's failure to prevent Avery from harming the 10-year-old altar boy that was the basis for Lynn's conviction on the endangerment charge.

"I will say that they [the victim's family] are happy that there's jail time" for Msgr. Lynn, McLaughlin told reporters outside the Criminal Justice Center. "I can tell you the young man has suffered greatly."

Next up to address reporters outside the Criminal Justice Center was District Attorney Seth Williams, who managed to do some political grand-standing before the facts got in the way.

"No matter what the sentence was, it wouldn't be enough," Williams told reporters. The district attorney complemented the judge by saying it was "ingenious how she used those letters"sent to her, both for and against Lynn. So far so good.

Williams said he believed the verdict, which he described as "unprecedented in American jurisprudence," had "sent a message" beyond Philadelphia that sex abuse will no longer be tolerated in America.  Ok, maybe he was getting a little carried away about a jury verdict where the Commonwealth lost on four of five counts.

Then Williams put his foot in his mouth, not once but twice. First he said that Lynn had done nothing when told about the rape of a 13-year-old girl. Williams said he is the father of three daughters, and if one of his daughters was raped, he would be outraged if somebody knew about it, and didn't tell him.

It's the second time the DA told this story, and both times he got it wrong. Williams first brought up the alleged rape of the 13-year-old girl at a press conference on June 22, after the verdict in this case. I have three daughters, the district attorney said that day, tearing up on cue. With TV cameras rolling, the district attorney told reporters on June 22 he would be mortified if one of his daughters was raped, and authorities "didn't tell me."

Don't you love a politician and family man who doesn't hesitate to use the theoretical rape of one of his daughters for political advantage?

The only problem is that the 13-year-old girl the fact-challenged district attorney was referring to was never raped. Here's what really happened, according to trial testimony: a married woman who was having an affair back in 2000 with a 27-year-old Lothario priest named Sylwester Wiejata told Lynn that she caught the priest kissing her 13-year-old daughter and fondling the girl's breast. When Lynn confronted the priest about it, he admitted it, and then fled the Commonwealth to go on a spiritual retreat in upstate New York. Lynn did not call police, he admitted to a grand jury in 2002. At least the district attorney didn't shed phony tears this time when he told the story.

Williams' next blunder was to assert that it was Msgr. Lynn who hid the 1994 list that he drew up of 35 abuser priests then in ministry. "He locked away in a vault the names of men who had abused children," the district attorney asserted. Now, he's going to be locked away in a vault, the district attorney said of Lynn.

The only problem was that according to trial testimony, Lynn left at least five copies of a memo accompanied by that list of abuser priests at a 1994 meeting he was summoned to with Cardinal Bevilacqua, Bishop Edward P. Cullen, and Msgr. James E. Molloy. A handwritten memo by Molloy in 1994 said he was ordered to destroy four copies of the memo, but he kept a fifth copy that could be found in the secretary for clergy's office. At this trial, an archdiocese employee testified that in 2006 that she hired a locksmith to open a locked safe in the secretary for clergy's office. Inside the safe, the locksmith discovered the memo and the list.

No testimony was ever introduced to show it was Lynn who hid the memo in a locked safe, but that didn't stop District Attorney Williams from inventing a new crime that Msgr. Lynn was allegedly guilty of. Aren't the facts in the case damning enough, Mr. District Attorney? Lynn also produced a copy of the memo for the grand jury in 2004, and although he didn't have a copy of the list, he told the grand jury all about the list, the circumstances under which it was drawn up, and why he compiled it.

When confronted with his factual error today, Williams looked confused, and then asserted, incorrectly, that evidence in the case showed that Lynn had hidden the list. One official watching the spectacle rolled his eyes. "If you don't know, ask," he said, shaking his head.

Instead of the big bodyguards that accompanied him, District Attorney Williams would have been better served if he was protected by a fact-checker.

The next protagonist to face the TV cameras was Bergstrom, Lynn's defense lawyer. Judge Sarmina, Bergstrom said, was "dead-ass wrong" on the facts, but "we're gonna move on" and appeal the case.

But he's not through with Judge Sarmina. In two weeks, she will hold another hearing on whether to allow Msgr. Lynn out on bail pending appeal. Bergstrom didn't seem to hold out much hope for winning that one either.

Monday, July 23, 2012

District Attorney To Re-Try Father Brennan

Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington notified Judge M. Teresa Sarmina this morning that the Commonwealth is seeking a new trial date for Father James J. Brennan.

Father Brennan was charged with attempted rape of a 14-year-old, but the jury deadlocked on June 22, after 13 days of deliberation with an 11-1 vote to acquit the priest, according to Juror No. 7, Taleah Grimmage. The jury also deadlocked on a second charge against Father Brennan, endangering the welfare of a child. Grimmage said the jury was evenly split on the  endangerment charge.

A third charge against the priest, conspiracy to endanger the welfare of a child, was thrown out by Judge Sarmina as not proven.

Father Brennan's lawyer, William J. Brennan, no relation, had pledged to defend his client if the district attorney sought a new trial. "I think it's lunacy to retry the case, with the jury split 11-1 on the attempted rape charge," Brennan said before the district attorney's office announced its decision today.

Jurors in the case said they had problems with the credibility of Brennan's accuser, alleged victim Mark Bukowski, now 30 years old. Jurors said that Bukowski's mother further muddied the waters when she testified that she would "never really know" what happened between her son and her favorite priest.

The case has been beset with problems since its inception. In a 2011 grand jury report, Father Brennan was originally charged with rape, after Bukowski, then 14, spent the night at the priest's apartment in West Chester in 1996, and wound up sleeping in the priest's bed.

A graphic account of the alleged crime contained in the grand jury report had charged that Father Brennan had anally raped Bukowski, and that the sobbing youngster fell asleep with the priest's erect penis inside him. Then the judge threw up a gag order. By the time the case went to trial this year, the charge of rape had been downgraded to an attempted rape, where the victim admitted that both he and Father Brennan were wearing T-shirts and boxer shorts during their encounter.

Defense attorney Brennan dubbed the alleged attack a "savage spooning." The district attorney's office has never  explained the vast gulf between the grand jury report and the reduced charged at trial.

District Attorney Seth Williams, however, released a two-sentence statement today explaining his decision to retry the case: "James Brennan used his position as a priest to prey upon and victimize this young man. It is extremely important that Brennan be held accountable for his crime, not just for his victim but for all victims of sexual abuse."

After the district attorney announced his decision, defense lawyer William J. Brennan spoke to reporters.

"While we are disappointed in the decision, we will defend Father Brennan as zealously, if not more so, as we did in round one," William J. Brennan said. "While we certainly respect the notion of justice for victims of sexual abuse, it has been my position and remains so that the lone accuser in this case does not fall into that category."

During the trial, defense lawyer Brennan attacked alleged victim Mark Bukowski as a serial liar who had been and out of jail after committing one crime after another.

Today, William J. Brennan spoke about the strain of the district attorney's continuing crusade against his client.

"Father Brennan was forced to endure a four-month odyssey wherein he was tarred and feathered with 65 years of archdiocese foibles that had nothing to do with him," Brennan said of the 13-week trial that  dwelled on the charges against Msgr. William J. Lynn, as well as the sins of 21 other priests that the pro-prosecution judge let into the case, to show a pattern of behavior on the part of the archdiocese.

"Having endured that, he was acquitted on one charge from the bench," Brennan said. "The jury was 11 to 1 on the lead charge and there are serious issues with the statute on the last charge."

The defense, in arguments rejected by Judge Sarmina, has previously pointed out that the Commonwealth missed the statute of limitations on the charge of endangering the welfare of a child by nine years.

"What about justice for Father Brennan?" his lawyer asked. "Enough is enough."

When they do get around to retrying Father Brennan, one main character may be missing from the sequel. Judge Sarmina indicated in court today that she would not be presiding when the case is retried. Sarmina has a busy criminal schedule. Father Brennan is due back in court on Aug. 14 for a status conference in Courtroom 904, at which time the case may be referred to a new judge.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Prosecutors Seek Maximum Sentence for "Cold," "Craven" and "Amoral" Monsignor

In a 29-page, scorched-earth sentencing memo, prosecutors assail Monsignor William J. Lynn as a "cold" and "craven" "yes man" who, in his position as secretary for clergy for the Philadelphia archdiocese, functioned as an "amoral" enabler of predator priests.

Although defense lawyers have tried to portray Lynn as a powerless, low-level functionary, the prosecutors in their sentencing memo brand the monsignor as a "central actor" in the archdiocese sex scandals while he served as Cardinal Bevilacqua's secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004. In that job, prosecutors said, Lynn waged a 12-year campaign of "constant deceit," managing to keep both victims and parishioners in the dark, while displaying "a willingness to sacrifice anyone to please his superiors."

"Defendant's apparent lack of remorse for anyone but himself, his refusal to accept responsibility, and his failure to understand the criminality of his actions all demonstrate character in serious need of rehabilitation," prosecutors Mariana Sorensen and Patrick Blessington conclude. "A maximum sentence may be the only way to impress upon defendant that he committed a serious crime, that there are more important rules to follow than instructions from corrupt or misguided bishops, and that protection of children trumps the reputation of abusers and the institution that harbors them."

Lynn is scheduled to be sentenced at a 9 a.m. hearing Tuesday in front of Judge M. Teresa Sarmina, who presided over the monsignor's ten-week trial After being convicted on June 22 of one count of endangering the welfare of a child, a third-degree felony, Lynn faces a jail sentence of between 3 1/2 and 7 years. If the prosecution's sentencing memo is any guide, Tuesday's hearing won't be a spectacle for the faint-hearted.

The prosecutors begin their narrative in September 1992 when a former altar boy at St. Philip Neri Church in East Greenville, Pa., then a medical student, told the monsignor about being repeatedly abused in the 1970s by Father Ronald V. Avery. As a teenager, the victim said, he was one of many altar boys that Avery would take to his Jersey shore house, ply them with liquor, and then wrestle with them.

The victim told Lynn that Avery would "sometimes touch his genitals while they roughhoused." The victim also told Lynn that "Avery molested him in the priest's bed after [the victim] has assisted Avery" while he was working his part-time gig as a disc jockey. The priest subsequently took the victim on a ski trip to Vermont, where he molested him again in a motel bed.

Lynn repeatedly admitted that he was responsible for the archdiocese's predator priests, the prosecutors wrote, referring "to himself as the cardinal's 'delgate' in matters having to do with sexual abuse." Lynn included Father Avery on a 1994 list he drew up of "37 pedophiles and priests" accused or guilty of sexual abuse of minors. On the list, Lynn wrote that Avery was "guilty of sexual abuse of a minor."

Avery was shipped off to St. John Vianney, an archdiocese-owned facility, for nine months of psychiatric evaluation and treatment. The therapists recommended that Avery "not be assigned to a ministry involving adolescents or vulnerable minorities," the prosecutors wrote. At the time, Avery was also the legal guardian for six H-Mong children.

Lynn failed to follow the therapists' recommendations, the prosecutors wrote. He proposed that Avery be assigned as a parochial vicar to Our Lady of Ransom, a parish with a school. "In that position, Avery would have had regular, unrestricted access to children who were altar servers and who came to confession," the prosecutors wrote. Cardinal Bevilacqua, however, rejected Lynn's recommendation and told the monsignor to find Avery a job as a hospital chaplain.

Lynn recommended Avery be appointed as chaplain of Nazareth Hospital, which was approved by the cardinal. The monsignor also granted Avery's request to live in a rectory.

Lynn "permitted Avery to live, serve Mass, and hear confessions of school children at St. Jerome, even though the hospital had an apartment where chaplains could live," the prosecutors wrote. Lynn was  a member of a supervisory team that was supposed to monitor Avery's behavior. The team, however, met only once, "a full year after Avery was assigned to Jerome -- and it was convened by Avery because he hoped to cut back on his therapy sessions," the prosecutors wrote.

The team was supposed to monitor Avery's comings and goings, and make him sign in and out to document his whereabouts. Another priest at the parish had repeatedly warned Lynn that Avery "was not complying with his aftercare program and was continuing to work as a disc jockey," the prosecutors wrote. Rather than alert Avery's therapist that the priest wasn't playing by the rules, the prosecutors wrote, Lynn told the therapist that the priest complaining about Avery's work as a disc jockey was posing a problem, not Avery.

"As a result of Lynn's failure to report Avery's crimes to police, to recommend his removal from ministry, or even to supervise him properly, Avery enjoyed unsupervised access to children at St. Jerome," the prosecutors wrote. "In the sacristy after Mass in 1999, he raped one of those children," a 10-year-old altar boy, the prosecutors wrote. The victim was "orally sodomized and forced to perform a strip tease and sex acts" by Avery, the prosecutors wrote.

Lynn failed to inform Cardinal Bevilacqua in writing that Avery's supervision team was not meeting. He also never informed the cardinal in writing that Avery was continuing to say Mass with children and hear their confessions, as well as  maintain "a full schedule of disc jockey engagements, in violation of his aftercare restrictions," the prosecutors wrote. Maybe Lynn was trying to shield Bevilacqua from legal liability, the prosecutors suggested, or he was "simply hiding his own failure to effectively supervise Avery."

The fallout was that Lynn "alone knew the full extent of the danger Avery posed to children at St. Jerome and to any minors who helped Avery in his disc jockey jobs," the prosecutors wrote. While Lynn at trial claimed that his failure to monitor Avery was a mistake that "fell through the cracks," the prosecutors said it was "part of a continuous, systematic practice of retaining abusive priests in ministry, with continued access to minors, while taking pains to avoid scandal or liability for the Archdiocese."

Apparently, if you're a prosecutor, you get to keep beating people over the head with the same argument, even if nobody buys it.

Let's review the prosecutor's track record on the conspiracy charge: Lynn was acquitted by the jury of conspiring with Father Avery and/or anyone else to endanger the welfare of children. Two charges of conspiracy to endanger the welfare of children by Lynn allegedly conspiring with Father James J. Brennan were tossed by Judge Sarmina, after the prosecution put on its case, as not proven.

Jurors in interviews after the verdict have repeatedly said that they didn't buy that Lynn was involved in a conspiracy with Avery and/or anyone else to endanger the welfare of children.

On June 25, jury foreman Isa Logan went on Fox 29, and said, "None of us understood or believed that he [Lynn] had the understanding that here's a predator priest, I'll help him get to another parish so he can continue to enjoy what he likes to do. None of us believed that."

Most recently, Juror No. 7, Taleah Grimmage, went on this blog last week to state how she and the rest of the jurors didn't buy the prosecution's conspiracy theory:

Hi everyone, This is Taleah Grimmage (Juror #7). I stated before that my stomach was in knots about the conspiracy charge because, almost every single juror believed that there was a conspiracy. We just didn't believe that the conspiracy was to endanger children.
I specifically requested that the foreman send out a question (which he did) asking if the result of a conspiracy was that a child was endangered, did the endangerment also have to be the intent. Judge Sarmina told us that it did, which made it nearly impossible to convict, with the elements that we were given of conspiracy. Once the trial was over, I asked one of the D.A.'s why the Conspiracy was to EWOC (endangering the welfare of children). He stated that every conspiracy has to have a goal. Well why on earth didn't they charge him with Conspiracy to commit fraud, or something like that?
We ALL agreed that they conspired to hide things from the parishoners and keep things hush-hush to continue receieving monies and etc., and as a result kids were endnagered, but we didn't believe the endangerment was the actual goal. 

Undeterred, the prosecutors in their sentencing memo rattled off the cases of 15 abuser priests who they claim were "harbored and protected" by Lynn, so they could continue to harm more chldren. The monsignor allowed these 15 priests, including Stanley Gana, Nicholas Cudemo, and David Sicoli, to continue in ministry and endanger and abuse other children, despite numerous complaints from victims, the prosecutors wrote.

"Even without the authority to remove Avery himself, the defendant had many options for protecting children," the prosecutors wrote. "He could have told Bevilacqua and Avery's therapists the simple truth -- that the priest continued to present a danger to children because of his obvious non-compliance with restrictions."

"If Bevilacqua still would not allow Lynn to remove Avery, the defendant could have called the police, asked to change jobs, or just warned parents to watch their children around Avery because he had sexually abused a boy at a previous parish," the prosecutors wrote. "Fear of displeasing an imperious boss -- even a bishop -- does not excuse leaving children in intense danger or keeping their parents in the dark."

The rape of the 10-year-old altar boy wasn't the only "profound" damage caused by Lynn's behavior, the prosecutors wrote. Lynn's "actions and his dishonesty have caused many to question their faith and trust in the church and their priests," the prosecutors wrote. "Funds that could have been used to keep school and parishes open have been used to defend the actions of a man who lied to parishioners so that sexual predators could remain in their schools and churches with easy access to their children."

"Considering the devastating harm to children that Lynn risked, the number of children involved, the length of time he left them vulnerable, and the impact on the broader community, defendant's EWOC offense [endangering the welfare of a child] could not have been graver," the prosecutors wrote. "It easily merits the maximum sentence."

The prosecutors dwell on Lynn's behavior as secretary for clergy as proof of his bad character.

"For over a decade, [Lynn] demonstrated a cold, hard heart as hundreds of victims told their stories of horrific sexual predation by priests and looked to Lynn for understanding, compassion and action," the prosecutors wrote. "Instead, they found themselves victims again -- this time subjected to the cruel and dishonest practices that Lynn implemented in order to protect the church's reputation and money."

"Lynn heard the gut-wrenching accounts of sexual abuse victims day in and day out, yet he was not moved to make sure the priests who caused all this misery he witnessed be prevented from preying on more children," the prosecutors wrote. "He would tell the victims that their abusers had denied the allegations -- even sometimes when they had not. He routinely told them that the priests who had raped and molested them as children were not diagnosed as pedophiles ... And he would assure victims that the Archdiocese (that is Lynn) was taking appropriate measures to make sure the priests were not around children -- even when it (he) was taking no such measures."

"Lynn worked hard every day for 12 years to carry out a cynical and fraudulent policy designed to make it appear as if the Archdiocese were taking measures to prevent its priests from abusing children," the prosecutors wrote. "Had Lynn actually done nothing, victims might have understood that they needed to go to police. Or they might have gotten angry and exposed their abusers, or sued the Archdiocese."

"Lynn's behavior does not reflect a passive failure to perform a duty regardless of a known risk to children," the prosecutors wrote. "His active, even eager execution of Archdiocese polices -- carried out in the face of victims' vivid suffering, and employing constant deceit -- required a more amoral character, a striving to please his bosses no matter how sinister the business."

"Lynn, on the other hand, proved himself a 'yes man' and an enabler -- not only of predator priests, but also of a Cardinal intent on covering up their crimes," the prosecutors wrote. "Bevilacqua could not, and would not, have protected abusive priests as he did without Lynn ... shielding him from legal consequences by providing plausible deniability."

In one of several parting shots, the prosecutors found more evidence of bad character when the monsignor at trial attempted to defend himself by implicating his former boss, Cardinal Bevilacqua. Maybe Lynn would have gotten a prosecutorial merit badge if he had fallen on his sword and continued to defend the cardinal:

"Lynn's eagerness to please his superiors, should not, however, be confused with obedience or loyalty," the prosecutors wrote. "Lynn's obedience to his bishop lasted only until his own welfare was at risk. Throughout the trial, defendant and his counsel constantly resorting to pointing fingers, blaming others, and asserting that Lynn was powerless to do anything other than what he did. Defendant's attorney argued that others did evil things, just not his client. Lynn testified that the Cardinal made him deceive victims and parishioners."

"Lynn's actions show a hardness of heart, a penchant for deception, and a willingness to sacrifice anyone to please his superiors," the prosecutors conclude. Such behavior should merit the maximum sentence of seven years, the prosectors argue.

Judging from the overheated rhetoric in the prosecution's sentencing memo, Tuesday's hearing may go on for a while. Expect Blessington and company to pull out all the stops, raging from the pulpit against the evil monsignor, but hopefully falling short of comparing him to the warden at Dachau.

The silver lining for the defense is, once the judge sentences Lynn, and makes a ruling on whether he can get out on bail pending appeal, the monsignor will finally be out of Judge Sarmina's court. Lynn's defense lawyers will be free to appeal both Lynn's conviction and possibly the bail decision as well.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Defense Lawyers Argue Judge Should Give Monsignor Minimum Sentence and Let Him Out on Bail Pending Appeal

Msgr. William J. Lynn poses "no danger to the public," his defense lawyers argue, so putting him away for a maximum prison term of seven years would amount to "cruel and unusual punishment." Lynn's defense lawyers are also asking that Lynn be freed from jail pending an appeal.

On Tuesday, Lynn will stand before Judge M. Teresa Sarmina, and be sentenced for his June 22 conviction on a third-degree felony of endangering the welfare of a child. He is facing a prison term of between 3 1/2 to 7 years. Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington has already said that the prosecution will seek the maximum sentence of seven years for Msgr. Lynn.

Lynn's defense team, however, argued in a sentencing memo filed Wednesday that Lynn has never touched a child, and that "no reported Pennsylvania case has ever dealt with a situation where an individual had been convicted of EWOC [endangering the welfare of a child] without ever knowing the child that he or she was accused of endangering."

"Msgr. Lynn has never harbored any intent to harm a child," Lynn's lawyers argued. "To the contrary, letters from friends, teachers, fellow priests, nuns and family members extol Msgr. Lynn's love and respect for children and their safety, offering in supporting innumerable examples of the care and protection he showed the children he has come across."

"What is more, the lengthy legal ordeal, which started for Msgr. Lynn in 2002, with the onset of the first grand jury, has raised his awareness of sexual abuse of children in the Catholic community and taught him to act with an overabundance of caution in his subsequent job as pastor of St. Joseph's parish in Downingtown," wrote defense lawyers Thomas A. Bergstrom, Jeffrey M. Lindy, and Alan J. Tauber.

"The teachers of St. Joseph's elementary school and the parish parents have written of the rigid Safe Environmental program that Msgr. Lynn has instituted at the parish," the defense lawyers wrote. "Many parents have insisted that they would entrust their children to Msgr. Lynn's supervision without hesitation. To say that Msgr. Lynn has not adopted and internalized the lessons of the grand jury and his subsequent trial would be absurd. The last ten years of his life were a time of reflection, penance and rehabilitation."

"Msgr. Lynn, now 61 years of age, has served as a priest for 36 years," the lawyers wrote. "He has never inappropriately touched a child. To the contrary he has led a life of selflessness, devoted to service to his fellow men."

Lynn was convicted of endangering a former 10-year-old altar boy, who was sexually abused by Father Edward V. Avery. Avery has already pleaded guilty to involuntary deviant sexual intercourse with a minor, conspiracy, and endangering the welfare of a child. He was sentenced to 2 1/2 to five years in prison, a sentence that Lynn's defense lawyers argue should not exceed Lynn's sentence.

Lynn's offense was allowing Father Avery to continue in ministry after he had been accused of sexually abusing another victim in the 1970s. After he received the report of the previous abuse from a former victim who came forward in 1992, Lynn confronted Avery, who denied it. Lynn sent Avery off for nine months of hospitalization and psychiatric evaluation, where he was diagnosed as an alcoholic, but not a pedophile.

"The treatment team indicted to Msgr. Lynn that Avery was fit for a return to ministry," the lawyers wrote. "As a result, Msgr. Lynn had no choice but to recommend Avery's return to ministry," the lawyers wrote, because Cardinal Bevilacqua had a policy that only priests "diagnosed with pedophilia and ephebophilia were permanently removed form ministry."

Msgr. Lynn helped put together an aftercare integration team, which included Father Graham, the pastor of St. Jerome's parish," the defense lawyers wrote. Avery was under the care of two therapists, and also attended weekly AA meetings.

"In sum," the lawyers wrote, "Msgr. Lynn did not suspect, and had many valid reasons not to suspect, that Avery was anything but rehabilitated. He certainly never foresaw the tragic events leading up to" the abuse of the 10-year-old altar boy.

Lynn recommended to Cardinal Bevilacqua that Avery be allowed to continue in ministry as a hospital chaplain, and reside at St. Jerome's Parish, where he sexually abused the 10-year-old altar boy.

"Incarcerating Msgr. Lynn, especially for a prolonged period of time, can do no good," the defense lawyers conclude. "Msgr. Lynn has already suffered eighteen excruciating months of public scrutiny, shaming and vilification. A sentence of time served, probation, work-release, or house-arrest, would ensure that Msgr. Lynn can still use his priestly gifts to improve the lives of those around him."

In support of their argument, the defense lawyers submitted statistics that showed of more than 3,000 people sentenced in Pennsylvania for EWOC between 2005 and 2010, the mean minimum sentence imposed was 20 months, and the mean maximum sentence imposed was 61 months. On Tuesday, Lynn faces a minimum sentence of 42 months, and a maximum sentence of 84 months.

In response, Barbara Dorris, a spokesman for SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said that Lynn had engaged in "unprecedented, shameful deceit, callousness and recklessness about children's safety."

"Once again, a high-ranking cleric is saying, "I'm different from and better than the rest of you,"
Dorris said. "Once again, a top church official wants special treatment, even though he [was] basically putting children -- hundreds of them -- in harms's way and helping perhaps dozens of predators stay hidden, employed and around kids."

Lynn's defense lawyers have also filed a separate motion seeking bail pending an expected appeal of Lynn's conviction, and what the defense says is an unusual likelihood that Lynn will be successful on appeal.

In their motion, Lynn's defense lawyers argue that the monsignor "was convicted of child endangerment based upon a novel theory of liability that held him criminally responsible for inadequately supervising a priest who was alleged to have sexually abused a child and who exposed others to a similar danger."

"Defendant Lynn has argued to this Court that the EWOC count [endangering the welfare of a child] should have been discharged because he is not a member of the class of persons covered by the statute," the defense lawyers wrote. "This argument will be one of Defendant Lynn's principal claims on appeal and there is a substantial possibility that the Pennsylvania appellate courts will agree and discharge this case."

Lynn's defense lawyers have argued that under the old EWOC statute, since amended, that Lynn did not fit the definition of a supervisor of child care under the law. It's a fascinating argument, as the past two Philadelphia district attorneys disagreed completely over the issue of whether the old EWOC law applied to Lynn.

"The high potential for appellate discharge is surely no less than a 50/50 proposition as exemplified by the prosecutor's own recent contradictory interpretations of the [EWOC] statute," the defense lawyers wrote. The lawyers point out that a 2005 grand jury report, issued under former District Attorney Lynne Abraham, decided that the "archdiocese hierarchy [was] beyond the scope of the EWOC statute. Then, a second grand jury in 2010, under a new district attorney, Seth Williams. "recommended that Defendant Lynn be charged under that self-same statute."

"While Defendant Lynn submits that the likelihood of appellate relief is far higher than that, even a fifty percent chance that he could serve a prison sentence where appellate discharge looms so high manifestly warrants release pending appeal," the defense lawyers wrote. In other words, Lynn could serve a minimum 3 1/2 year sentence before his appeal case is heard.

"The chance of unjust incarceration is simply too great not to grant bail," the defense lawyers argue. They maintain that Lynn, currently being held in jail without bail, poses no flight risk. The defense lawyers also ridicule the idea that the monsignor, if freed, might flee to Vatican City:

"Defendant Lynn poses no risk of flight," the defense lawyers wrote. "Lynn has surrendered his passport. His picture, name and story have been published for the past several months in the media across the country as well as abroad. He is without property or wealth. There has been some fanciful suggestions that Defendant Lynn could flee the country and seek refuge in the Vatican which has no extradition treaty with the United States."

Judge Sarmina previously asked the district attorney to research whether they could draw up a legal waiver of extradition for Lynn to sign, in the event that she let him out of jail under house arrest, and he fled to the Vatican. Lynn offered to sign such a waiver, but defense attorney Blessington said his research showed such a waiver would be worthless, even if signed by Lynn.

"Though technically possible, such an action is far-fetched," Lynn's defense lawyers wrote of the monsignor's possible escape to the Vatican. "Leaving aside the practical impediments to such a journey, and that such a move would be completely contrary to Defendant Lynn's proven character, legal interests and future ambition, there is absolutely no basis to believe that the Vatican would harbor an American fugitive," the defense lawyers wrote. "A search of all reported legal cases in the United States failed to turn up even once instance where the Vatican harbored an American fugitive. The suggestion of refuge in the Vatican cannot be given any serious credence."


Inside The Jury Room, Part Two

Taleah Grimmage, Juror No. 7, has finally explained why that not guilty verdict on the conspiracy charge against Msgr. Lynn left her with knots in her stomach.

Every juror believed Lynn was part of a conspiracy at the archdiocese, Juror No. 7 explained in an email posted on this website. It just wasn't the conspiracy that the prosecutors thought was there.

In subsequent emails, Grimmage elaborated on her complicated views about Msgr. Lynn. Yes he was just a "yes man," she said, but he was also the guy left holding the bag for the archdiocese.

I'd like to publicly thank Taleah for providing invaluable insights into jury deliberations. Here's what she posted about the conspiracy verdict:

Hi everyone, This is Taleah Grimmage (Juror #7). I stated before that my stomach was in knots about the conspiracy charge because, almost every single juror believed that there was a conspiracy. We just didn't believe that the conspiracy was to endanger children.
I specifically requested that the foreman send out a question (which he did) asking if the result of a conspiracy was that a child was endangered, did the endangerment also have to be the intent. Judge Sarmina told us that it did, which made it nearly impossible to convict, with the elements that we were given of conspiracy. Once the trial was over, I asked one of the D.A.'s why the Conspiracy was to EWOC (endangering the welfare of children). He stated that every conspiracy has to have a goal. Well why on earth didn't they charge him with Conspiracy to commit fraud, or something like that?
We ALL agreed that they conspired to hide things from the parishoners and keep things hush-hush to continue receieving monies and etc., and as a result kids were endnagered, but we didn't believe the endangerment was the actual goal. 
I'm sick about this because I felt like my hands were tied, and I personally don't think it matters whether the object is endangerment. In my opinion, its fruit of the posionous tree. One juror used the example: if you rob a bank and during the course of a robbery, a guard is killed. You conspired to rob the bank, you didn't conspire to commit murder. We all agreed with this example. However in some states, the murder would be part and parcel and you'd be convicted of that as well. I was one of the last hold outs on ths conspiracy charge until the very last day. I almost wish I HAD held out so at the very least the commonwealth could retry it under a different conspiracy charge. But alas, he was acquitted so, that's that.

Here's what she had to say about Msgr. Lynn:

Personally, I think Father Lynn was just a cog in a wheel. I think that he was a very good 'yes man' who unfortunately was left holding the bag. I don't think Lynn is a malicious person, and I think in his mind he was doing what he thought was appropriate.
I think that he believed this because he's from an organization that for some reason doesn't seem to have much empathy for the very people they are supposed to protect. I think that he learned through a course of action, just how little the victims meant to the church. It was evident from how he initially conducted his interviews with them. It was always a sort of interrogation to see if THEY were telling the truth. Of course he also let his superiors know that the person didn't ask for money, or the case was beyond the statute of limitations etc. 
Not to get too dramatic but I bet deep down inside the soldiers at concentration camps had some empathy. However, if after years and years of systematically learning that this is just the way business is done, its easy to tell yourself that you're doing what's right. 
All that being said, when you find out your best isn't good enough, you have to pay the piper. When Lynn got the job and a few years into it, realized it involved funneling pedophile priests from one place to another, he shouldve marched into Molloy and Bevelacqua's office and told them I'll go so far but no further.

Grimmage said she didn't buy the defense argument that Lynn was doing his best to help abuse victims:

I didn't buy [defense attorney Tom] Bergstom's explanation that he [Lynn] documented the abuse. He certainly documented it, not because he wanted to run out and tell the world, but because he knew darn well it would never see the light of day. A smart person would have done the job, but eliminated the paper trail.

She also was surprised at the conduct of Msgr. Lynn's boss:

When I found out the cardinal [Anthony J. Bevilacqua] was a cannon and a civil attorney, I almost fell out of my chair. You mean the man at the top had ALL the information? He (the Cardinal) knew darn well he didn't have to assign these priests. If cannon law says you have to have a ministry and not an assignment, he could have sent these priests to St. John's Villa, the graveyard for shamed priests.

She also had some final thoughts on the Father Brennan case, and the credibility of his accuser, Mark Bukowski. Combing through the timeline on this site, Grimmage said she was shocked to learn that the Bukowski story had drastically changed from the time of the grand jury report:

Mark Bukowski initially said at the grand jury that he was indeed RAPED?
I am furious that this was withheld from the jury. We spent a lot of time discussing why Fr. Brennan stopped himself that night and to now learn hat at one point Mark was saying he DIDN'T stop is frustrating. 
Had I personally known the victim was saying at one point he actually was sodomized, my reaction would've been quite different. Mark never once indicated that something else occured while on the stand. He seemed adamant that it was just spooning with both of them being clothed.  That's a HUGE difference from being sodomized. 
I can understand the legal reasoning behind not allowing the jury to know and hear every single thing in order to keep a fair and balanced view of the facts. But good grief. Thats the kind of thing I'd like to know. Either Mark blocked it out (which is a fair assumption), or it actually did happen and the prosecutor told him NOT to mention it since it conflicted with other testimony, or he's lying. 
I'm also curious if Mark was such a shaky witness, was he the only bullet they had? I hear Walter Levingoode refused to participate. Why did they choose to proceed with all these holes in the case against Brennan? Was it because Mark was the most recent person they could use? All these other priests had victims decades old. I guess they had to go with what they had. 
Dear Lord, what else didn't they tell us?
Tuesday, July 17, 2012

What I Learned On Jury Duty

After 13 weeks of covering the archdiocese sex abuse trial, I was summoned for jury duty on Monday, July 9.

I reported to the first floor of the Criminal Justice Center at 8:15 a.m., figuring I would be there just for the day. Usually the court staff start laughing the minute they find out I'm a reporter, and they're still laughing when they show me the door. 

But they must have been desperate. I was shipped upstairs to Courtroom 1002, where the Hon. Judge Earl W. Trent Jr. presided. He asked a few questions about whether I thought I could be an impartial juror. I said I honestly didn't know. Well, the judge said, when you go out to report a story, aren't you supposed to be impartial? I try to be, I said. 

To my amazement, I was chosen as Juror No. 9, given an official ID badge, and told to report to court the following morning. After a lifetime of being an observer, I was suddenly in a position to have a direct impact on somebody's life. Terique Powell, 21, of Northeast Philadelphia, was facing a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 5 to 10 years in an armed robbery case. 

At 10:40 p.m. on Aug. 12, 2009, a 17-year-old Hispanic youth was on his way home from his job at a clothing store at the Frankford Mall. He was walking on Hellerman Street in Northeast Philadelphia when somebody stuck a gun in his back and said, give me all your money.

The robber went through the youth's pockets and found a pack of cigarettes, a cell phone, a pack of gum, a SEPTA pass, a comb, and no money. The victim was carrying an ipod, but since it was pink, the robber said he wasn't interested.

The robber told the victim he was taking his cell phone so he wouldn't call the cops. The robber told the victim to head toward Bustleton Avenue, while the robber went the other way.

On his way home, the victim ran into two cops driving an unmarked Ford Taurus. The victim hopped in the back of the car and the cops drove around the neighborhood, looking for a 6-foot-2 black male wearing a white wife-beater T-shirt, black shorts and black sneakers. 

Three blocks away, at 1541 Robbins St., 18-year-old Terique Powell sat on a front porch with four friends. The victim and the cops drove past Powell once, and then came back to talk.

Is this the guy, the cops asked. The victim said yes. 

A half-hour after the armed robbery, Terique Powell was in handcuffs. He was charged with robbery, a first-degree felony, in addition to two gun charges, two theft charges, simple assault, and unlawful possession of the instrument of a crime, namely a gun.

Powell was raised by his grandmother. His only arrest as a juvenile was for possession of marijuana. He wound up in outpatient drug counseling.

When he was arrested for robbery, Powell was going into his senior year at Northeast High. Since he didn't have the money for the $15,000 bail [a cash deposit of $1,500 was required], he spent a total of 358 days in jail, awaiting house arrest. 

The trial lasted one day. The prosecution's lead witness was the former robbery victim, now 20. He showed up for court unshaved, wearing shorts and an old, faded Superman T-shirt with an S emblazoned on his chest. He appeared to have just rolled out of bed. 

The victim testified that he was standing under a broken street light when the robber stuck a gun in his back. The victim said the robber then walked around in front of him, and picked through his pockets.

Although the street light he was standing under was broken, the victim testified, the light from another street lamp some six feet away illuminated the scene, as did the headlights from a passing car. During a time span that the victim testified was between one to two minutes, the victim said he got a good look at the robber. He pointed out Powell in the courtroom as the guy who held him up. 

The prosecution's next two witnesses were two police officers who described how they placed Powell under arrest. They said the defendant was cooperative.

That was it; the case rested solely on the word of a victim, and the actions of a couple of cops who believed him. There was no physical evidence of any kind. No gun, no cell phone, not even a stick of gum taken from the victim's pockets.

The defense then presented its case, which was even flimsier. A young woman took the stand who had been seen earlier crying in the courtroom. She said she was just a friend of the defendant's. She had grown up with Terique, she said, and attended church with him, where they had both been part of a youth group.

She could not stop crying. Judge Trent asked her if she was Powell's girlfriend, but the young woman insisted she was just a friend. She testified that Powell was of good character, and was known in the community to be peaceable, law-abiding and non-violent. 

The defendant took the stand. He said he was sorry about the robbery, but that he didn't do it. He was sitting on the stoop with another young man, and three girls, all friends. They had spent the entire day hanging out. Powell told the jury how he tried to locate his old friends so they could testify on his behalf. But after three years, he had a hard time finding them. He only reached one of the girls, who had moved to the Poconos and had a baby.

The next day in court, the defense rested, after not being able to round up any further witnesses. None of the kids sitting on that porch three years ago ever made it to court. The pastor of the church that Powell used to attend was also tied up with church business.

It was time for closing statements. Nena Carter, assistant defender, said it was a case of mistaken identity. The prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Tracie Gaydos, said the Commonwealth had arrested the right man, as she pointed her finger at Terique Powell. The victim said so, she said, and so did the cops. Now it was time for the jury to convict Terique Powell.

I have always wondered about those instructions judges give jurors. How you shouldn't talk about the case with anybody, even your spouse. How you shouldn't talk about the case with your fellow jurors until all the evidence had been presented.

Well, this jury didn't exactly follow those instructions. I doubt that we were an anomaly. When was the first time the jury began discussing the case? How about the first time they closed the door, and left us alone in the jury room.

We were 14 strangers, 12 jurors and two alternates. What else did we have to talk about? The Phillies?

The 40-year-old man who would ultimately be elected jury foreman told us he had been robbed four times. When somebody's pointing a gun at you, he said, you're only looking at the gun, and praying that it doesn't go off. You don't look at the robber's face. You don't want him to know you, and you don't want to know him.

The jury foreman also said that if you had just robbed somebody, the last thing you would do is go sit on a front porch a few blocks away from the robbery scene, when you know the cops were driving around the neighborhood, looking for the guy who did it. Also, the foreman said, if the cops showed up to question you, and you were guilty, you wouldn't just sit there, you would take off and run.

Juror No. 14, the second alternate, had a problem with the victim's testimony that he had enough light at night under a busted street lamp to make a positive ID in just one or two minutes. I agreed with him. Other jurors had a problem with the cops out searching for a black guy armed with such a generic description. That could have been my son, the foreman said.

Other jurors wondered why a robber who had a gun pointed in a victim's back would bother walking around in front of the victim to empty the victim's pockets. Wouldn't it have been easier to stand behind the victim, and reach into his pockets, and not risk being identified?

When the court staff took our luncheon order for three pizzas, Juror No. 13 insisted on double cheese. Juror 14, the second alternate, ordered pepperoni. Sadly, when it came time to deliberate, jurors no. 13 and 14 were dismissed, and they wound up missing the pizza party.

When deliberations formally began, we went around the room. Several jurors talked about whether they believed the defendant, or the young woman who had been the only other defense witness. Why didn't the pastor of the church show up in court, as well as some of the kids who had been sitting on the stoop that day? Didn't the defendant have any better witnesses to testify on his behalf, such as a former coach or teacher? 

One juror requested a list of the charges, so she could review the elements of the crimes that Powell was charged with. That got me wondering whether it was going to be a long afternoon.

When it came time for my turn to speak, I outed myself as a reporter used to covering trials. Although the defendant had the face of a choirboy, I said, I had no idea whether he was guilty or innocent. But we don't even get to the credibility of the defense case, I said, because the Commonwealth didn't prove its case. There's no physical evidence. I noted the words in one of the gun charges that required the jury to find that the gun used in the crime was in proper working order.

We don't even know if it was a toy gun, I said. We have no physical evidence. This case should never have been brought to trial, I said. It's a waste of our time. Let's find the defendant not guilty, and get out of here.

We took a paper ballot, and it was unanimous. On all seven counts, from all 12 jurors, the ballots said the defendant was not guilty. Some jurors remained unconvinced whether Powell was innocent, but everybody agreed the lack of physical evidence was a problem. Show me a gun, one woman juror said, and I'll put him away.

We filed back into court and took our assigned seats in the jury box. The foreman stood and announced the verdict. Powell started crying and couldn't stop. Carter took him outside, where he said, "Thank you so much for saving my life."

That afternoon, Powell went to the probation department and had his ankle bracelet removed.

I was rewarded with a $29 check for three days of jury service. But I still had questions. So I called assistant defender Carter and asked if this was a typical case in terms of the shortage of physical evidence.

"One person's word can put you in that chair," she said.

Prosecutor Gaydos agreed. Especially, she said, when the victim is sure that he got the right man, and he makes that identification within three blocks of the crime site, within one half-hour of when the crime occurred. 

But in the case of Terique Powell, Gaydos said, "obviously the lack of physical evidence was one of the factors that worked against us."

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Archbishop Chaput Visits Monsignor Lynn In Jail

Last week, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput stopped by the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Northeast Philadelphia, where Msgr. William J. Lynn is being held in protective custody.

The archbishop did not bring along his mitre or his crozier. He stayed for 90 minutes. But what the two men talked about is not known.

"Archbishop Chaput did visit with Monsignor Lynn," said Kenneth A. Gavin, a spokesman for the archdiocese. "Their conversation was private."

"It is my understanding that it was a positive visit and I think that's all I should say," said Thomas A. Bergstrom, the monsignor's defense lawyer.

A prison spokesman declined to discuss the archbishop's visit, except to say that Chaput was no stranger to the facility. Last Christmas, Chaput stopped by the prison gymnasium to say Mass for the inmates.

The monsignor remains behind bars, awaiting his sentencing July 24 in front of Judge M. Teresa Sarmina. He was convicted on June 22 of endangering the welfare of children, a third-class felony, and faces a prison sentence of between 3 1/2 and seven years.

On Tuesday, defense lawyers filed a motion in Limine that seeks to limit victims' testimony at Lynn's sentencing hearing.

On July 5, when Sarmina declined to let Lynn out of jail on house arrest, Assistant District Attorney Pat Blessington asserted that the prosecution had the right to put on testimony at the sentencing hearing from "any and all victims" of the actions of the monsignor.

"That's a really large universe," the prosecutor told the judge.

But in their motion, defense lawyers Bergstrom and Jeff Lindy assert that "Pennsylvania law is clear that only direct victims and their immediate families can testify about the impact that the crime at issue has had on their lives."

As far as the defense is concerned, the prosecution should only be allowed to put on the stand the former 10-year-old altar boy sexually abused by Father Edward V. Avery, or a member of that victim's family. Testimony from others who are not direct victims of the crime that Lynn was convicted of "cannot be anything but improper and prejudicial, the two defense lawyers wrote.

A spokesperson for the district attorney's office, Tasha Jamerson, said the district attorney had no response on what his office plans to say in response to the defense motion.

Inside The Jury Room

On the charge of attempted rape, the jury voted 11-1 to acquit Father James J. Brennan.

On the charge of endangering the welfare of children, Father Brennan dodged a bullet. All the jurors believed that Father Brennan had endangered the welfare of 14-year-old Mark Bukowski by allowing the boy to access pornography on the internet, and by subsequently getting in bed with him.

But because the judge's instructions required the jury to find that Father Brennan had also endangered other victims in addition to 14-year-old Mark Bukowski, the jury ended up almost evenly split on whether Father Brennan should have been convicted.

Regarding Msgr. William J. Lynn, at least one juror believed that the monsignor should also have been convicted of conspiracy.

These are some of the reflections of Taleah Grimmage, Juror No. 7.

Grimmage has sent several emails commenting on what happened behind the scenes at the Archdiocese of Philadelphia sex abuse trial. Juror No. 7 also had something to say about public reaction to the verdict. Let's let Taleah speak for herself:

Good Morning,

I happened to come across your blog on-line and have been reading some of the posts. I have also been reading some of the posts on other message boards and am a little annoyed with what people seem to think happened during deliberations.

I was selected to be Juror #7 in this trial, so I know first hand what took place starting with opening arguments through deliberations. I read that sentencing is scheduled to take place on July 24th and my plan is to be there.

I want people to know that all of us tried our best to come up with a verdict we could live with. Deliberations were very frustrating and tense for many of us, and believe me, that we were very close to not even achieving the verdict that we had! This fact alone both angered and frustrated me. (Unfortunately, I don't have enough time at the moment to write what happened from soup to nuts) From the judge's instructions to the personalities in the jury room; it all played a part in the outcome.

Please tell your readers that while on the outside it appeared that we were stalling, we truly were working as hard as we could.


Taleah Grimmage

I asked Taleah about Father James J. Brennan. Here's what she had to say:

I'm glad you asked about Father Brennan. The issue with Father Brennan came down to Judge Sarmina's instructions.

The EWOC [endanger the welfare of children] charge for Father Brennan had the phrase "and other unamed minors." That's were many of us traveled down the rabbit hole.

You might remember that a few questions were sent out regarding what "other unnamed minors meant" and "why" we HAD to believe that Father Brennan endangered others in addition to Mark Bukowski (the victim in question).

Many of us believed that both Father Brennan and Mark were telling untruths in portions of their testimony. We treid to focus on the elements that they both agreed happened, which was the fact that Brennan either showed Mark pornography or at the very least allowed him to access it, while in his care. Many of us felt that is endangering behavior; showing a child pornographic materials. It wasn't too far fetched to believe that if you allowed one child to access porn, or if you did molest this child, then its a possibility that there were other children at risk (students at Cardinal O'Hara, the other Bukowski children he came in contact with etc).

Some of the jurors felt that because Father Brennan had this ONE complaint in the history of his priesthood, this was an isolated incident and they had trouble believing that Father Brennan was a general danger to others. If Seth Williams were to ask me if he should retry it. I would tell him that the jury vote was almost split in the middle, and it would have been most likely unanimous had they removed the unnamed minors language, which I now understand had to do with the statute of limitations.

We all thought that Brennan endangered Mark, we all could not agree whether he endangered others. One juror didn't believe that Brennan would ever act the same in similar circumstances going forward.

The attempted rape charge was nearly unanimous but for one juror.

Father Brennan dodged a bullet indeed. I often wonder if it's because through all of this, he seemed to be the only priest with any sort of spiritual element to him, as we saw from his writings during his tenure at the Monestary and during his leave of absence.

One other thing, is I wish they could select jurors who honestly have a basic comprehension of the law. Some people seem to think "beyond a reasonable doubt" actually means beyond ALL doubt."

Many of us tried in vain to explain the difference, but alas, when you have John Q. Public, you have to deal with real people who may only have a street knowledge of the law which I guess is the reason our system works the way it does.

Don't get me started on the Conspiracy charge. My stomach is still in knots. I dont think we made the right decision there.

Juror No. 7 declined to discuss the matter further, except to say that "this trial was very emotional for me."

She did have some further comments on Father Brennan:

The 11-1 was to acquit for Brennan's rape charge. We ALL would've been happy to convict if it had been molestation or "groping" or something like that. Once Judge Sarmina explained that attempted rape had to have the intent to commit the act of rape, being penetration by force (either physical or psychological) we knew we couldn't convict. Had Mark testified that Father Brennan tried to pull his shorts down, or even fondle him it would've helped. Just "spooning" someone isn't enough to say they tried to rape you. Mark also testified that they were both clothed during this encounter.

Juror No. 7 also thought that the behavior of Mark Bukowski's parents was strange. As someone who sat in on the trial, I would have to agree. Here's what Juror No. 7 had to say about the Bukowskis:

Personally, I think [Mark's mother] was attracted to Fr. Brennan. I think she saw him as this young hip, priest she could talk to and drink with. I'm not sure what to make of her husband ... We didn't hear from him, but I think its odd that any man would allow his wife to stay up at night drinking with another man, priest or not. I also personally think that any parent who thinks their kid was molested and thinks the best way to investigate the situation, is going to brunch at the Marriott is borderline mentally ill. I have no idea what their motivation was for that. Why they didn't go to the police and let THEM sort it out is beyond me.

I also think [Mark's mother] felt like Brennan owed her a favor, and that's why she asked to have Mark do his community service at the Parish. Again, if you suspect that a priest may have touched your child, I have no idea why you still talk to this person let alone put your son in his care again.  I don't know if the Bukowskis really believed Mark's whole story initially. I mean you have this kid, who's getting into trouble, probably lying about other things, all a manipulator like Brennan has to do (again, that's IF you believe Brennan is a manipulator) is convince you that your juvenile delinquent son is doing what he does best; make up stories.

I thought Mark was telling the truth and I think he suffers from what a lot of middle children suffer from, wanting to get attention. I don't believe one word of the "shed story" and I think Mark added it in to make an already horrible story seem more horrific.

I do think Brennan stopped himself that night from going further. It's also possible that because he was molested himself, he stopped because he identified with his own abusers that night and that scared him, and then of course he's off to the Monastery to reflect on his own spirituality.

I would like to thank Juror No. 7 for sharing her insights, which I thought were fascinating. I would like to invite other jurors to contribute their own thoughts. Maybe we can make this a regular feature.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Judge Denies House Arrest For Monsignor Lynn

Judge M. Teresa Sarmina denied a defense motion today that would have granted house arrest to Msgr. William J. Lynn.

The judge's decision means that Lynn will continue to reside at Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility, known as CFCF, on State Road in Northeast Philadelphia. According to his attorney, Jeff Lindy, Lynn is in protective custody there, and leading a contemplative life.

Judge Sarmina did grant one defense request, to move up Lynn's sentencing date from Aug. 13 to July 24, provided the monsignor was willing to waive a pre-sentence report. The theory was, after Lynn has been the object of grand jury scrutiny and a decade of investigation, there was nothing new out there to be dug up by an investigator that would affect his sentence. Lynn agreed to the request.

The 61-year-old monsignor is facing a sentence of three and a half to seven years after being convicted on one count of endangering the welfare of a child, a third-degree felony. Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington surprised nobody in the courtroom when he said he would be asking for the maximum sentence.

The judge had asked Blessington to investigate whether the commonwealth could draw up an extradition waiver that if signed by Lynn would prevent the monsignor from escaping to the Vatican. Blessington said he did investigate, and that such a waiver would be "worthless" in the event that the monsignor went on the lam.

Another Lynn defense lawyer, Thomas Bergstrom, told the judge that the defense was prepared to raise Lynn's bail from $50,000 to $100,000, meaning the family's ten percent deposit would rise from $5,000 to $10,000, if the judge was willing to grant house arrest.

Bergstrom, tried to assure the judge that Lynn was not a flight risk before she made her decision. "He's not going anywhere," Bergstrom said of his client, who was brought to the courthouse by sheriff's deputies, and was wearing a black short sleeve shirt and pants, minus his priest's collar.

Bergstrom tried to appeal to the judge's sense of fairness, but struck out looking. "If he were any other defendant he'd be out on bail," Bergstrom told the judge. "I don't think he should be treated any differently. I think he's entitled to it."

But if the monsignor made a break for it, the judge asked Bergstrom, "Would you serve his sentence?"

"Sure, absolutely," Bergstrom replied. "That's the faith that I have in this man."

Blessington stood and offered his rebuttal. "Counsel's word," he said, referring to Bergstrom, "quite frankly means nothing to me."

"Counsel can't serve the sentence," Blessington continued. "We all know that. It's absurd."

It was time for the judge to rule. She was brief.

"The motion is denied," she said. She did not state a reason.

Blessington also opposed moving the sentencing date, but was overruled by the judge. He did not want to mess with the vacation schedule in the district attorney's office, he said. Also, the prosecution has the right to put on at Lynn's sentencing testimony from "any and all victims" of the actions of the monsignor, Blessington said, adding, "That's a really large universe."

Get set for a lengthy sentencing hearing.

Blessington also objected to the last minute nature of the defense motion to move up the sentencing date.

"Once again, we're walking out the door and we're called back," he griped to the judge. But the judge told Blessington that she didn't mind "zealous" representation in defense of a client, although any defense attorney being zealous in her courtroom was also subject to "getting smacked down," the judge said.

Blessington, however, need not worry about that possibility, as he is obviously the teacher's pet.

Jeff Lindy reminded the judge that he had been the recent victim of a Sarmina smack-down, after he mistakenly told the judge that the monsignor did not own a passport, when he did.

Judge Sarminia told Lindy she had recently received his apology for that transgression by email. She did not seem placated. "Maybe the apology should be done in open court," she suggested.

Note to Lindy: time for more groveling.

The judge's decision left Lynn's family and supporters in tears. As Bergstrom was exiting the courtroom, he cracked a joke. "I just called the Vatican and said, give up a room," he said, meaning that his client would no longer be needing one.

Outside the Criminal Justice Center, Jeff Lindy was holding court with the press. He said the defense is planning to appeal the case once Lynn is sentenced. But the problem is, by the time the appeal is decided, Lynn may have served his sentence.

Lindy talked about his client's condition.

"He's in protective custody, which he should be," Lindy said. "He's in a contemplative position, which his profession has prepared him for." But Lindy said that the monsignor was also left feeling like the fall guy.

"He's upset because he's seems to have the weight of the church on his shoulders," Lindy said.

Victims' advocates, however, where cheered by the judge's decision.

"Given the Catholic hierarchy's ongoing protection of those who commit and conceal child sex crimes, we believe Judge Sarminia has made a prudent choice," said Barbara Blaine, president of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

"If Msgr. Lynn is behind bars, there's virtually no way that he can flee the country, destroy evidence, deceive victims, mislead parishioners or take other steps to further cover up wrongdoing."

"Some may view this decision as harsh," Blaine said in a press release. "We consider it just and smart. And we hope it will end current cover ups and deter future cover ups by Catholic officials across the country."

Monday, July 2, 2012

Inside The Archdiocese Spin Machine

By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

Today, I'd like to talk about Jay Devine, a former spokesman for the archdiocese of Philadelphia, and what an outrageous liar he is.

Devine used to work for Brian Tierney, the former mouthpiece for the late Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua, back when His Eminence was running a criminal enterprise out of the archdiocese. According to a 2005 grand jury report, Cardinal Bevilacqua and his predecessor, Cardinal John Krol, orchestrated a systematic coverup spanning four decades that managed to successfully shield from prosecution 63 priests who had raped, molested and sexually abused hundreds of innocent children. Nice references, huh?

I have already detailed on this blog how Tierney and Devine could stoop so low as to enlist a couple of pedophile priests in their PR campaign to boost the cardinal's image. I've written about how Devine and Tierney used a pack of lies 19 years ago to cover-up Bevilacqua's embarrassing $1 million spending spree to redecorate his seaside villa, at the same time he was closing poor minority parishes and schools in North Philadelphia.

Today, I'd like to talk about how Jay Devine made an "amazingly stupid" admission to one of my editors at the Inquirer in 1998. And how I included Devine's amazingly stupid quote in a book that I wrote about my former lawyer, Jim Beasley, in 2008. And how when Devine heard this quote read on the air in 2009 by co-host Rhea Hughes on WIP, who said it the most outrageous quote in the book, Jay Devine, that outrageous liar, hired a lawyer, brazenly rewrote his amazingly stupid quote of 11 years earlier, so he could threaten to sue me for libel.

The beauty of it is I have all of this in writing. And I'm eager to share.