Monday, August 6, 2012

Judge Denies Bail for Monsignor While Archdiocese Battles Its Own Lawyers Over Money For Appeal

Judge M. Teresa Sarmina today denied a defense motion that would have allowed Msgr. William J. Lynn out on bail pending an appeal of his historic conviction. Lynn, the first Catholic administrator in the country to be convicted in connection with clerical sex abuse, has been in jail since June 22, when a jury convicted him of one count of endangering the welfare of a child, a third-degree felony.

On July 24, Judge Sarmina sentenced Lynn to three to six years in prison for failing to protect a 10-year-old altar boy back in 1999 from a predator priest. The defense argued that by the time an appeal is heard, the monsignor may have already served his prison sentence, which is why Lynn's defense lawyers thought the monsignor should be freed during the appeal process.

Judge Sarmina, however, rejected that motion. She said that technically under the law, Lynn was not entitled to bail because his sentence was more than two years in duration. Jeffrey M. Lindy, one of Lynn's defense lawyers, argued that although Lynn did not have a right to bail, it was within the judge's powers of discretion to grant him bail.

Lindy cited extraordinary circumstances, namely that Lynn had been the first supervisor in the history of Pennsylvania to be charged under the 1972 state statute for endangering the welfare of a child. Normally, those charged under the child endangerment statute had direct contact with children, such as teachers, parents or guardians. Lynn, however, never laid eyes on the victim in this case, the former 10-year-old altar boy, until he took the witness stand.

But Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington told the judge that this was the third time the defense was trying to get their client out on bail, and that under the law, Lynn wasn't entitled to it.

The defense had contended that Lynn's chance of winning an appeal was "surely no less than a 50/50 proposition" because of "the prosecutor's own recent contradictory interpretations of the EWOC [endangering the welfare of a child] statute"that Lynn had been convicted of.

The defense lawyers cited a 2005 grand jury report, issued under former District Attorney Lynne Abraham, that determined that Msgr. Lynn, Cardinal Bevilacqua and the rest of the archdiocese hierarchy were not liable under the EWOC statute. Then, a second grand jury in 2011, under a new district attorney, Seth Williams, recommended that Lynn be charged under that same EWOC statute.

But the judge didn't even address that argument. Following a 17-minute hearing, the judge said she was denying the motion because of the "serious nature of the crime" that Lynn had been convicted of. She did not elaborate.

Lynn, the archdiocese secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004, wasn't in the courtroom when the judge denied bail. He previously had waived his right to appear at today's hearing, which everybody realized the defense had little chance of winning. None of Lynn's family members showed up either.

Outside the courtroom, Lindy said the judge wasn't in a listening mode. "She really didn't want to hear any argument," he said.

Lindy then opened up another can of worms. Lynn's defense team plans an immediate appeal of the monsignor's conviction to Superior Court. But the archdiocese recently decided to cut back on funds for Lynn's appeal, Lindy said. The archdiocese had previously paid for four defense lawyers, which cost at least $75,000 a week for a 10 week-trial, or a minimum of $750,000.

But the archdiocese had only allocated $25,000 for an appeal, which would be carried on by two of Lynn's defense lawyers, Thomas A. Bergstrom and Allison Khashkelis of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney. The remaining two defense lawyers, Lindy and Alan J. Tauber, have basically been cut loose, Lindy said. Lindy has represented Msgr. Lynn since 2004.

Lindy's remarks prompted a bizarre two-paragraph response from the archdiocese public relations office that baffled the archdiocese's own lawyers:

"Msgr. Lynn's counsel is strongly convicted that there were many errors at trial and the sentence is disproportionate to other punishment meted out to administrators for this same charge. This strong belief and care for Msgr. Lynn and his family has resulted in Msgr. Lynn's primary counsel, Tom Bergstrom, deciding to complete the appeal for Msgr. Lynn largely on a pro bono basis."

"The Archdiocese has and continues to believe Msgr. Lynn is entitled to all the rights afforded him by civil law, including the appeal, and we noted when he was sentenced that we hope that the ultimate decision in Msgr. Lynn's regard is just and merciful."

You have to wonder who writes this stuff.

First of all, the monsignor's defense lawyer stood up in court today and argued that Lynn is the first administrator in the Commonwealth to be charged under the child endangerment statute. There are no other convictions to compare Lynn's to, as well as no other "punishment meted out to administrators for this same charge."

Secondly, the defense lawyers aren't seeking a "just and merciful" punishment for the monsignor, they seek to overturn his conviction on the grounds that he never should have been charged under the EWOC statute in the first place because it didn't apply to him. These contradictions were pointed out to Kenneth A. Gavin, the archdiocese official who issued the statement. His response was, "I can't say much more than the fact that Tom Bergstrom has decided to complete the appeal for Msgr. Lynn largely on a pro-bono basis."

We got that Ken. In response to the archdiocese's statement, Jeff Lindy, one of the archdiocese's defense lawyers, put out his own statement: "I have no idea what that statement means," Lindy wrote of the archdiocese missive. "Is the Archdiocese continuing to support Msgr. Lynn or not? If they are, then they would pay his attorneys' fees on appeal. But it looks like they are no longer supporting him because they've told Tom Bergstrom to have his big firm continue on the case pro bono, and they've told me that whether or not I stay on the case, they're not paying my legal fees on appeal. It certainly appears that the Archdiocese is pulling their financial support for Msgr. Lynn at precisely the point in time when he needs their support the most."

"If we were ever going to win this case, this is we're going to win it -- on appeal, to a dispassionate appellate court that will hear out case and our arguments with an open mind and not prejudge the case as the trial court did," Lindy said, taking a swipe at Judge Sarmina.

"I've been setting up this EWOC issue since long before Msgr. Lynn was indicted when I represented him alone, and then during the trial, my partner, Alan Tauber, persuasively wrote a brief on this issue," Lindy wrote in an email. "It really doesn't make any sense for the Archdiocese to now say that it needs to cap the legal fees that it's paying to Msgr. Lynn."

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput visited Msgr. Lynn in prison early last month. The two men met for 90 minutes, at which time the archbishop supposedly told the monsignor he had his back. But actions speak louder than words. The archdiocese has previously spent $11.6 million in 2011-12 to defend itself in response to the most recent grand jury report. Now Lynn's fate during the appeal process has been entrusted to a pro bono legal team.

To Lindy, a lawyer who's been working for the archdiocese for the past eight years, it doesn't make a lot of sense. No wonder he was shaking his head outside the Criminal Justice Center.

"It's the same institution that brought you the shredding of the documents," Lindy said, referring to Cardinal Bevilacqua's decision back in 1994 to order the shredding of a list of active abuser priests in ministry that Lynn had compiled.


  1. Of course the Archdiocese won't support his appeal. The Monsignor is taking a bullet for the Cardinal and needs to just stay in prison for three years, then retire to a life of luxury and international cruises. Then the church can "put this whole crisis behind us."

    Welcome back, Ralph... missed you.

    City of Angels Blog
    is another source of information on the epidemic of pedophilia among Catholic priests nationwide.

  2. Saw this quote in two different articles so I assume the wording is accurate: "Msgr. Lynn's counsel is strongly convicted ......
    Perhaps it is correct and Lynn's counsel should be "convicted".

    1. why not look up the word "convicted" if you are not aware of the meaning in other contexts than legally. The sisters taught us that if you look it up yourself you won't forget it.

  3. Glad to see you again, Ralph! I also missed your reporting the past few weeks. I am not surprised that the Archdiocese is pulling the plug. I think it knows that many other cases may need to be funded in the near future.

    As far as the wording for Bergstrom completing the appeal on a "largely pro-bono basis." What does that mean? They are going to pay out the last 25K to Bergstrom and then he will work for nothing? Because lawyers that work pro-bono, I am sure, don't see 25K upfront. That does not sound like it is being 'done or donated without charge,' which is, correct me if I am wrong, the definition of 'pro-bono.' The Archdiocese has an interesting way of wording things, but then again, so does the Catechism.

  4. WOW. The AOP is basically letting Lynn and his lawyers hang out to dry. This will have an incredible chilling effect on any other lawyer working on a criminal matter for an individual AOP official or employee. Ethically, you feel bound to represent a client to the bitter end; but an appeal can cost a much as the original trial; IOW, 750k. You are talking about poring over weeks of trial in the record, exhibits and lots of case law on substantive and evidentiary issues. It is a monumental task. And this is by no means, a frivolous appeal. I can't believe that the AOP expects a firm to eat this type of expense. There has probably been some promise to transfer some of the AOP's fee earning work to Buchanan Ingersoll in return for them eating this cost and staffing it appropriately.

    The only other thought is that everybody knows now that Lynn is going to serve most of his sentence regardless of the outcome of the appeal. But the precedent alone for high officials in the AOP should be enough for them to send in an A-team. If Lynn's conviction is upheld, then Rigali; and other officials could face charges under similar theories.

    On the other hand, Lindy is free to comment on the AOP because the AOP is not his client--Lynn is his client--even when an organization or other entity foots the bill.

    1. I guess there are not any idle lawyers except for an occasional blogger , all are busy.If Buchannon Ingersoll want to represent Msgr. Lynn who they respect and care for, so be it. Do you have some interest in the lawyers who would be willing to represent the AD? Let's hope for a swift and just appeal so he won't serve all that time not deserved.

  5. Needles to say, the situation is a mess and the financial resources of the AOP have been redistributed across the board. I neither understand nor agree with the glee with which some view the conviction of Msgr. Lynn. There is nothing to be gleeful about when corruption infects society. There needs to be resolve to bring ALL of society to understand the fragile state of children, youth, young adults -- the whole spectrum of humanity -- when it comes to sexual intimacy and the betrays of that through sexually abusive behaviors. The strict moral code which Catholicism proposes about sexuality seems much more on target than the social constructions proposed by many groups. Keeping the focus on the "main thing" -- human worth -- gets compromised when $$$$ becomes the focus of attention. Look at the sexual harassment settlements in Allentown and Scranton Public Schools and so many other spots and one will find that this is simply the tip of a huge iceberg.

  6. "The strict moral code which Catholicism proposes about sexuality seems much more on target than the social constructions proposed by many groups."

    Hmmmmm ... the strict moral code of Roman Catholicism has been proposed for centuries and centuries ... and the result has been? There is a difference between talking the talk and walking the walk. Just ask any of the victims of those living under the umbrella of a 'strict moral code.'

    adam fisher

    1. As one UNDER the strict moral code -- walking the walk is the REAL deal and it is difficult often enough but NOT impossible. One must WILL to be good, to do GOOD things (as well as bad); that doesn't happen by accident. That the offenders KEWN bettr is clear, that they FAILED to do the good that should have been done, that's evident. Violations of moral law prove about as much as violations of civil statutes.

  7. Insurance has been depleted,now weighing which properties to unload with future cases.same modous operundi regardless of state,country.the legal charades
    for money are sad knowing the direct link of damage to the victims.m.t.sarmina strikes swiftly with justice.

  8. Dear Mr. Cipriano,

    I'm wondering if there has been any effort to move up the chain of command in identifying additional culprits in the Phil. clerics. Specifically, two Axillary Bishops are noted in the most current Grand Jury Report, one if whom is Michael Burbidge, now Bishop of the Raleigh Diocese in North Carolina, as being the clerics that Lynn reported to. Will the DA's office move to address their role? Having suffered my own abuse at the hand of clerics in the Raleigh Diocese, I am anxious to see the arm of justice served down here. Please share with us what you know.

  9. I would love to be wrong on this, but my sense is that after a decade of investigating the Catholic Church in Philadelphia, the district attorney's office is moving on. That's good news for a bunch of bishops formerly from Philadelphia, including Bishops Cullen and Cistone.

  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. Did anyone read that the ADOP is selling Villa St. Joseph, in an effort to close the 6 million dollar deficit the Archdiocese has? Anyone get the feeling they need to free up some cash to pay out a few settlements? What did they do with the shamed Priests being housed there? (Some were sent there for a life of prayer and penance)

    1. It's a different Villa St. Joseph. The one for the "Prayer and Penance Program" is in Darby, PA. The one they are auctioning off is in Ventnor, NJ.

  12. I saw this quote and it made me think of Lynn:

    The hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict.
    Martin Luther King, Jr.


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