Saturday, May 4, 2013

Local District Attorney Missing In Action

By Ralph Cipriano


Here are the questions posed by National Catholic Reporter that District Attorney Seth Williams refused to answer:

1. At the plea bargain hearing of Edward V. Avery, why didn't the district attorney ask the former priest if he had raped Billy Doe?

2. What is the district attorney's explanation for why he was able to charge Msgr. Lynn with endangering the welfare of a child [EWOC] when a previous district attorney, Lynne Abraham, and a previous grand jury, looked at the same state law and declared that Msgr. Lynn couldn't be charged with EWOC?

3. Why did the district attorney deem Billy Doe a credible victim when he gave wildly varying accounts of the alleged rapes, and told a fantastic story about being raped by three different predators, without any corroborating witnesses or physical evidence? A story contradicted by Billy Doe's mother, his older brother, and priests, nuns and teachers from St. Jerome's?

4. On Jan. 28, 2010, in the district attorney's office, the district attorney interviewed Billy Doe in the presence of his parents. Why were they permitted to sit in when it is the usual practice of both the district attorney's office and the Philadelphia Police Department to interview an adult complainant separately?

5. Billy Doe said on the witness stand that it was the district attorney's office that referred  him to a civil attorney so that Billy Doe could sue the archdiocese for damages. Is he telling the truth? Did a member of the district attorney's office have a monetary interest in the outcome of the Engelhardt-Shero criminal trial?

You have to wonder what they're afraid of at the district attorney's office. The questions posed above are legitimate questions that should have been answered. They point to the integrity of the D.A.'s office and what kind of justice is being administered there.

To date, the D.A.'s only response to the National Catholic Reporter story was to have an assistant district attorney call an editor, engage in a whisper campaign, and try to talk the editor out of running the piece.

When that tact failed, there was no plan B.

It helps when the local media is asleep at the wheel. Maybe the stonewalling campaign will succeed and Seth Williams will get away with it.

But it's nothing anyone should be proud of. 

When you publish a 2011 grand jury report that contains more than 20 factual errors, and none are corrected, you have to question the competence of the district attorney's office. And the leadership of the man at the top. 

Perhaps a better use of time for the assistant district attorney who called National Catholic Reporter [Hello Mariana Sorensen] would have been to have her actually answer the questions. Or put her to work writing some corrections for that shameful grand jury report.

And if there are no good answers to the questions posed above, then perhaps somebody should be investigating the district attorney's office.


  1. Great questions,I believe a few of them should be asked by the FEDs.

  2. Ralph,

    Here’s a subset of corollary questions to #3 –

    3a) If the DA based his indictment (and subsequent arrests) on Billy Doe’s essentially uncorroborated Grand Jury testimony, why then did his office even bother to investigate Billy’s claims 20 months later - on the eve of the actual trial?

    3b) In the light of the obvious contradictions that the DA’s detectives uncovered, why didn’t the DA (at the very least) update the flawed Grand Jury Report which has been indelibly posted in Cyberspace for anyone in the world to read?

    I think that many of us are convinced that the Grand Jurors would never have indicted Avery, Lynn, Engelhardt or Shero had this investigation been done expeditiously and thoroughly from the very beginning.

    What an inordinate and preventable waste of time, treasure, reputation and taxpayer dollars!

  3. Ralph, the only one of the five questions with some significance may be number 3. Even there, cases do go to trial with significant inconsistencies and that's just what happens. Numbers 1, 2 and 4.....decisions made according to professional judgment and discretion. And, Question 5, if you are so inclined, refer the matter to the Chief Disciplinary Counsel of the Disciplinary Board, Paul Killion, and be prepared for nothing to happen. If you want the ultimate in outrage and indignity, file a complaint with Killion's minions.

    What I would really like to know is where the local media and journalism profession was when such lawyer-judge conduct scrutiny was sorely needed in major cases over the past several years? Where were you and other journalists when Luzerne County juveniles were getting hammered without legal representation in exchange for cash? Where were you and others in the media when the new Family Court Building downtown was up for sale at the highest levels of our PA Judicial System?

    Quite simply, there is nothing new or special going on in the clergy abuse trials prosecuted by the Phila DA. Judges and attorneys have very little professional scrutiny, oversight and review, so let's not all get shocked and outraged when we believe something is amiss or askew in a string of related criminal trials.

    1. So on question 4, should any young adult be allowed to have his or her parents in the room with them while being questioned? Especially if one is a police officer and knows how the system works? This may not have any bearing on this case, but if I'm a parent and my young adult child is arrested and charged, I'm going to want to be there with them when they are questioned. The DA's office has set the precedent.

    2. I think question 2 is absolutely relevant. Do others in Philadelphia now have to worry that they will be prosecuted under laws that were not in effect when their alleged crime took place?

  4. these defendants had their lives "put on hold" over 4 years ago when this "alleged assault" was first brought to the DA's attention on 1-30-2009, it took approximately a year before the "investigation" was launched, the grand jury subsequently was impaneled late 2010 and in February, 2011 indictments were issued, then, as reported by Ralph on more than one occasion, the DA's detectives then did their investigation after the report and the indictments in place. A good description of that investigation would be "ass backwards". There are no defense attornies in the grand jury proceeding, it's only the DA's orchestrated presentation, that was rubber stamped by the first judge in this particular case. Something is very amiss in these abuse cases and this needs to be investigated by either the state or the feds.

  5. Perhaps someday soon, the DA will have his opportunity to answer these and other questions - under oath.

  6. Thank you skiadvocat. I've said before that people are looking at this as something that never happens but juries are not lawyers or judges and as bad as some see these verdicts and this whole process this is what can happen when things go to trial and there are no guarantees that there will be a new trial or that these verdicts will be overturned. Lawyers tell me that they avoid court at all costs because verdicts are little more than a roll of the dice and disciplinary action against judges & DA's is even less likely.

  7. Anonymous, thanks for the acknowledgement. I feel that those who post here with very certain and definite opinions about the conduct of this DA and the trial processes here may be from the legal profession. If so, I wonder whether they would welcome, appreciate or encourage scrutiny and/or oversight of their decision-making, conduct and actions as it relates to their appearances in court, whether civil or criminal.

    If this review/scrutiny were ever to occur, let us be very realistic and are expecting fellow attorneys to pass judgment on their professional colleagues re the appropriateness of their actions and conduct.

    By the way, I come from a profession (law enforcement) where it seems like there are never enough people, agencies, bureaucrats, officials, etc. who are desperately interested in scrutinizing and second-guessing some very difficult decisions and dangerous conduct.

  8. The final outcome, guilty or not-guilty, has some value and importance. But what is more significant and relevant is the evidence, details, documents, etc. of the archdiocesan management that were produced and displayed. Such a total disregard for the safety, welfare, innocence and preciousness of our children – not only the victims but also the other children that were placed at risk for abuse.

    Look on the bright side. We have the pending archdiocesan civil suits to look forward to with Hamilton, Anderson, Monahan, and others leading the way. With all of those wonderful depositions and a much lower threshold for guilt/liability, things are definitely looking up for victims and their families here in the Delaware Valley.

    Hopefully Ralph will keep us posted on the civil proceedings as they develop and unfold.

  9. If this is the best we can expect from those we put on the job and if DA Seth Williams is satisfied with such a shoddy job of investigating a case that will put three priests and a teacher to jail for decades based on the false testimony of Billy Doe, then it will be a sad day in Philadelphia. If this is what we do in Philadelphia, then we should think about other criminal cases when people are arrested and convicted based on false inferences uttered by so called witnesses who think this person did this crime. Television shows a glam job of DA work in putting people in jail as all the convictions are obtained in 54 minutes of a show.

    It is safe to say that most criminals are rightfully convicted based on irrefutable evidence against them. But there will always be some who were in the wrong place at the wrong time and got nailed for life in prison without parole.

    I hope that Lynn's conviction will be overturned and then the convictions of Shero and Englehardt. It will not only take work of dedicated lawyers, but the honesty of a scrupluous appellate court judge.

  10. It will not only take work of dedicated lawyers, but the honesty of a scrupulous appellate court judge.

    Dedicated Lawyers - dedicated to what end/purpose?

    Scrupulous appellate court judge - scruples?? You've got to be joking. No, wait a minute, let's get one from Luzerne County or maybe one involved in fleecing the citizenry in erecting the new Family Court building downtown.

    Scruple - definition - a doubt or hesitation that troubles the conscience or that comes from the difficulty of determining whether something is right

  11. No wonder Sorensen is 'whispering'. She is, I believe, the Grand Jury Report's primary author.

  12. "20 factual errors". That is just the tip of the iceberg. Those errors were not the result of sloppiness but were intentional distortions of the truth. The DA had an agenda and obviously the truth is not going to get in his way. Those 20 factual errors are just those related to Bill Doe. The entire grand jury report is filled with similar exaggerations and distortions. The media and the public have accepted the grand jury report as gospel. It is not.

    1. Well how do we wake up the rest of the media?

  13. DA = Coward

    Maybe the DA should focus more on his daily job and stop talking to the local sports radio personalities on his opinion of all the teams.

  14. Most likely scenario, Lynn will be vindicated in the appellate process but will have already served more than two years of the three years in prison. Then it will be stated that the DA's strategic goal was to convict Lynn in order to punish the Archdiocese for decades of past sins in not protecting children from predators. Putting at least one priest in jail would have vindicated victims of crimes that went unpunished because of the expiration of the statute of limitations, fear of shame from families if they incriminated the parish priest.

    Are kids int he Archdiocese better protected today? Yes as all who are in close contact must get criminal background checks including child abuse checks. Plus stringent rules are in place to keep separate boundaries between teacher and students, priest and altar boys, priests and volunteers culled from available children.

    And what would the Archdiocese do if a new child abuse cliam came up? Immediately notify the police regardless of how important a priest or teacher was.

    Times have changed and children are protected as well as children in public schools are. The paradigm of sexual abuse from teachers and employees has received so much publicity that those tempted to engage in such behavior are discouraged from even trying. Today's children will quickly out a predator should they ever encounter one.

    Still more work has to be done, but children today are better protected than children decades past.

  15. Ralph, just wanted to say great job on 1210 last night. Thank you for doing what you are doing. There were some good points last night, can we expect any more stories or any other media to cover this. Keep fighting the good fight.

  16. Thank you Ralph for helping to place the Msgr. Lynn trial and status in the light of truth. You raise many serious questions as regard the District Attoney's Office which will one day soon require responsible answers and appropriate action.

    Americans were horrified with the court in Perugia, Italy and how the DA was allowed to perpetrate such a miscarriage of justice. Yet, under our own noses, Seth Williams' need to rush to judgement with a 'guilty' verdict certainly paralleled many of the same trashings of our legal and justice systems, and with seeming impunity.

    Clearly an emotional issue, not only was the life, reputation and health of Msgr. Lynn at issue, but the welfare of an entire Church. The families of those violated deserve every justice - but not at the expense of truth. Seth Willams and his office appeared more concerned with preparing for the media than they did for court. In the process, families of victims, guilty parties and many innocents have suffered outrageous visibility perpetrated by media hungry pseudo professionals.

    We all know that justice will sooner or later be realized. It is my hope that the requisite healing can also begin - a healing you help bring about by providing truth for all.

  17. Ralph, great interview the other evening on 1210, you've really shed some light on a flawed grand jury report, and an equally flawed and absolutely illogical set of verdicts in the most recently concluded trial. May the proper authorities take notice and investigate this entire scenario starting with the empaneling of the grand jury by the DA. Keep up the good work.

    1. Agreed. I listened to the whole interview and it was compelling.
      The mainstream media will not be able to ignore this much longer.
      Keep up the great work, Ralph - and, readers, keep sharing, disseminating and canvassing for justice.
      Tweet, post to Facebook, share in blogs, e-mail 10 friends. Get the word out!

  18. "....equally flawed and absolutely illogical set of verdicts in the most recently concluded trial. May the proper authorities take notice and investigate this entire scenario starting with the empaneling of the grand jury by the DA..."

    Will someone please tell me when was the last time (first time?) something like this was ever done, i.e., investigating "flawed" and "illogical" verdicts as well as investigating the grand jury itself?

    I'm sure many of us can point to many cases on a daily basis that could certainly deserve the kind of scrutiny that some are calling for in this instance.

    1. What's your point? So we are supposed to sit here and be quiet when an injustice has occurred? There are actual bishops and priests who do belong in jail sitting pretty while Lynn, Engelhardt, and Shero pay for their sins(criminal activity). This city is an absolute disgrace in the way they put these innocent men in jail and the DA is nothing but a lying/cheating coward who is so outspoken in any other case but won't make a peep about this case.

    2. Because the D.A. considered this trail and the jury's verdict "historic" and because it appears from any reasonable standard that 4 men sit in jail for a crime that didn't happen and because it impacts the local Catholic Church which has 1.5 million members, such an investigation is certainly warranted.

    3. To Skiadvocat. Then get off your derriere and do something about it.
      Your post is pointless.

  19. What is to be done about this injustice you speak of? What legal remedies are at your disposal or those in the legal community who wish to pursue this injustice?

  20. justone1618.....

    I don't have an issue with the trial and verdict. Your reply is pointless.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  21. Anyone who thinks this was a FAIR TRIAL needs to have their heads examined and..... go to confession. I went through the system in 1976.
    I was involved in an automobile accident and one of my best friends died, the officer LIED on the stand and my parents 2nd set of lawyers nailed him to his lies. Lawyers were more worried about party affiliation than the facts. The judge in the case was looking to promote his own agenda. Some things don't change do they SETH and the JUDGE of record Do They? Do not ever count on my vote or my Locals vote, you are both frauds! I do not doubt that things like child abuse have happened not only in the catholic church but also many other places like public school or in the Jewish Faith and I agree it is an abominable action. There are too many inconsistencies in Billy Does' testimony to be true. Sacristies are small places (and they echo) and in the time frame stated someone would have heard something over a 6 hour period!!!! The JUDGE allowed counts against the accused that should not have been read to the jury. (SHE said she was sorry!!!) If these men of God are convicted I certainly HOPE THAT SETH AND THE JUDGE NEVER HAVE A GOOD NIGHTS SLEEP FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIVES!!


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