Thursday, April 30, 2015

"Can You Call For A Sheriff, Please"

By Ralph Cipriano

Defense attorney Thomas A. Bergstrom was trying to convince Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina that she didn't have the authority to send his client, Msgr. William J. Lynn, back to jail.

The judge, however, wasn't buying it. "Bail revoked," she ruled. The prisoner is "ordered back into custody."

"Can you call for a sheriff please," the judge cooly instructed a court officer. Then she disappeared back into chambers.

Moments later, a sheriff's deputy showed up to take away the monsignor, who had sat quietly with his head down during the half-hour proceedings. After 18 months in jail and 16 months of house arrest, the official scapegoat for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia had his ticket punched for the bus back to prison, so he could continue his atonement for the sins of the church.

Judge Sarmina convened a hearing at 9 a.m. this morning in Courtroom 601 of the Criminal Justice Center to address a motion filed by the district attorney's office to revoke bail and send Lynn back to jail.

Arguing on behalf of the Commonwealth was Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington, the prosecutor who put Lynn away. On June 22, 2012, a jury heeded Blessington's arguments and convicted the monsignor on one count of endangering the welfare of a child.

Judge Sarmina, who presided over Lynn's trial, then sentenced the monsignor to 3 to 6 years in jail.

Blessington, who with his thick mop of white hair and droopy mustache looks like he stepped out of a Frederic Remington painting, told the judge that this was the fourth time he's had to make this argument, "the fourth time this guilty defendant should be denied bail."

Lynn got out of jail when the state Superior Court on Dec. 26, 2013, overturned his conviction and ordered the prisoner to be "released forthwith." Judge Sarmina, however, decided instead to impose conditions of house arrest on Lynn.

The monsignor was confined to living on two floors of St. William's, a Northeast Philadelphia rectory, where he had to wear an electronic bracelet on his ankle at all times, and report weekly to a court officer supervising his release.

Enter the state Supreme Court. In a 4-1 decision on Monday, the justices reversed the reversal of the state Superior Court. The state Supreme Court's 60-page opinion, however, focused on a narrow section of the state's original 1972 child endangerment law, namely the question of whether Lynn fell under the law's definition of an "other person supervising the welfare of a child."

The law says, "A parent, guardian or other person supervising the welfare of a child under 18 years of age commits an offense if he knowingly endangers the welfare of a child by violating a duty of care, protection or support."

 Former District Attorney Lynne Abraham and a 2005 grand jury had already stated in writing that the law didn't apply to Lynn. The state Superior Court decided that under the original child endangerment law, Lynn did not meet the definition of an "other person supervising the welfare of a child."

The argument was that Lynn was a supervisor of priests who had direct contact with children, not somebody who had direct contact with children, such as a parent or guardian. The state's child endangerment law has since been amended to include supervisors such as Lynn.

Four state Supreme Court justices, however, decided on Monday that under the original child endangerment law, Lynn fit the definition of an "other person supervising the welfare of a child."

So the state Supreme Court justices reversed the reversal of the state Superior Court, and sent the case back to Superior Court, where other appellate issues remain from Lynn's trial. Such as whether Judge Sarmina erred by allowing into evidence 21 supplemental cases of sex abuse in the archdiocese dating back to 1948, three years before the 64-year-old Lynn was born.

Reading the state Supreme Court's 60-page opinion, Blessington said, "brings it all back in sharp focus what this defendant did."

When Lynn went to jail, he became the first Catholic administrator in the country to be imprisoned for not adequately supervising predator priests.

It was a "historic decision," Blessington told the judge, "because of historically bad conduct."

Here Blessington was talking about the sins of the church as revealed in a 2005 grand jury report. The grand jury found that two Philadelphia archbishops, the late Cardinals John Krol and Anthony Bevilacqua, had orchestrated a systematic cover up spanning four decades that successfully kept from prosecution 63 priests who had sexually abused hundreds of children.

The grand jury found that Lynn, the archdiocese's former secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004, employed "incompetent investigation techniques" and kept parishioners and police in the dark at the behest of Cardinal Bevilacqua.

Lynn's lawyers countered that one of the monsignor's first official acts was to draw up a list of 35 priests in active ministry accused of abuse. Formerly confidential church documents revealed that Cardinal Bevilacqua subsequently ordered Lynn's list to be shredded.

Lynn was still guilty of shielding child abusers, Blessington argued. The monsignor "facilitated and supported monsters in clerical garb who destroyed the souls of children, Blessingon told the court, quoting Judge Sarmina's previous words of condemnation against Lynn.

"The conviction's back in, he should go back in," Blessington told the judge about Lynn. "It's that simple."

"You were right," Blessington told the judge about her original decision that the 1972 child endangerment law applied to Lynn. "They were wrong," Blessington said about the Superior Court's reversal of Lynn's conviction.

After Blessington sat down, and it was Bergstrom's turn to argue, he began by saying, "I think we need to take a deep breath."

Bergstrom told Judge Sarmina that when the state Supreme Court made its ruling, the Supreme Court "did not affirm [Lynn's] conviction."

"I don't think you have the authority to revoke his bail," Bergstrom told the judge. The Superior Court order calling for Lynn to be "discharged forthwith" is "still in effect," Bergstrom asserted.

Judge Sarmina, however, wasn't buying it. They only reason she let Lynn out of jail, the judge told Bergstrom, was because of the state Superior Court's reversal of Lynn's conviction.

"I have to consider the fact that I did get it wrong," she said about whether the state's original child endangerment law applied to Lynn.

The state Supreme Court, however, decided she got it right, the judge said. So that means Lynn belongs back in jail.

Bergstrom got upset.

"What gives you the right to revoke bail," he argued.

"What gives me the authority," she answered. "That the only reason I let him out," she repeated, was the reversal of Lynn's conviction by the state Superior Court, which has now been reversed.

Blessington agreed.

"It's a farce," the assistant district attorney said about Bergstrom's arguments. "A reversal of a reversal is a status quo."

That means his conviction still stands, and so does his sentence, Blessington argued.

Bergstrom began to respond, but the judge warned, "Don't raise your voice."

Richard Lawrence,  a pretrial officer in charge of conditional release, was sworn in to testify about whether the monsignor has complied with Judge Sarmina's terms of house arrest.

Earlier in the hearing, Judge Sarmina had raised the question of whether Lynn was making too many trips to Bergstrom's office. She preferred that Bergstrom go see Lynn at the rectory.

Bergstrom explained that Lynn hasn't made many trips to his office. Most of Lynn's visits had to do with responding to a civil suit filed against the archdiocese by Billy Doe. He's former 10-year-old altar boy whose alleged rape was the basis for Lynn's conviction for endangering the welfare of a child.

"Father Lynn has observed every possible rule," Lawrence told the judge. "He never out more than one day a week."

When he does go out, Lynn always "comes home early," Lawrence told the judge. The monsignor has always been very humble and done everything that was asked of him.

"I have no complaint at all," Lawrence said.

It didn't seem to make any difference to the judge.

After she ordered Lynn to be taken back into custody, the monsignor, dressed in a sweatshirt and jeans, shrugged his shoulders and went meekly along with the deputy.

Before Lynn left, Lawrence came over and shook his hand.

"I tried," the court official told the monsignor.

Blessington declined comment, saying he never speaks to reporters. Even when he wins.

Outside the Criminal Justice Center, Bergstrom was still seething.

"We're not gonna surrender on this," Bergstom told a crowd of reporters.

"She has no jurisdiction," Bergstrom said about Judge Sarmina. The state Supreme Court has remanded the Lynn case back to the state Superior Court, the defense lawyer said. And that's where Bergstrom was headed, to file an emergency motion for bail.

"She's been wrong before and she's wrong again," Bergstrom said about Judge Sarmina. "We're gonna prove it."

Asked if his client was surprised by the judge's ruling, Bergstrom replied, "He expected it. We both did. This wasn't a surprise. Trust me."

Bergstrom has previously described Lynn as perhaps the only client he ever defended who was truly innocent.

Lynn never met Billy Doe, Bergstrom said. The monsignor had left his post as secretary for clergy for five years when the former altar boy came forward to make his accusations.

One man and one man alone has repeatedly been held accountable for the sins of the archdiocese, the defense lawyer lamented.

"It's a modern-day lynching," Bergstrom said.


  1. Sarmina is one cold-hearted bitch. Her morals and ethics during the trial should be questioned and is eh fit to be a judge should be reviewed. Her change from criminal to civil should be one question that needs to be answered and the timing of the change.

  2. Hey Blessington - Need any new dirty jokes or pictures to share with your friends? Was seth on your list that you passed all the "good stuff" to?

  3. Go to jail. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.00. As these monsters posing as "men of God" toyed with the bodies of innocent children, Lynn surreptitiously "transferred" them to new locations (where they sexually abused even more children) instead of reporting their crimes to the police. Lynn did not even have the Christian decency to warn parents that he was placing these pedophile "men of God" around their children! How is THAT for "morals and ethics?" He richly deserves this punishment! It is strange how Catholic "apologists" can always find the time to question the morals and ethics of various judges, prosecutors, witnesses, and juries... yet can never bring themselves to question the morals and ethics of these pedophile "men of God" and their enablers within the hierarchy of their religious sect. In these cases, superior morals and ethics were displayed by the Judicial System, not the "Church."

  4. Max Baer created a Pandora's box of problems for school superintendents everywhere in Pennsylvania where an opportunistic DA can file criminal charges to put in jail those guys who did not know a child was abused by a teacher until he was informed of such. The Child Endangerment Law amended in 2007 does not apply to Lynn as he left the position in 2004. Even more irresponsible was Chief Justice Max Baer's wide expansion of the law as if to say that Lynn was in charge of children when he was not in charge of children and the word guardian does not apply to a teacher in charge of children, but a family member, friend put in charge of a child by a court of law.

    Yes, Sarmina is cold hearted as expected. Superior Court is not pleased with Baer's handling of the appeal as he went far beyond his parameters at coming with that kind of legal reasoning which does not match the current parameters of the law as written.

    Hopefully Bergstrom will have much help from his legal friends in crafting a tight appeal to Superior Court to perk their interest in granting Lynn immediate release from prison to home confinement until all aspects are settled. Even better would be for Superior Court to insist on crediting home confinement toward his remaining prison term which would be only two months more and to let him serve the remaining time in home confinement until released on probation.

    Fast action needed to report both Baer and Sarmina along with Ceisler to the ABA for disciplinary considerations. Baer needs to be told what can he do and what cannot he do as a Supreme Court Justice. To interpret the law is one thing, but to expand the parameters of the law beyond what is already written is another thing.

    1. Tk you for your comments and knowledge. Someone please report Sarmina and cite/site Blessington for his unprofessional child like drama behavior.

    2. Yes, let's hurry up and report all of these judges, prosecutors, witnesses, and jurors... Too bad your "heroes" didn't act with the same urgency when they knew they had pedophile priests in their midst. What did these "paragons" of morality and superior ethical behavior do? Quietly moved numerous pedophile priests to new locations (without even the basic decency to warn parents) where they sexually abused even more innocent children. All aspects are now settled. This "worm" (Lynn) is in prison, where he belongs!

    3. John Jay College released its findings on the priest abuse cases of the 60's and 70's; It came to the conclusion that All the priests were Homosexual predators, not pedophiles! If you're going to rant get your facts straight and rant at the right culprits!!!

    4. The John Jay report did NOT report that ALL priests were homosexual predatore instead of pedophile predators. You should re-read the report. I doubt that you read any of it, if you had read it, you would see just how ludicrous your statement is. The facts ARE straight, and the enabler of pedophile Catholic priests (Lynn) is in jail, where he deserves to be. The outright lies, whining and snivelling of you and other Catholic "apologists" is icing on the cake, and music to my ears! Whine on, "Defender of Pedophiles!"

  5. How long is Msgr. Lynn going to be in jail? Until mid-July? 3-6yrs. 3 Years are up in July and this thing should be over. I am sure that is not the reality.

  6. If anyone is shocked by this ruling you truly have not followed this trial. It was only a matter of time. It is time though at your dinner table tonight to lift a glass whether it be a glass of water, milk or soda to Seth Williams, Patrick Blessington, Judge Sarmina and everyone else in the DA office who made sure justice was done, and as your glasses are raised let us not forget Billy Doe and all other victims of clergy abuse who have come forward to take on one of the worlds most powerful organizations and knocked them down a peg or two to end the lies and harboring of dangerous individuals.

    Job well done guys.

    1. Not really. If you give people the power to interpret the law way beyond what its current interpretation is, then you are on the road of a country run by dictators. Real issue is the credibility of Billy Doe and the many variations of stories he tells on a certain day which does not jibe with the facts and the behavior of Judges Sarmina and Ceisler in refusing motions to strike by the defense. Plus the piling on of charges, including 21 charges that dated BEFORE Lynn was appointed and a mass influx of victims testifying to abuses suffering decades past. This turned a trial into a kangaroo court and the only thing not in City Hall was a borrowed guillotine from France. The mischaracterization of the Child Endangerment law of 1972 and its revised 2007 version to get a conviction at any means possible while taking advantage of willing judges to win a case is not the way to prosecute cases along with the influx of emotional victims. No judge would permit such a display in his or her courtroom with the exception of Sarmina and Ceisler.

      Better is expected from all those we put in office and give our confidence to.

    2. and here's to Danny Gallagher - billy doe - sticking that needle in his arm for his daily fix and Sheila for whatever meds she is on this month. hope it's the last one...

    3. I am sure with the right therapy that is a life that is behind him. His monsters are either locked away or dead. I wish I could say the same for Lynn He will be reintroduced to his monsters and I hope for his sake they don't end up behind him.

    4. The only monsters in his life are his father, brother and uncles. which one was it?

    5. Msgr Lynn, The "Round Mound Of Child Rape Escape", hero to Catholics an pedophiles everywhere, will hopefully be beaten to death in prison.

    6. You are a disgusting human being in order to have said that. Is there someone out there who hopes that you are beateen to death?

    7. If you hope that MSGR Lynn is killed in prison, maybe someone should kill you. Meet me Balitimore and you will get your wish. May God have mercy on your soul. You heartless, worthless waste of a human being.

  7. There's a God above who sees and knows all things and He will protect Msgr. Lynn this day.

    1. Really??? Was your God protecting him (Lynn) when he moved pedophile priests to new locations where they sexually assaulted even more innocent children? Why did your God fail to protect the most innocent members of the "flock" (children) from the sexual abuse of countless pedophile Catholic priests? Your God sees all and knows all... "He" just couldn't seem to protect innocent children that "He" knew were being sexually abused. Some God. How pleased "He" must be to see the terrible things his "men of God" have done to children.

    2. Be cautious when referring to God as a "He" !

      If we are to believe a Catholic priest out of Boston who died for 48 minutes and claims he met God, God is a "She", and does he have the archdiocese up there in a uproar because he has gone public.

      Don't forget the bible does not describe God as either a man or woman.

      It would be hilarious though since the Catholic church treats women like second class citizens.

    3. What Bible are you reading? From the Ancient of Days to the Son of Man, God is a he.

    4. Wrong again. Find one spot in the bible that he is described as a male with male parts. Find a spot in the bible were she is described as a woman with female parts.

      We refer to ships, automobiles and other things as she. Does that make it a woman ?

      How many animals did Moses put on the Ark ?

    5. How about the pronoun He? If I remember correctly wasn't Jesus circumcized?

    6. Jesus said child rape was unforgivable in Matt 18:6, so let's ope Msgr Lynn is being beaten every day in jail

    7. What a wickedly sick thing for which to hope. You need prayers and a therapist.

    8. Why does Anon 12:17 need a therapist ? I don't condone violence but Lynn did make his own bed and if he would have thought about what happens to child offenders in prison he may not be looking through bars today. There is states in this great country of ours that do have the penalty of death for repeat or multiple victim sexual offenders. Without going back to check my texts I do believe the state of LA. has already put to death one offender for that reason. So anon 12:17 I believe only wants Lynn to be punished, he or she could have wished him to be killed.

    9. Apparently anonymous 12:17 is not the only one in need of a therapist. You are an irrational person with a perverted sense of justice.

    10. There are outcomes for the crime Lynn has been convicted , its called prison justice Hopefully Lynn will repent but most important others in his position will learn from the mistakes he has made. To be a leader instead of a follower no matter what vow he has taken with church hierarchy.

    11. Not to be argumentative, but can I say I hope that Lynn meets with no violence in prison? I think that every convict should serve his sentence without violence. The sentence is enough. I believe violence in prison should be curtailed and, in fact, eliminated. I also believe that Lynn should have proper healthcare in prison, unlike Engelhardt, apparently. Am I wrong? A person in prison should be able to serve their sentence and pay their debt to society without stupid violence. He did wrong. Let him serve his sentence. I'm so tired of all this talk about prison violence and perversions. Stop it. We have too many men in prison to let this go on.

    12. I also think that one of the conditions for parole is admission of guilt including remorse. No telling whether Lynn will serve a 3 year sentence or a 6 year sentence. Maybe somewhere in between. That list of 35 priests who had sex with children may be weighing on him. He probably should have done something. Resigned his position at least. Just saying ... hard to deal with children being forced to have sex with men of the cloth. Awful.

    13. SarahTX2: Not only will this enabler of pedophile Catholic priests (Lynn) refuse to repent, he will be welcomed back with open arms by the hierarchy of his religious sect. They will praise him, hail him as a true "man of God," and continue on as if he had not endangered the lives of innocent children by placing pedophile priests in their midst. Nothing "weighs" on this monster... he didn't even have the moral decency to warn parents that he was placing known pedophile priests among them! Resign his position? HAH! He will sacrifice the most innocent of the "flock" (children) each and every day before he gives up his "gravy train" position in the hierarchy of his religious sect. After all, what is the destruction of countless souls of innocent children compared to his position of power and prestige within the one "true" faith!

  8. I can agree that God will look over Lynn. That's because God wants to deal with him himself for not protecting his children while calling himself "a man of God"

  9. What do they teach people in law school? Make up new laws by expanding the parameters of current laws to include what they want to justify like convicting Lynn of child endangerment under a 2007 version of the law when he left the position in 2004. Or interpret the law according to the current structure of the law as written and judge accordingly.

    And what is the role of the State Supreme Court? Make up new laws by interpreting wildly to justify what you want to say in he brief or stay within the parameters of the current law as drafted and judge accordingly.

    That is it and what Baer did brought dishonor on the bench. He knew very well that his role as Justice was to stay within the parameters of the law as it was written and passed by the legislature, not go on a mission to create a new law in the child endangerment law to justify the jailing of Lynn in his brief. Baer knows that there is no greater court in Pennsylvania than the State Supreme Court on which he sits on the bench. I did not count the United States Supreme Court to make my point clearer about the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court.

    A good justice would have taken the time to rule accordingly given the parameters of the law. What the legislature passed is what we have to work with. Since Lynn had left the position in 2004, we cannot use the 2007 amendment of the 1972 Child Endangerment law to convict him. And that was the issue facing Baer and the Supreme Court justices.

    Having all this in front of him, Baer would have smelled like roses had he simply advised the others to concur with him and drop the case against Lynn for the above mentioned reason. Had he done this, the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court would have done the job it was intended to do.

    Lynn served nearly 18 months of prison time plus 16 months confined to a rectory with ankle monitor affixed to his ankle. He could not leave the rectory to take a walk in the neighborhood. This makes it 34 out of 36 months served in both prison and home confinement which is counted towards prison time.

    Because of Baer, more work will have to be done by Bergstrom, his assistant and the Superior Court to hear the appeals that will have to be filed on Lynn's behalf. When Superior Court concurs with the appeal, then what will DA Seth Williams do after having a fit? Go running rack to Baer and his fellow justices for relief after he put a golf ball in the water hazard?

    Better is expected from those we put in charge.[

    1. Did you read the ruling? The Court ruled that the original law applied to Lynn regardless of whether the law was later clarified in 2007. The Court took the time to examine the parameters of the original law, and they ruled accordingly (which I think is what you're saying a good justice does).

      According to Ralph's reporting:

      "'The decisions of neither the grand jury nor a prior District Attorney prove the meaning of the EWOC [endangering the welfare of a child] statute, which is determined by analyzing the plain language contained therein,' the Supreme Court wrote. 'What the members of the grand jury or the prior District Attorney believed about the scope of the statute is irrelevant.'"

    2. Yes. I read what Ralph wrote but what Baer did ,does not hold water. This will call for a retrial of Lynn under a special prosecutor with much of the original charges redacted as you cannot add cases that happened BEFORE he assumed office. Witnesses from decades past will not be called to give their testimony as we will eliminate piling on. BD the sole complainant. Defense will attack his credibility. Issue to be argued is whether or not the 2007 Child Endangerment Act will apply to Lynn as he had left the position in 2004. Suburban jury to consider this in surburban court, not Philly. If found guilty, punishment time served and released from custody. If found innocent record will be expunged. Once said and done, that is it. No other option as we do not have kangaroo trials in Philly.

  10. SarahTX2 I respect everything you have said about violence in prison. However, the violence that constant looking over ones shoulder is part of the punishment for those incarcerated. I believe it is a deterrent to some people never to commit crimes and for others not to reoffend and return. Without it prisons would be nothing but cozy hotels were you have a place to put your head, get three squares and health insurance.

    You are not being argumentative and what you feel inside and write down for this blog should be respected like others want their comments respected.

    You have a great day.

    1. Thank you, much appreciated. I don't know about prisons in Pennsylvania, but I do know about the network of prisons in Texas. There is no air conditioning in summer's 100 degrees. No heat in winter. Most have no money to buy anything. Infectious diseases spread like wildfire. And worst of all, the Texas prisons are essentially institutions for the mentally ill. That's why I plead for ending violence in prisons. Combining vicious violence with mental illness just seems barbaric to me. Almost as barbaric as fake celibate priests seeking sexual gratification from children.

      But I appreciate your viewpoint also. I'm not pretending to know what's to be done with our huge incarcerated population. I only wish that violence in prison would be considered as great a crime as violence in our civil society is. At the same time, I have to agree that the prospect of violence in prison does serve as a huge deterrent. So there are valid arguments both ways. It's one of those conundrums where we can pick a side while respecting the validity of the other point of view.

      I hope Lynn admits his guilt and feels enormous remorse. Even if he doesn't, the Lynn case represents a massive warning sign to every Catholic administrator in the country. The cover-up is worse than the crime. Always.

      Thanks again for hearing me out.


Thoughtful commentary welcome. Trolling, harassing, and defaming not welcome. Consistent with 47 U.S.C. 230, we have the right to delete without warning any comments we believe are obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.