Wednesday, February 10, 2016

D.A. Loses Appeal In Msgr. Lynn Case; Bail Motion May Be Next

CBy Ralph Cipriano

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams lost an appeal in state Superior Court this morning in his crusade to keep Msgr. William J. Lynn behind bars.

Williams had asked the full, nine-member court to review a Dec. 22nd decision by a three-court panel of Superior Court judges that reversed Lynn's conviction and ordered a new trial. But in a one-sentence decision released this morning, the Superior Court announced that the D.A.'s application "requesting reargument" of the case before the full court had been "DENIED."

Lynn has remained behind bars pending appeals.  The 64-year-old monsignor is currently working for 19 cents an hour as the prison librarian at the State Correctional Institute in Waymart, Pa. But now that the state Superior Court has ruled on the D.A.'s appeal, it will surprise nobody if Lynn's lawyers file a motion for bail.

Meanwhile, the D.A. has a decision to make; whether he will appeal the state Superior Court decision overturning Lynn's conviction to the state Supreme Court, where he has been successful in the past. The D.A. has not yet issued any public pronouncements on what he will do. But in a press conference last month, Williams vowed to do whatever it takes to keep Lynn in jail, including another appeal to the state Supreme Court.

On June 22, 2012, a Philadelphia Common Pleas Court jury found Lynn guilty of a single charge of endangering the welfare of a child; but the alleged "victim" in the case was the infamous former altar boy known as "Billy Doe." Lynn became the first Catholic administrator in the country to be sent to jail for failing to control a sexually abusive priest.

On July 24, 2012, Judge M. Teresa Sarmina sentenced Lynn to three to six years in prison, but twice in the past two years, the state Superior Court has reversed the monsignor's conviction. The legal drama has kept the monsignor shuffling between jail and house arrest.

Lynn had served 18 months of his sentence on Dec. 26, 2013 when a panel of three state Superior Court judges -- John T. Bender, Christine L. Donohue and John L. Musmanno -- unanimously reversed the monsignor's conviction the first time and ordered him "released forthwith." But Judge Sarmina didn't agree, and instead conditions that amounted to house arrest. In doing so, the judge voiced concerns that if she granted the bail motion, Lynn might flee to the Vatican.

Under Judge Sarmina's orders, Lynn was confined to living on two floors of a church rectory in Northeast Philadelphia. He had to wear an electronic ankle bracelet at all times and needed the permission of his parole officer to visit his doctor or lawyer.

Lynn had spent 16 months under house arrest on April 27th, when the state Supreme Court, after an appeal by the D.A., reversed the reversal by the Superior Court. Three days later, Judge Sarmina granted a motion by the D.A.'s office to revoke bail and send Lynn back to jail to serve out the remainder of his sentence.

Lynn will have served his minimum sentence of three years this October, when he would be up for parole.

In their most recent reversal, the same panel of three state Superior Court judges ruled that the trial court had "abused its discretion" by allowing 21 supplemental cases of sex abuse to be admitted as evidence against Lynn.

The 21 cases dated back to 1948, three years before Lynn was born, and took up at least 25 days of the 32-day trial. In his appeal brief, Lynn's lawyer, Thomas A. Bergstrom, argued that the prosecution "introduced these files to put on trial the entire Archdiocese of Philadelphia, hoping to convict [Lynn] by proxy for the sins of the entire church."

The Superior Court judges agreed, ruling that the "probative value" of the supplemental cases "did not outweigh its potential for unfair prejudice, and that this potential prejudice was not overcome by the trial court's cautionary instructions."

In their decision, the Superior Court judges heavily criticized Judge Sarmina.

"None of the evidence concerned the actual victim in this case, and none of it directly concerned [Lynn's] prior dealings with either [former priest Edward V.] Avery or [Father James J.] Brennan," the Superior Court judges wrote, referring to the two co-defendants who were on trial with Lynn. "In this regard, the trial court has apparently mistaken quantity for quality in construing the probative value of this evidence en masse." The Superior Court judges further declared that the "probative value of significant quantities of this evidence was trivial or minimal."

Now, Judge Sarmina may have a new bail motion to consider. And if she turns Lynn down again, or puts him on house arrest one more time, Lynn's defense lawyers can appeal to the state Superior Court.

Meanwhile, the D.A. has to decide whether he will appeal the case a second time to state Supreme Court, where his odds on winning another successful challenge would be more difficult.

But at a Dec. 28th press conference, the D.A. made his intentions clear.

"My office is committed to ensuring the safety of all the citizens of Philadelphia and today, specifically the victim of Msgr. William Lynn," Williams declared. "Simply put, we will continue to use all of my office's resources to ensure that the Defendant Lynn remains in state custody as ordered by Common Pleas Judge M. Teresa Sarmina."


  1. Ok, we're going to allow comments with a moderator overseeing the process. So anybody who is off subject or out of the usual guidelines is going to get whacked.

  2. Both Sarmina and Seth Williams will have to be removed from office due to the unprofessional bias they have shown toward Monsignor Lynn. Case needs to be assigned to another judge who will consider all motions fairly. This is a disgrace and embarrassment to all of us.

  3. It"s a travesty what Sarmina, and Williams have gotten away with, they should be arrested for impersonating officers of the law, I was at that kangaroo court, she was judge and jury,what an abuse of power. Denny

  4. Two days after Ralph Cipriano's latest blog we see only two comments regarding his posting. The question is why ? Is it because of Ralph's latest move to review all comments before posting ? An attempt to weed out those who posted comments that had nothing to do with his article because he can no longer hold a readers attention on a particular article or maybe it has something to do with the barrage of questioning he faced a few blogs earlier ? His new procedure of running things would give him the ability to "whack" those questions and have them swim with the fishes or is it what I truly think is happening people both Catholic and non- Catholics' really don't give a damn what happens to William Lynn ? Putting aside his family I really don't see those pleas for his release as we have seen in the past. The public has read the facts here and elsewhere and have come to the conclusion that Lynn knew of abusive priests did nothing about it and is now being punished for his actions or should I say inactions.

    I have no clue how Mr. Williams will proceed from here if he will file another appeal or not but I do have faith he will make the right decision.

    I personally would like to see Lynn remain in prison and serve out his full sentence and if that does not happen I am 100% sure if released Lynn will experience what victims/survivors have faced over decades and what greater justice can there be but putting the criminal in the shoes of his victims.

  5. Dennis, you really are on several flights of fancy here.

    Yes, we have had a problem with people commenting on the blog. Specifically, a couple of knuckleheads persist in trashing some local mobsters in the most obscene of terms, so we've switched to comment moderation to weed those out. There is no grand conspiracy afoot to silence critics of my reporting on the sex abuse trials. The proof is we still publish your ravings.

    If there is injustice and nobody complains about it, perhaps we should just ignore it, is that your suggestion? Don't plan on taking your advice there.

    As you appear to have forgotten, Lynn was convicted on one count of endangering the welfare of a child, namely Billy Doe. There is substantial question at this point as to whether Billy's stories really happened. Also, as a guy who covered the archdiocese trials, one of Lynn's first moves as secretary for clergy was to compile a list of 35 abusive priests then in ministry and present it to his archbishop, the late great Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua.

    Bevilacqua then dismissed Lynn, and ordered a couple of bishops to shred the list. Seems to me if they're going to crack down on the archdiocese for not doing enough to protect children they should have started their inquisition a few pay notches above Lynn.

  6. Yes, you do post my comments I will give you that.

    Doing anything less would be cutting your nose off to spite your face.

    I know that and you know that as well. Oh hell, everybody knows that.

  7. What everyone does know, Dennis, is that you suffer from delusions of grandeur. Spare us all.

  8. Ralph, any news on bail for Msgr Lynn

    Thank you for continuing to provide information on this case. The "mainstream" media is not. I am sorry that the comments of a few ruin it for others, but that is the society we live in today

    This story needs to be told. While "Spotlight" is being mentioned for an Academy Award' this blog is the only place you can find real information on a case that has already contributed to the death of one priest; an innocent fall-guy Monsignor still sits in jail; along with another innocent Catholic school teacher - all while a questionable central figure just received millions from the Archdiocese.

    Why is it that in today's world "discrimination" and "persecution" of some groups is front page stories while the same treatment of the Catholic Church is accepted and promoted?

  9. Wish I had the answers to those questions. Regarding Msgr. Lynn, my guess is that he's going to stay in jail for the foreseeable future until the state Supreme Court decides whether they're going to review the case again. Of course, I'm assuming the DA will go through with his promise to appeal the case to the state Supreme Court.

    If the state Supreme Court says they won't review this time, my guess is you'll see a bail motion. If they do take the case, my guess is that the monsignor would be in trouble.

    1. Ralph, I get the funny feeling that there are some 'extra judicial' activities afoot here, especially between the DA's office, Sarmina and the PA Supreme Court judiciary.

    2. What might happen if he just decided to retry the case under the strictures of the latest ruling?

  10. ...and Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny and the tooth fairy are joining forces to take over the world.


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