Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Circus Coming Back To Town: Msgr. Lynn Case To Be Retried

By Ralph Cipriano

As the legal combatants were filing out of Judge Gwendolyn Bright's courtroom yesterday, Thomas A. Bergstrom, the lawyer for Msgr. William J. Lynn, told the judge he would let her know by Friday whether it's full speed ahead for a retrial of the Lynn case scheduled for May.

The lawyers in the Lynn case are bound by a gag rule nonsensically imposed by the judge, after six years of nonstop local, national and even international publicity of the case.

But the smart money is on a retrial happening in May.

Bergstrom's other option is to appeal Judge Bright's recent ruling denying a defense motion to dismiss a retrial on the grounds of double jeopardy and prosecutorial misconduct. The defense lawyer could appeal Judge Bright's decision to the state Superior Court, which has twice overturned the guilty verdict in the Lynn case in the last four years.

If Bergstrom hits the trifecta in Superior Court, then there wouldn't be any retrial of the Lynn case to worry about.

But filing an appeal would mean blowing out the current trial date, and delaying the retrial by a year to 18 months. And Bergstrom has to be concerned about the health of his new star witness, who is recuperating after having undergone a few back surgeries.

Retired Detective Joseph Walsh, the man who led the D.A.'s investigation into allegations of a triple rape claimed by former altar boy Danny Gallagher/AKA "Billy Doe," has come forward to testify about prosecutorial misconduct in the district attorney's office. So who would want to delay that show?

Odds are, when Friday rolls around, Bergstrom will tell the judge that he's going ahead with the schedule as planned. That would mean the lawyers in the Msgr. Lynn case can start picking a jury on May 15th. And start trying the case on May 30th.

A retrial of the Msgr. Lynn case could be highly entertaining for a couple of reasons.

Bergstrom can put Detective Walsh on the witness stand to testify about how he didn't believe Danny Gallagher was telling the truth. And then Walsh can detail all the lies and inconsistencies he caught Gallagher telling him.

When he gets done with that lengthy list, Detective Walsh can testify about how he told the prosecutor in the case that Gallagher's cockamamie story of a triple rape wasn't checking out with anybody, including Gallagher's own mother and older brother. And how Assistant District Attorney Mariana Sorensen responded by allegedly telling Walsh, "You're killing my case."

Our newspaper of record, The Philadelphia Inquirer, which has done a consistently horrible job of reporting on this case, mentioned the other day that the prosecutors have said in court that Sorensen denies ever saying you're killing my case.

But the Inquirer forgot to mention how in court, right after a prosecutor issued that denial, Bergstrom dared the D.A. to put Sorensen on the witness stand at an upcoming hearing, along with Walsh, so that everybody could see which witness was telling the truth.

As cocky as that offer was, you'd have to think that Bergstrom had already scoped out the ponies in this race, and figured out he had the winning horse.

Sure enough, when the day for the hearing rolled around, former Detective Walsh, as promised, got up on the witness stand and told his story. And Mariana Sorensen was nowhere to be found.

If, at trial, the D.A. dares to put Sorensen on the witness stand, Bergstrom can ask Sorensen about the more than 20 factual mistakes in the 2011 grand jury report that she authored. Mistakes that included blatant rewrites of actual grand jury testimony.

Somebody should put Sorensen under oath and make her answer those questions about how she deceived the public. But since her boss at the time, District Attorney Rufus Seth Williams, was busy allegedly taking bribes and extorting people, before he allegedly stole money from his own mother, maybe down at the D.A.'s office, lying in a grand jury report is no big deal.

Keep in mind that Lynn has already served 33 out of 36 months of his minimum sentence, before his conviction was overturned. So the most the D.A. can win is three more months in jail for the defendant. That's what's at stake here, three months in jail. And even if Lynn is convicted again, I can't imagine this judge sending him back to jail for just three months, after all the defendant in this case has been through.

But if M. Teresa Sarmina was still the trial judge, the monsignor would have to have his toothbrush packed.

When the circus comes back to town, the big question is whether the lead clown, Danny Gallagher, will actually dare to show his face again in a Philadelphia courtroom.

Gallagher has already testified before a grand jury and two criminal trials. He was also deposed over two full days in a civil suit that he filed against the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, where he answered numerous questions about discrepancies and contradictions in his many fables by saying he didn't remember more than 130 times.

Gallagher already has collected his pot of gold -- a $5 million civil settlement handed to him by Philadelphia Archbishop Charles "Checkbook Charlie" Chaput. So there's no sane reason for Gallagher to show up in court, to get his brains beat in, and risk being exposed for the total fraud that he is.

Unless Gallagher is the kind of liar who actually believes his own B.S. His former teachers have described him in court as the kind of kid who always wanted to be the center of attention. Maybe in a retrial, logic goes out the window, and Danny Gallagher can't stay away from the spotlight.

Wouldn't that be great?

The Inquirer recently reported that at two criminal trials, Gallagher was thoroughly grilled on cross-examination. But the Inky was wrong again on that one. Our paper of record forgot that at the first Msgr. Lynn trial back in 2012, the defense gave Gallagher a pass, and did not ask him one question on cross.

That's because the trial judge, M. Teresa Sarmina, had told Lynn's defense lawyers that if they were going to cross Danny Gallagher, she would allow the prosecutors to drag former priest Edward V. Avery into court wearing his prison jumpsuit. Avery was doing 2 1/2 to 5 years for allegedly raping Gallagher.

The defense lawyers figured that since Lynn testified that he never even met Danny Gallagher, that the jury would give Lynn a break. The defense was hoping the jury would decide that since Lynn had to "knowingly endanger" a child whose care he was allegedly supervising [to be found not guilty of endangering the welfare of a child] the jury would find him not guilty.

But Lynn was convicted on one count of endangering the welfare of a child.

Back in 2012, however, when the case was originally tried, nobody knew the warehouse of information contained in Gallagher's own medical records, and in civil case records, so they could cross-examine Gallagher on all of that.

If Gallagher shows up in court this time around, there will be no mercy on cross. He could be on that witness stand for days if it's done right.

There are also a couple of forensic psychiatrists who examined Gallagher for hours and decided he wasn't credible. They could also turn up as witnesses in the case.

At the retrial, the judge has ruled out letting the prosecution enter Ed Avery's guilty plea as evidence, unless Bergstrom brings it up.

On the supplemental cases of sex abuse, the score has tilted in favor of the defense.

At the original trial, Judge Sarmina let in as evidence 21 supplemental cases of sex abuse dating back to 1948, three years before the 66-year-old Lynn was born, to show a pattern in the archdiocese of covering up sex abuse. The prejudicial effect of all those cases, which essentially boiled down to putting Lynn on trial for the collectives sins of the archdiocese, was the reason why the state Superior Court overturned the Lynn conviction in 2016.

So, on the retrial, the prosecution asked for a dozen supplemental cases to be admitted as evidence. But Judge Bright told the prosecutors she wasn't "in the business of piling on." So the D.A. trimmed their wish list to nine cases.

Judge Bright subsequently did some more trimming. She admitted one supplemental case as evidence, and took three more supplemental cases "under advisement." Meaning whichever way the wind is blowing, those three cases could also come in as trial evidence.

But before we get all excited about a retrial, there's one last shoe to drop in the Danny Gallagher saga.

Any day now, Bochetto & Lentz, the appeal lawyers for Bernie Shero, are going to be filing a request with Judge Ellen Ceisler for a hearing to seek a new trial.

Shero is the former Catholic school teacher who's doing 8 to 16 years for sexually assaulting Gallagher, and Ceisler was the sorry trial judge who blew that case. But Judge Bright has already found evidence of prosecutorial misconduct in the Lynn case. Because the prosecutors did not tell the defense about Detective Walsh's repeated questioning of Gallagher [and his responses or non-responses]. Or about Walsh's conversation with ADA Soresnen, where she allegedly said, "You're killing my case."

None of this new information, which Judge Bright has already ruled are violations of the 1963 landmark case of Brady v. Maryland, was ever divulged to Shero's lawyers in the 2013 trial of Shero before Judge Ceisler.

Keep in mind that Judge Bright has already ruled that the prosecutorial misconduct in the D.A.'s office was serious enough to have warranted a new trial for Lynn, if the state Superior Court hadn't already granted Lynn a new trial. So if Lynn deserves a new trial, Judge Ceisler may decide that Bernie Shero deserves one too.

If Shero gets a new trial, the D.A.'s office will be faced with the time and expense of having to retry two cases with Billy Doe as their now discredited star witness. Maybe at that point, the D.A.'s office may finally opt to do the right thing and fold their tents.

Especially if Rufus Seth Williams finally resigns, or gets hauled out of his office in handcuffs. Or there are so many protests going on about a corrupt D.A. remaining in office that the public embarrassment becomes too much to bear.

Then, the only job left will be the clean up after the circus finally leaves town.


  1. Hi Ralph - another sterling post, perhaps even your most cogent and amusing to date (love the sarcasm).

    The Eighth Amendment to our constitution forbids Cruel and Unusual Punishment. Consider - for a moment - all the 'punishment' meted out to Monsignor Lynn, Bernie Shero and to Father Engelhardt, viz:

    #1 - the lies in the Grand Jury report which may well have poisoned the pool from which jurors were selected (even though potential jurors may have claimed that they knew nothing about the case).

    #2 - the acknowledged egregious prosecutorial misconduct. Had this information been released to the defense team, the proper use of it could have helped to exonerate the defendants. It certainly would not have hurt them. I don't care what Judge Bright said - I think she's just covering for the DA.

    #3 - Sarmina allowing the admission into evidence of all those old abuse accounts. The Superior Court shot her down on its prejudicial impact on the jury, and the Supreme Court refused to again hear the case. Bet she just loved that!

    #4 - Sarmina's unconscionable delay in providing her 'opinion' and trial records to the Supreme Court after Lynn's trial. This added 6 months to Monsignor Lynn's incarceration time - and suffering.

    Considering the importance of this case, one would have thought that the President Judge would have expedited this. What exactly does the President Judge do???

    #5 - Sarmina (undoubtedly mollified by the Supreme Court's reversal) imposed of draconian 'rectory arrest' conditions until the PA Supreme Court ruled on her interpretation of the EWOC statute, after which Monsignor Lynn was again whipsawed back into the slammer.

    #6 - After the Supreme Court reviewed the other facets of Monsignor Lynn's second appeal to them, he's ordered released, and sent back before Sarmina to be placed on bail because Rufus wanted yet another pound of flesh, so to speak.

    The stress caused by all of this, the deprivation of Monsignor Lynn's freedom (and that of the others), the profound local and national humiliation, and the mounting and crippling legal expenses - when considered collectively - can't they be considered cruel and unusual punishment?

    All of this is because an ambitious judge craved more notoriety, and because an allegedly crooked DA was looking for the 'next rung' up his ladder of success.

    Pennsylvania Jurisprudence – don’t ya’ love it?

  2. What is the point of a grand jury if the prosecution is going to rewrite the testimony. If one can go to jail for lying to a grand jury, Sorensen and team should absolutely go to jail for changing the testimony, they essentially lied to the jury.
    Obviously there is one set of laws for prosecutors and another set for everyone else. Who questions the prosecution, no one, ever.

    I noticed that the Inky said Sorensen denied making the statement to Walsh,and how it differs from what actually took place in the courtroom.

    The Inky should held liable for distorting the facts,for continually slanting public opinion toward the prosecution, with "alternate facts".

    The Inky reminds me of Sean Spicer, just keep denying the facts, keep sticking to the lies, hoping that untruths will become truths if people choose to believe them. Holding yourself out to be a disseminator of facts while misleading the public.

    Its time for the Inky to separate itself from the prosecution and stand with the common man, who are suffering pitifully .

  3. My advice is to punt the case to commonwealth court and cite the issues inherent to request a dismissal of the case. That will push the case another 18 months by then Seth will have left tho office in January 2018. Nobody likes to have to clean up somebody 's dirty linen. Once this sole charge is dismissed, the case folds on its own merits.

    1. I can see the merits of that strategy. Especially when Rufus is out of the picture and going on trial for his misdeeds, it might be easier politically to bury these sex abuse trials as Rufus's witch hunts.

      But right now, the wind is blowing the other way. Who knows, it could change.

    2. They could be thinking - have the trial now and hammer hard at the prosecutor about the irrelevance of the sole remaining charge , hoping the jury will agree. Putting Gallagher on the witness stand to hammer hard at his credibility will help collapse the case. Problem is the intelligence of jurors in Philadelphia and their willingness to acquit. Even better would be having it outside Philadelphia under a new judge with a jury chosen at that location . Problem is the salacious nature will cause jurors to vote for conviction . That's why punting the case to commonwealth court is a better option. Any other judge would have dismissed the sole remaining count due to expiration of SOL, BUT political considerations led to a black judge named Bright to be chosen. No accident a woman judge chosen again for her naturally BS ruling on motions to dismiss.

  4. Excellent analysis. We got them where we want them.

  5. Hey This Is A Waste Of Time!!! Let It Go......

    1. It's easy for people who have not been harmed by the lies in the 2011 GJR to say "let it go". But the lies in that report have destroyed the careers of innocent people. Hurt their children and families and continue to be a source of pain. Having the truth come out is a way to set them free.

  6. Speaking of the Grand Jury report which is STILL proudly displayed on the DA's website, perhaps Rufus' indictment should also be posted there. This is only fair, right?

  7. Ralph, in a recent article you related an interesting story, you said:

    "Last week, a young reporter for a local news website asked me how I came up with the story about District Attorney Seth Williams getting banned from the Union League. I basically tried to explain that 90 percent of journalism is just showing up. Listening to people and getting them to trust you. So that when something happens, they might tell you about it.

    Sadly, when I go to many news events, I often see all the reporters in a huddle talking to each other. Rather than talking to real people who might know something. As a wise old editor once told me, there are no stories in a newsroom. To find a story, you actually have to leave the building."

    The Inkys reporter get it wrong because they make guest appearances in the courtrooms at trials, never staying long enough to get the facts or ask questions of the defendants, who according to the Inky are always guilty. Why bother when all you have to do is take the prosecutions notes.

    Who can trust the Inky when they are not listening to real defendants with real stories to tell. They decide the truth that matters to them, not the truth that actually happened. Truth has always mattered to those long denied a voice by their paper,in order to gain our trust, start printing the truth.

  8. Well, in their defense, the Inky's court reporters are usually running from case to case. They've got so much to do; typically one reporter will cover an entire courthouse.

    But on the Msgr. Lynn case, there's an institutional blindness working there. They have bought into the victim's lobby hook, line and sinker. And when the evidence was piling up that Billy Doe was a fraud, they have stubbornly stuck to the original story line and refused to look into an obvious scandal of major proportions.

    Like they're doing right now with the Penn State case. Sticking to the original story line no matter what new information comes to light, as in Special Agent John Snedden's 110 page report. That's not news to them.

    On the Billy Doe scandal, they are intentionally blind. But they have made one change. For six years, they called "Billy Doe" the victim. Now they call him "the accuser." But they still don't print his real name, Danny Gallagher. And they state that it's the policy of the Inquirer not to print the names of sex victims or accusers.

    Why? We're talking about a grown man here who's at least 28, and putting other grown men in jail.

    If you are going to cover a court battle, and you grant one side anonymity, and the other side, who are supposed to be presumed innocent, are hung out to dry, you have titled the contest, fixed the outcome in the public's eyes from minute one of any trial.

    And that is inherently unfair and un-American. But they are blind and refuse to see.

  9. Which supports my theory that they take the prosecution's notes, if all these years later they have not taken the time to sit through one case and listen to get all the facts themselves, herein lies the problem. They need more reporters covering the courts.

    Unbelievably there are two wonderful articles in the Inky today, one called TESTILYING by Michaelle Bond and Emilie Lounsberry relating a word used for those that lie to incriminate a defendant, the article gives insight into eye witnesses that recant their original testimony condemning a defendant usually for fear of being incriminated themselves by the judicial system as well police that give incriminating testimony against a defendant.
    C.P Judge Gwendolyn Bright is mentioned in this article as well, the defendant is Chester Hollman accused of murdering a Unniv. of Penn student Tae-Jung Ho in 1991. The article highlights those that have been exonerated and the reason behind their exonerations.

    The other is by Will Bunch, telling of a new book by Tom Lowenstein about the murder of Barbara Jean Horn in 1988, four years after the murder was committed aggressive police work produced a defendant that still maintains his innocence, Water Ogrod. The books tells the account of Phila. Police and prosecutors using a false confession and a jailhouse snitch to send an innocent man to death row, which the Phila DA's office is still fighting to keep on death row as well as deny efforts to examine DNA evidence taken from the victim. Mr. Bunch states how timely the books release is in light of the recent scandal of our DA Williams,saying the book is hard to put down and sheds light on the criminal justice system quest to gain a conviction.

    With articles like these it may get the public to start reasoning constructively instead of taking the prosecutions side of every case, hopefully this will be the start of the Inkys realization that prosecutors are there to prosecute not find a defendant innocent and the part they play in a conviction as well as leading to prosecutors and police that lie to incriminate an innocent to be held accountable for their crimes.


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