Saturday, June 1, 2019

D.A. Krasner Loses Msgr. Lynn Appeal; Up Next A Retrial

By Ralph Cipriano

The state Supreme Court last week denied an appeal by Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, clearing the way for a retrial of the long-running child endangerment case against Msgr. William J. Lynn, the former secretary for clergy for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

On Thursday, the state Supreme Court in a brief two-sentence order wrote that the D.A.'s "petition for allowance of appeal is DENIED."

The D.A.'s office had tried to overturn Common Pleas Court Judge Gwendolyn Bright's pre-trial ruling that prosecutors could only introduce as evidence against Lynn three supplemental cases of sex abuse -- in addition to the case where he's accused of endangering the welfare of a child -- to show a pattern of cover-ups in the archdiocese. The D.A.'s office had wanted to present nine such cases as part of a strategy to put Lynn on trial as a scapegoat for the collective sins of the archdiocese against children.

It's a strategy that worked successfully back in 2012 when Lynn was convicted on one felony count of endangering the welfare of a child, after the prosecution was allowed to introduce 21 supplemental cases of sex abuse against Lynn dating back to 1948, three years before the monsignor was born. But Lynn's conviction has twice been overturned by the state Superior Court, most recently in 2015 when the appeals court found that the original trial judge, M. Teresa Sarmina, had abused her discretion by allowing so many supplemental cases into evidence that they took up at least 25 days of a 32-day trial.

How's that for prosecutorial overkill?

Along the way during this legal odyssey, the monsignor has served 33 months of his original 36-month sentence, plus 18 months of house arrest. So the decision by D.A. Krasner to retry the case amounts to a vindictive show trial for a defendant who's already done his time. It's also a travesty of justice on a grand scale because over the years, the alleged victim in the case, a former altar boy dubbed "Billy Doe," has been repeatedly exposed as a fraud. And in any retrial, the star witness for the defense will be retired Detective Joe Walsh, the former lead investigator in the case who came forward to testify about rampant prosecutorial misconduct in the D.A.'s office.

Only an ideologue or a masochist would retry this case.

When Judge Bright meets with lawyers from both sides, she'll be hearing about plenty of prosecutorial misconduct from Lynn's lawyers. The case has been in suspended animation in Common Pleas Court for a year since last June, when the state Superior Court upheld Judge Bright's pretrial ruling limiting the supplemental cases to just three. The D.A. then filed an appeal with the state Supreme Court that wasn't ruled upon until last week.

So when the case goes before Judge Bright again, Lynn's lawyers will eagerly tell the judge about the discovery last year of seven pages of typed notes by former Assistant District Attorney Mariana Sorensen, dating back to Jan. 28, 2010, when Sorensen and another detective first interviewed Billy Doe at the D.A.'s office along with his parents.

These are notes that the D.A.'s office, in three different courtrooms in front of three different judges, have steadfastly maintained didn't exist. The defense will no doubt call Sorensen as a witness and ask her to explain all the lies.

Sorensen, by the way, is the prosecutor that former Detective Walsh has testified that when he repeatedly told her that the altar boy's story wasn't checking out, she replied, "You're killing my case."

Next, Lynn's lawyers will introduce some notes from the D.A.'s office dating back to 2009 that showed that the altar boy didn't want to press charges when he first made his claims of being repeatedly raped by two priests and his homeroom teacher; instead all he wanted to do was get paid.

Of course, none of this material was ever turned over to defense lawyers.

Another issue that may come up is a federal magistrate's decision last month to throw out similar child endangerment charges against former Penn State President Graham Spanier the day before he was scheduled to go to jail.

Spanier was convicted on one misdemeanor count of child endangerment, until the federal judge tossed the case. The reason the judge tossed the case: she determined that the state's original child 1972 endangerment law did not apply to supervisors such as Spanier and Msgr. Lynn.

It was former Philly D.A. Rufus Seth Williams who went against several decades of case law and decided that the original child endangerment law, which was amended by the state legislature in 2007 to specifically include supervisors, did not apply to Spanier. The judge ruled that it was unconstitutional to charge Spanier ex post facto, or after the fact, under a law that didn't apply to him when the alleged offense was committed.

For decades in Pennsylvania, the child endangerment law was used only to prosecute people in direct contact with a child, such as parents, teachers and guardians. Until former D.A. Williams, presently a convicted felon doing five years in a federal prison, decided to bend the law to suit his political purposes.

Expect Lynn's lawyers to argue that it's unconstitutional for their guy to be charged ex post facto as well, as the imaginary rape spree involving the hapless altar boy supposedly occurred years before the child endangerment law was amended to include supervisors.

If there is a retrial, it's also an open question whether the former altar boy, Danny Gallagher, will make the trip up from Florida to testify against Lynn again. Because this time he'll be risking a perjury charge as in the civil and criminal courts, there are thousands of pages of transcripts that show what a bald-faced liar Gallagher was when he previously made his allegations.

Indeed, Detective Walsh has already testified that when he was prepping Gallagher for the original Lynn trial back in 2012, he caught the altar boy telling one lie after another. According to the detective, Gallagher finally admitted to Walsh that he had made up his original allegations.

Of course, neither Walsh's grilling of Gallagher's nor the former altar boy's telling admissions were ever divulged to defense lawyers. Which is the norm for this case.


  1. Given that the ruling for Spanier in federal court is under appeal, would Lynn's lawyers be able to bring that up before Judge Bright?

    Haven't Lynn's lawyers already raised the same issues in state court that Spanier did in federal court?

    It was immediately obvious the PA Supreme Court violated US Supreme Court precedent in the 1964 Bouie case. Bouie ruled that courts could not reinterpret a law and apply the new interpretation retroactively to the detriment of a defendant.

  2. Yes, and the state Superior Court agreed with them back in 2013 that the state's original 1972 child endangerment law DID NOT APPLY to supervisors. But since this is Pennsylvania, the state Supreme Court overruled the Superior Court, by reinterpreting the original intention of the original law to decide that it did apply to supervisors.

    Thereby nullifying at least three decades of how the law was applied in Pennsylvania --- only to people who had direct contact with children, such as parents teachers and guardians -- and also ignoring a 2005 grand jury report where former D.A. Lynne Abraham and the grand jury stated that the original child endangerment law DID NOT APPLY to supervisors such as Lynn and his boss, Cardinal Bevilacqua.

    To reach their ruling, the state Supreme Court also had to overlook the fact that DA Abraham led a statewide campaign to amend the child endangerment law, and that the state Legislature complied in 2007 to amend the law to specifically include supervisors.

    Justice in Pennsylvania.

  3. That was the first time the state Superior Court overturned Judge Sarmina's original rulings, and threw out Lynn's conviction.

  4. I'll ask a dumb question - why nothing about the State Supreme Court decision in our beloved revamped renewed Phila Inquirer?

  5. Because the Inquirer is pretending this case doesn't exist. They only see one side of the Catholic story, the sins of the church. In their eyes, all the alleged victims are virtuous saints speaking nothing but the truth. So the Billy Doe story doesn't exist, because all alleged victims are righteous in their eyes.

    They are ideologues, social justice warriors, partisans.

  6. Only an idiot would go for a retrial when the prosecutors star witness has perjured himself multiple times. Krasner's employees are totally pissed off at him for sinking their reputations below the brown line. To make a complete fool out of himself over getting tangled with double jeopardy rulings against him is way above stupid.


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