Monday, August 16, 2021

Ten-Year-Old Sex Abuse Case Against Msgr. Lynn Headed For Retrial

Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

It's the case that won't die -- the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. William Lynn.

Why? Because a couple of corrupt Philadelphia D.A.s in a row, Rufus Seth Williams and Larry Krasner, love headlines.   

And when you're a corrupt D.A. seeking headlines, nothing plays better with the media than taking on the Roman Catholic Church over the issue of the sexual abuse of children. 

Even if the alleged abuse never really happened, as in the Commonwealth v. Lynn.

So last week in state Superior Court, the appeals court taking up the Lynn case for the fourth time in ten years ruled in favor of the defense, as they have in all four appeals. 

Specifically, the Superior Court upheld the trial court judge's decisions to limit the amount of Msgr. Lynn's prior voluminous prior court testimony that can be presented to the jury during a retrial. While the trial judge, Gwendolyn Bright, wanted to limit the testimony presented in court to the single case against Msgr. Lynn, the D.A.'s office was hellbent on putting the Archdiocese of Philadelphia on trial for covering up decades of sexual abuse of children by pedophile priests. 

It's a great idea, only a couple of decades too late. It would also help to have a credible victim of sex abuse to put on the witness stand, of which there are thousands. Instead of hanging your case, as former D.A. Williams did, on a lying, scheming altar boy dubbed Billy Doe who's a complete fraud.

Last week's ruling, however, clears the way for the case against Msgr. Lynn to be retried sometime later this year. It also sets up a showdown between a D.A.'s office that has shamelessly pressed forward with a corrupt prosecution, and Judge Bright, who for the record, isn't too happy with the D.A.'s office.

Retrying the Commonwealth v. Lynn would be the definition of a show trial.

Lynn, who was convicted by a jury in 2012 on one felony count of endangering the welfare of a child, has had his guilty conviction overturned twice on appeal.

In the meantime, the monsignor has already served his time -- 33 months out of his original minimum sentence of 36 months, plus 18 months of house arrest.

So what's the point of putting the monsignor on trial again?

To make matters worse, for the past five years, the publicity-shy Judge Bright has imposed an endless gag order on all the lawyers in the case, so they can't talk to the media.

Under the gag order, the judge required lawyers on both sides of the case to file all their briefs and motions under seal. The net effect of the gag order -- the media and public didn't even know what the judge and the D.A. have been fighting about all these years.

Until now.

In last week's 44 page opinion written by state Superior Court Judge Jack Panella, the appeals judge divulged what the issues were in the case, and why Judge Bright is angry with the D.A.'s office.

For starters, this is the second time that the D.A.'s office has appealed Judge Bright's pretrial rulings on what evidence prosecutors could present in court during a retrial of the Lynn case. 

First, some background. In 1992, the late, corrupt Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua appointed Msgr. Lynn, known for his slavish loyalty to the church hierarchy, as his secretary for clergy, a position he held until 2004. 

In that job, the monsignor, who had no training of any kind, was responsible for investigating allegations of sex abuse against priests, and keeping a lid on pervert priests by putting the most dangerous offenders out to pasture.

In the retrial of the Lynn case, the D.A.'s office wanted to present nine additional sex abuse cases other than the one Lynn is on trial for, to show the jury a pattern of cover-ups in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia when it came to sex abuse. 

But the second time the state Superior Court overturned the guilty verdict in the Lynn case, in 2015, the appeals court ruled that the original trial judge, M. Teresa Sarmina, had abused her discretion by allowing prosecutors to present 21 supplemental sex abuse cases as evidence against Lynn.

The supplemental cases, many of which took place before Lynn was appointed secretary for clergy, consumed 25 of the 32 days in court that the prosecution devoted to presenting its original case against Lynn.

The net effect of the supplemental cases was that the prosecutors essentially put the Archdiocese of Philadelphia on trial. And in the process, served up Msgr. Lynn as the scapegoat for decades of priestly sex abuse crimes committed against children. 

When the state Superior Court overturned Lynn's conviction the second time, the court said that the prejudicial effect of telling the jury about the 21 extra cases of sex abuse outweighed the probative value of the cases.

So when it was time to retry the case, Judge Bright told the prosecutors no, you're not going to be allowed to present nine supplemental cases as evidence this time around. Instead, you're going to have to limit yourself to three supplemental cases, so we don't repeat the mistakes of the past.

But the petulant D.A.'s office appealed, arguing that Judge Bright had abused her discretion. In 2019, the D.A.'s office lost that appeal. The state Superior Court ruled that the six supplemental cases of abuse that the D.A. wanted to present as supplemental evidence were "highly prejudicial but only marginally probative."

The D.A.'s office then went back to Judge Bright and argued that they wanted to present an avalanche of transcripts from Msgr. Lynn's prior testimony at his retrial, plus testimony from his numerous grand jury appearances, and testimony he gave in cvil case depositions. 

Long before Lynn was indicted, the archdiocese's lawyers had a strategy to protect Cardinal Bevilacqua and the rest of the bishops by serving up the unwitting monsignor as a scapegoat for the archdiocese's sins against children. Following the church lawyers' advice, the dutiful Lynn previously made a dozen appearances before a grand jury convened under former D.A. Lynne Abraham to investigate sex abuse.

For the retrial of the Lynn case, Judge Bright tried to put a capper on just how much prior testimony the D.A. could present in court. But the D.A.'s office took offense to that. The D.A's office especially got upset when the judge tried to limit prior testimony from Lynn about an infamous list of abuser priests that he had previously compiled.

In 1994, Lynn took it upon himself to read through some 323 files in the so-called secret archives, a private history of all sex abuse allegations against the archdiocese's priests that were kept under lock and key in the secretary for clergy's office. The only other church official, beside Lynn, who had a key to that room was Cardinal Bevilacqua.

After he went through the secret archives, the monsignor compiled a list of 35 abusive priests currently on the payroll. At the top of the list was the Rev. Edward Avery, one of the priests accused of abusing Danny Gallagher. 

But when Lynn gave the cardinal several copies of the list, instead of patting him on the head, the wily cardinal told the monsignor the meeting was over, and he was dismissed. And then His Eminence, both a canon lawyer and a civil lawyer, directed two underlings to shred all copies of the list. 

But one of those underlings kept a single copy of the list for posterity, a document that was discovered years later in a locked safe in the secretary for clergy's office.

When the D.A.'s office appealed Judge Bright's pretrial rulings a second time, she got angry.

In her responses to the D.A.'s second appeal of her pre-trial rulings, Judge Bright accused the D.A.'s office of acting in "bad faith." She also described the D.A.'s attempt to bring in voluminous testimony about Lynn's list of 35 abusive priests as a "backdoor attempt to override" her previous pretrial ruling to limit the number of supplemental cases of abuse presented at the retrial.

In their decision, the state Superior Court ruled that the D.A.'s office did not act in bad faith, because, the court reasoned, only the prosecution can determine what evidence is needed to convict a defendant. 

But the Superior Court ruled that the trial judge had not abused her discretion.

"The trial court was tasked with examining a massive amount of Lynn's prior testimony to determine it's admissibility at Lynn's retrial," Judge Panella wrote. "As discussed above, it deemed a significant portion of that testimony admissible."

"However," Judge Panella wrote, "when the [prior] testimony encroached too closely on allegations or dealings regarding priests other than Avery [and the priests involved in the three supplemental cases already approved as retrial evidence by the judge]," Judge Bright tried to comply with the Superior Court's prior rulings. 

Judge Panella was referring to the Superior Court's prior "admonishment to contain the case to the charges at hand." Because of that admonishment, Judge Panella wrote, Judge Bright rightly ruled that testimony, on balance, to be inadmissible."

Besides arguing over what evidence can be presented in the retrial of Lynn, the other issue that's been a flashpoint between the D.A. and the judge is whether the D.A.'s office will be allowed to try a sex abuse case without ever putting the alleged victim of abuse on the witness stand.

That's exactly what Krasner's corrupt office has been attempting to do. The alleged victim in the case is the former altar boy dubbed "Billy Doe," whose real name is Danny Gallagher. Ten years ago, Gallagher's completely fictional tales of abuse reaped national and international headlines for Seth Williams, when Gallagher claimed he was serially raped by two priests and a Catholic schoolteacher. 

But the prosecution in this case turned out to be a travesty of justice. Here's why:

-- Under Seth Williams, the D.A.'s office did no investigation of any kind and, for the sole benefit of headlines, ran with the completely unvetted allegations of Gallagher in a grand jury report that indicted Lynn, and the three alleged abusers. 

There were plenty of reasons to distrust Gallagher -- the onetime altar boy was a former heroin addict with a rap sheet that featured six arrests, including one bust for possession of 56 bags of heroin. The result of the D.A.'s malfeasance was a grand jury report still posted online that contained more than 20 factual errors

-- To get the case ready for trial, D.A.'s office brought in Joe Walsh, a seasoned homicide detective. Walsh began an investigation and soon discovered that all the witnesses in the case contradicted Gallagher's wild and constantly evolving tales of abuse. 

The witnesses who contradicted Gallagher not only included priests, nuns and teachers at Gallagher's school, where the rapes allegedly occurred, but also Gallagher's own mother, father and altar boy brother. And when Walsh told Assistant District Attorney Mariana Sorensen about it, she replied, "You're killing my case."

--- When Walsh confronted Gallagher in a pre-trial prep session about the wild discrepancies in his stories, Gallagher admitted he had just made up his most outrageous accusations of abuse. In a 12-page affidavit filed in 2017, Walsh wrote that Gallagher confessed, "He just made up stuff and told them anything."

-- In addition to a grand jury report packed with factual mistakes, and an alleged victim who was a serial liar, the D.A.'s office hid evidence in the case -- specifically, seven pages of notes compiled by ADA Sorensen during her first interview with Gallagher and his parents, after the D.A. had bailed Gallagher out of jail.

And when a judge confronted Sorensen and another ADA in court about whether those notes still existed, both ADAs lied about it. 

With a track record of prosecutorial misconduct in this case, and a fraudster for a star witness, you can understand why Patrick Blessington, the lead prosecutor, has repeatedly told Judge Bright that he doesn't intend to call Gallagher as a witness in the retrial of Lynn.

Blessington's excuse -- he claimed that Progressive Larry Krasner has an enlightened new policy where he doesn't want to re-traumatize victims of sexual abuse by requiring them to testify in court.

Judge Bright, however, didn't buy that. Last year, she issued an order that said, "The Commonwealth is ordered to subpoena as its named complainant, D.G., [Danny Gallagher] for trial and to make D.G. available as a witness during the duration of the trial."

But Danny Gallagher lives in Florida with his wife and kids and the $5 million that he stole in a civil settlement from the Catholic Church. And Gallagher would be crazy to come back to Philadelphia and risk a perjury rap.

That's just what happened last year.

On March 16, 2020, the original day the Lynn case was supposed to be retried, Gallagher, who was under subpoena, didn't show up for court.

But, as luck would have it, March 16, 2020 was the day that all the courts in Philadelphia were shut down because of the pandemic. So the judge never got around to settling the issue of whether she would dismiss the case if the D.A. didn't comply with her rulings, and produce Gallagher.

If Gallagher doesn't show up this time around, expect the monsignor's lawyers to promptly stand up in court and ask for a dismissal.

Besides Gallagher, another no-show at the retrial of Msgr. Lynn is expected to be ADA Pat Blessington. Last month, the fiery prosecutor known for his attack dog style retired from the D.A.'s office.

10 comments

  1. Any other DA would have deepsixed this case with its inherent problems attached to it. Not Krasner.

    Prediction - Gallagher won't show up and Lynn's attorneys will file motions to dismiss and Judge Bright will grant them.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Ralph, if anyone would know this, it certainly would be you:

    "......In 1992, the late, corrupt Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua......"

    "......And then His Eminence, both a canon lawyer and a civil lawyer, directed two underlings to shred all copies of the list....."

    Was his Eminence a canon lawyer or a civil lawyer when he directed the destruction of such evidence of criminal conduct?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes indeedee! Can we dig him up and indict him?

      Delete
    2. Check with his lawyer buddy, WILLIAM SASSO, Stradley and Ronon.....he called the 2005 Grand Jury Report "anti-Catholic"

      Delete
    3. The entire issue is anti-Catholic.
      Muslims, Jews, Protestants have worse issues with clergy sex abuse, but the media and justice seem unwilling to pursue.
      This targeting is how the Nazis targeted Jews and others, to stigmatize and isolate them.
      Same deal here.

      Delete
  3. This guy is nothing more than a grandstanding town idiot. He was a terrible defense lawyer that couldn't win a big case even if it was a slam dunk. If he had any real knowledge of the law he would know that the purgery case he is pursuing against three detectives is going to be another waste of taxpayers money. I may be mistaken but I believe that the statute of limitations for purgery in Pennsylvania is five years. He should be arrested and charged with dereliction of duty.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Luckily for those cops, Krasner's prosecutors are so inept that their current track record against the 52 cops they've indicted on felony raps is 0 for 52.

    Corrupt and incompetent is a lethal combination.

    ReplyDelete
  5. And what about justice for Fr Englehardt and Mr Shero. If the Innocence Project ever wanted a just case - it is their's. Especially since "In a 12-page affidavit filed in 2017, Walsh wrote that Gallagher confessed, "He just made up stuff and told them anything." When do they get their justice?

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hey Ralph, you may want to look into the armed home invasion robery that the DA's office blew in court on Thursday 8/19. The prosecutor assigned to the case only called 2 of the five witnesses, the scumbag defendants public defender made a racist remark to the effect that white people have a hard time identifying black people on video and the female AA judge agreed and dismissed the case allowing another dangerous criminal back out on the street. These ADA's under the guidance of Krasner couldn't win a pie eating contest.

    ReplyDelete

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