Saturday, June 23, 2012

Philadelphia Paedophile Priest Trial :Father Brennan Walks Out Into The Sunshine - Paedophiles Who Become Priests.

Recap from journalist Ralph Cipriano who has covered the sordid child abuse trial since day one.

Msgr. Lynn Taken Into Custody

Moments after he had been convicted of endangering the welfare of a child, Msgr. William J. Lynn bowed his head at the defense table. The issue now was whether his bail would be revoked, and the speaker was Lynn's longtime antagonist, Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington.

The monsignor had just been convicted of a third-degree felony that "calls for a lengthy jail sentence," Blessington roared. "Let's start it today. That's justice."

The monsignor had his back to courtroom spectators, but everybody could see the back of his neck and his ears turning bright red.
Moments later, family members wept silently as the monsignor was led away by sheriff's deputies. "Oh God," one young woman sobbed. His shame was now complete. Lynn would spend the night as the newest inmate at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility, known as CFCF, at 7901 State Road in Northeast Philadelphia.
Outside the Criminal Justice Center, Father James J. Brennan walked out into the mid-afternoon heat and was immediately surrounded by reporters and TV cameras.

"I'm very tired, I'm very grateful, I'm very blessed," the priest said as he thanked his lawyers, William J. Brennan and Richard J. Fuschino, Jr., who basically represented the priest pro bono. 

"I think we're a little punchy," said attorney William J. Brennan. "We're just happy to to be out here in the sunshine with Father Brennan, and to be going home."

Instead of jail.

It was a vivid contrast between defendants Friday as the 13th week of the trial came to an end on the 13th day of jury deliberations. Those double 13s turned out to be lucky for Father Brennan and very unlucky for Msgr. Lynn.

Lynn now wears the mantle as the only Catholic administrator in the country to be found criminally liable for sex crimes against minors committed by priests, without touching anyone himself.

At 2 p.m. in Courtroom 304, the foreman in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia sex abuse case stood up to announce the verdict. Isa Logan is a statuesque 6-foot-6 church deacon, Army veteran and former high school basketball player in dreadlocks. He announced that the jury was hung on both charges against Father Brennan, that of attempted rape and endangering the welfare of children. It was a case that had credibility problems from the start, as pointed out on this blog.

The jury found Msgr. Lynn not guilty of conspiring with Father Edward V. Avery, or anyone else, to endanger the welfare of children, specifically a 10-year-old altar boy sexually assaulted by Avery, who had previously been accused of sex abuse. But the jury found the monsignor guilty of endangering the welfare of that same 10-year-old altar boy by allowing Avery to continue in ministry. 

The jury had asked the judge whether Msgr. Lynn had to knowingly act with criminal intent to be found guilty on the conspiracy charge. It was a question that not only confused jurors, but also the judge. On the night of June 14, Judge M. Teresa Sarmina instructed the jury that Msgr. Lynn did not have to act with criminal intent. The next morning, June 15, the judge reversed herself, saying that the monsignor did have to act with criminal intent in order to be found guilty on the conspiracy charge.

When he testified, Msgr. Lynn told the jury that this was the first time a priest under his supervision had  abused a child, and that he was sorry for what happened to the 10-year-old altar boy.

The jury also found Msgr. Lynn not guilty of endangering the welfare of the 14-year-old who was allegedly the victim of attempted rape by Father Brennan.

After the judge thanked jurors for the "great deal of time taken out of your lives," she dismissed them. A stampede of reporters was allowed to bolt the courtroom, and head for their cell phones, which for the past three months, have not been allowed in the courtroom of Judge Sarmina.

The court deputies locked the doors of the courtroom again. The next issue was bail. Jeff Lindy, one of Msgr. Lynn's defense lawyers, argued that his client was not a flight risk.

But Assistant District Attorney Blessington immediately ratcheted up the rhetoric to cross-examination level, where he called Lynn a liar every four minutes. The monsignor had just been convicted of "conduct which is beyond reprehensible," Blessington said. The prosecutor raged about the "despicable lies he [Lynn] told to the grand jury," and the lies he told to this jury.

Now that he was a convicted felon, the monsignor has "great incentive to flee," the prosecutor said. Especially since Blessington said he would seek the maximum prison term for the monsignor. Lynn had the wealth of the archdiocese behind him, Blessington said. The archdiocese was already footing the bill for Lynn's "incredibly well-funded defense team," the prosecutor noted.

"Treat him like the criminal he is," Blessington implored the judge. 

Jeff Lindy, one of Lynn's defense lawyers, argued that the monsignor had been under investigation for more than a decade, and had made eleven appearances before a grand jury investigating sex abuse. The monsignor has shown up every day in court for the past 13 weeks, and always acted the same, submissive, Lindy said. His client wasn't going anywhere.

"He's always had the specter of indictment hanging over him," Lindy said. "He knew this day could come."

But the judge, who favored the prosecution with just about every ruling before and during the trial, appeared anxious to see the monsignor in a jump suit.

"I am leaning to revoking bail," she said. Lindy suggested house arrest. 

Blessington was on his feet several more times. "I'm sick, sore and disgusted," he said at one point. The possibility of house arrest prompted the prosecutor to remind the judge of Lynn's "reprehensible and deplorable conduct over the past 12 years."

While the monsignor had his head bowed at the defense table, Lindy stood with one hand on his client's back. "He has been under the sword of Damocles hanging over him for a decade," Lindy said.

The monsignor was 61 years old, had a clean record, and so many community ties "that it would take me 25 minutes to describe," Lindy said. The monsignor could be on house arrest at his sister's house in Reading, where he currently lives, or at his brother-in-law's house in Philadelphia, Lindy offered.

Any other defendant who was 61 and had a clean record would not be going to jail after a conviction on a third-degree felony, Lindy said. They would also not be subject to the "vitriol" of the prosecutor, Lindy added.

Blessington didn't deny the charge. "Vitriol, oh yes," the prosecutor admitted. "Every speck." Blessington mentioned again that Lynn's defense was "wholly funded by the archdiocese of Philadelphia," and that Lynn had been "pompous and condescending" on the witness stand.

"This man belongs in jail right now," Blessington yelled.

"He doesn't own a passport," Lindy told the judge. "He's not going anywhere."

"He's not a flight risk," Thomas Bergstrom, another defense lawyer, told the judge. "I don't know how you can make that argument," the judge replied. "You cannot speak for what he would do."

Bergstrom told the judge there was no evidence that Lynn was a flight risk. "Why would you think that he would now run?" Bergstrom asked.

"Because he doesn't want to go to jail?" the judge suggested.

"This is not a guy who's not gonna show up for his day of reckoning," Lindy replied in the double-negative.

Blessington got on his high horse again. The monsignor had "committed atrocities," the prosecutor said. "He went in front of the grand jury and lied. He came in here and lied."

Blessington also took a shot at Lindy, who had objected to Blessington's spiel about the archdiocese footing the bill for Lynn's defense team.

"Guess what counsel? You're being paid by the archdiocese! Don't try and hide from it," Blessington shouted.

As happened often during the trial, Blessington was not addressing the subject at hand, whether Lynn posed enough of a flight risk to have his bail revoked. Instead, Blessington was attacking the character of the defendant, and slamming the defense lawyers. Maybe save it for sentencing?

Any first-year law student could see Blessington had strayed far off the subject. But as she often did during the trial, Judge Sarmina made no effort to reign in Blessington. She objected to Lindy's tone as "huffy," but said nothing critical to Blessington.

The judge announced that she was revoking Lynn's bail. She said she would entertain a future motion to place Lynn on house arrest. But for now, the judge ordered sheriff's deputies to remove the dangerous monsignor from the courtroom.

The judge announced that the monsignor would have to turn in his passport. Apparently she didn't hear Lynn's lawyer when he told her the monsignor didn't own a passport. The monsignor did not appear to pose much of a flight risk. The overweight priest can barely walk two blocks without panting heavily. But the judge seemed determined to cap a show trial by tossing the monsignor in the slammer.

Lynn's sentencing was set for Aug. 13th. He faces a prison sentence of 3 1/2 to 7 years.

Lynn's lawyers were downcast when they met with the press.

"He's upset, he's crushed," Lindy said of Lynn. Asked if the monsignor was a fall guy, Lindy replied, "Of course he is. They had a body there, and that body was Msgr. Lynn."

Bergstrom said he wasn't second-guessing his decision to put Lynn on the witness stand. " It was the right decision. I think the jury needed to hear from him."

Outside the courthouse, Isa Logan, the 36-year-old jury foreman, faced the press. He agreed that it was helpful to hear from Lynn, but he noted that Lynn had also apologized from the witness stand for what happened to the 10-year-old altar boy.

Logan was asked why the jury needed 13 days to deliberate.

"We just needed more clarity on the elements of the charge," he said. "It's easy when you're on the outside looking in. On the inside, it's a little different."

Logan said jurors were open-minded, passionate, and "wanted true justice." The case, he said, opened his eyes.

"I never knew about the stuff happening in the church," he said. "My heart goes out to the victims."

"I'm a father" of two sons and a daughter, Logan said. "I wouldn't want my child to go through anything like this."

Logan was asked whether Lynn was a fall guy for the Catholic church. As a former Army officer, he said he didn't buy into that argument. Logan had plenty of superiors giving him orders. If an order was inhumane, Logan said, he always had the option of not carrying it out. It was the same telling argument a
nun had made from the witness stand the day she called out Monsignor Lynn.

"I'm a human being before I'm a soldier," Logan said. The jury foreman, a church deacon, said he prayed that "God would have his way" with the Catholic church.

On July 23, Father Brennan will return to the courthouse for a status hearing on his case. The district attorney must now decide whether the priest should be retried. It may be an uphill climb. Two female jurors told Fox 29 reporter Kristen Byrne that they didn't find Brennan's lone accuser, Mark Bukowski, credible, saying it seemed like he was making up his testimony on the witness stand.

A few blocks away from the courthouse, District Attorney Seth Williams held a press conference. Normally, when you have a trial and you only win one of five counts, it's not something to crow about. Especially when the jury rejected the prosecution's main argument, that Lynn had conspired with Father Avery to endanger the welfare of children by keeping the priest in ministry.

But Williams acted like he had just won the Super Bowl.

"This is a monumental verdict for the named and unnamed victims of child assaults," the district attorney said. The prosecutors had taken on "for the first time the conspiracy of silence" that led to abuse of minors in the Catholic church that had "gone on for centuries," said the district attorney, himself a former altar boy.

Williams said he would have to review the evidence to decide whether to retry Father Brennan. But he was happy that Msgr. Lynn would now have to "face the consequences of his unspeakable crimes."

Was he talking about the My Lai massacre?

Williams ducked questions on whether he should have indicted Lynn's boss, Cardinal Bevilacqua. The late cardinal was one of many members of the Catholic hierarchy who "had dirty hands," Williams said. But the prosecutors decided to go with the case where they had the most evidence of child endangerment, and that was the case against Msgr. Lynn, Williams said.

Hmm. Let's review. Bevilacqua was the guy who, according to a 2005 grand jury report, along with the late Cardinal John Krol, orchestrated a systemic cover-up of sexual abuse of children over four decades that shielded 63 pervert priests from prosecution, after they had raped, sodomized and molested hundreds of innocent children.

The grand jury at first believed that Bevilacqua and other church officials were “tragically incompetent at rooting out sexually abusive priests and removing them from the ministry." But after the grand jurors reviewed thousands of pages of secret archive files that contained the same “incompetent investigation techniques ... it became apparent ... that Msgr. Lynn was handling the cases precisely as his boss wished.”

The grand jury said that under Bevilacqua, a code of secrecy existed that managed to keep both parishioners and police in the dark. “Cardinal Bevilacqua had a strict policy, according to his aides, that forbid informing parishioners,” the report said. “The cardinal, in fact, encouraged that parishioners be misinformed.”

When Lynn plowed through 323 secret archive files in 1994 to compile a list of 35 abuser priests in active ministry, it was Cardinal Bevilacqua who ordered that list shredded. Can you say cover up?

Edward P. Cullen, bishop emeritus of Allentown, sat in on a high-level meeting with the cardinal to decide what to do with that list of 35 priests, according to trial testimony. And Joseph R. Cistone, bishop of Saginaw, Mich., witnessed the shredding.

But Seth Williams ducked questions about whether he should have or would in the future indict either bishop. The district attorney said he has to weigh the evidence to see whether charges would be brought against any "additional defendants."

Williams returned to his talking points, saying this "monumental case will change the way business is done in many institutions."

The prosecutor recalled one incident where a priest named
Sylwester Wiejata confessed to Lynn that he had just molested a 13-year-old girl. The monsignor admitted when he testified to the grand jury that he didn't call the police, or try to do anything to determine the identity of the girl, or her parents.

I have three daughters, the district attorney said, tearing up. He said he would be mortified if one of his daughters was raped, and authorities "didn't tell me."

Ok, so he upgraded the crime from molestation to rape. But the DA was on a roll. The message had gone out that sex abuse would no longer be tolerated in Philadelphia. And as he sits in his jail cell tonight, the monsignor got that message, the district attorney said.

Yes, tonight, all the citizens of Philadelphia can breathe easier knowing the monsignor is no longer at large, thanks to the bottom feeders at the district attorney's office, and their cheerleader on the bench in Courtroom 304. The message is out there, if you're a kingpin of a criminal organization, make sure you and your top associates have an underling at the bottom of the organizational chart ready to take the fall.

A monumental verdict indeed.