Jury Didn't Buy Prosecution's Grand Conspiracy Theory

By Ralph Cipriano
Philadelphia Priest Abuse Trial Blog
June 25, 2012

Lost in all the hoopla over the "historic" conviction of Msgr. William J. Lynn was the jury's repudiation of the prosecution's central allegation in the priest abuse case: that Lynn had somehow conspired with predator priests to keep them in ministry, so they could abuse new victims.

The prosecution's conspiracy theory was that Lynn got up every day and said in effect, what can I do to keep pedophile priests in ministry, so they can continue to rape, molest and abuse more innocent children.

On Monday, the jury foreman in the case went on Fox 29 and said that not only did he and other jurors not believe the prosecutors' theory, but also that they didn't understand it. It would be comical, except that the Commonwealth just spent millions of dollars and eight weeks of trial trying to convince the jury that Bill Lynn the quintessential company man was the alleged mastermind of the archdiocese conspiracy to endanger children.

The jury found Lynn not guilty of conspiring with Father Edward V. Avery, or anyone else, to endanger the welfare of children.

On Monday morning, jury foreman Isa Logan went on Fox 29's Good Day and told anchors Mike Jerrick and Karen Hepp that he didn't buy the prosecution's conspiracy theory, and neither did anyone else on the jury.

"It wasn't about him [Lynn] passing them [abuser priests] on from parish to parish," Logan explained to the two TV anchors. Instead, the jury concentrated on Lynn's role as a supervisor, Logan said. "It was more on what are your actions knowing about a father [priest], what do you do after the fact when you find out that this person could be a potential problem or is a problem."

"None of us understood or believed that he [Lynn] had the understanding that here's a predator priest, I'll help him get to another parish so he can continue to enjoy what he likes to do," Logan stated. "None of us believed that."

"It's a ludicrous notion," agreed Jeff Lindy, one of Msgr. Lynn's defense lawyers. Lindy is hoping that the conviction, which he says is based on a child endangerment law that doesn't really apply to Lynn, is thrown out on appeal.

"It's clearly a complete repudiation of any claim that Msgr. Lynn conspired with anyone," agreed Alan J. Tauber, another defense lawyer. He's also pinning his hopes on an appeal. "It's one of the clearest cases for reversal that I've ever seen based on the application of the law."

Lawyers in the case have been free to talk since Judge M. Teresa Sarmina lifted her gag order on the case last Friday, when the verdict was announced. But getting lawyers to talk on the other side of the case has been difficult. Tasha Jamerson, a spokesman for District Attorney Seth Williams, could not be reached for the past two days.

The conspiracy case against Lynn was so weak that even pro-prosecution Judge Sarmina tossed two conspiracy to endanger the welfare of children charges that allegedly linked Lynn to the other defendant in the case, Father James J. Brennan. Brennan's case ended in a mistrial after the jury deadlocked on two counts, attempted rape, and endangering the welfare of children.

To anyone who sat through the entire trial, the real conspiracy was the archdiocese's successful campaign to keep pervert priests out of jail, and the sins of Mother Church out of the media, and the civil courts.

While defense lawyers talked about an appeal, Lynn remained a resident of the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility, known as CFCF, at 7901 State Road in Northeast Philadelphia. A hearing on whether to spring Lynn from jail and keep him under house arrest until his Aug. 13 sentencing was scheduled for 11 a.m. Tuesday in Courtroom 304.

The issue on whether Pennsylvania's child endangerment law applies to Lynn may be key if the case is appealed. The interesting thing about the defense theory that the child endangerment law doesn't apply to Lynn is that at one time, the people who agreed with that theory included former District Attorney Lynne Abraham, and a 2005 grand jury that investigated sex abuse in the archdiocese.

A January 12, 2012 defense motion for relief to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania that fell on deaf ears outlines the appeal case. Here's what the applicable state law known as EWOC [endangering the welfare of a child] said: "A parent, guardian, or other person supervising the welfare of a child under 18 years of age commits an offense if he knowingly endangers the welfare of the child by violating a duty of care, protection or support."

Here's what the 2005 grand jury report said about whether that law applied to Lynn or any other member of the archdiocese hierarchy: "As defined under the law ... the offense of endangering welfare of children is too narrow to support a successful prosecution of the decision-makers who were running the Archdiocese. The statute confines its coverage to parents, guardians, or other persons 'supervising the welfare of a child.' High-level Archdiocesan officials, however, were far removed from any direct contact with children."

On Oct. 1, 2006, Assistant District Attorney Mariana Sorensen, one of the authors of the 2005 grand jury report, wrote an article in the Allentown Morning Call, calling for the closing of legal loopholes in the EWOC law.

"It was also one year ago that the same grand jury revealed gaping loopholes in Pennsylvania laws intended to protect our children," wrote Sorensen, who also helped write the 2011 grand jury report, and worked on the current archdiocese case. "The grand jury recommended simple amendments to statutes that would close the loopholes ... Lawmakers have yet to pass any of these amendments ... They should promptly enact the Philadelphia grand jury recommendations to: ... make the law against endangering the welfare of children explicitly apply to supervisors who place children in the care of those known to be dangerous to children ... "

"What criminal law reforms cannot do is identify or hold accountable past abusers and enablers who have successfully concealed their offenses until after the statute of limitations has run," Sorensen wrote.

On Nov. 15, 2007, the co-sponsor of the bill to reform the EWOC law, state Rep. Dennis O'Brien, said on the floor of the state house, "The current law punishes only those people with the duty of care to a child who violate that duty by abusing or endangering the child. This bill acknowledges that employers and supervisors of those abusers should also share the responsibility for the welfare of these children. Thus, this bill imposes criminal liability on the employers or supervisors of abusers who knew of the abuse but failed to act, or worse, concealed the abuse."

Defense lawyer Tauber has researched 280 cases in Pennsylvania involving the EWOC statute. "Never once has the statute been applied to a supervisor of empoloyees before the statute was amended in 2007," Tauber said.

Here's what the law was changed to in 2007: "A parent, guardian or other person supervising the welfare of a child under 18 years of age, or a person that employs or supervises such a person, commits an offense if he knowingly endangers the welfare of the child by violating a duty of care, protection or support."

Lynn was secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004. He got a pass from former District Attorney Lynne Abraham and the 2005 grand jury that investigated sex abuse in the archdiocese. But in 2011, a new grand jury, and a new district attorney, Seth Williams, looked at the same old EWOC law, and arrived at the opposite conclusion, that the law did apply to Lynn.

"In biblical parlance, it's the Pharaoh who didn't know Joseph," Tauber said.


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