Judge M. Teresa Sarmina denied a defense motion today that would have granted house arrest to Msgr. William J. Lynn.
The judge's decision means that Lynn will continue to reside at Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility, known as CFCF, on State Road in Northeast Philadelphia. According to his attorney, Jeff Lindy, Lynn is in protective custody there, and leading a contemplative life.
Judge Sarmina did grant one defense request, to move up Lynn's sentencing date from Aug. 13 to July 24, provided the monsignor was willing to waive a pre-sentence report. The theory was, after Lynn has been the object of grand jury scrutiny and a decade of investigation, there was nothing new out there to be dug up by an investigator that would affect his sentence. Lynn agreed to the request.
The 61-year-old monsignor is facing a sentence of three and a half to seven years after being convicted on one count of endangering the welfare of a child, a third-degree felony. Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington surprised nobody in the courtroom when he said he would be asking for the maximum sentence.
The judge had asked Blessington to investigate whether the commonwealth could draw up an extradition waiver that if signed by Lynn would prevent the monsignor from escaping to the Vatican. Blessington said he did investigate, and that such a waiver would be "worthless" in the event that the monsignor went on the lam.
Another Lynn defense lawyer, Thomas Bergstrom, told the judge that the defense was prepared to raise Lynn's bail from $50,000 to $100,000, meaning the family's ten percent deposit would rise from $5,000 to $10,000, if the judge was willing to grant house arrest.
Bergstrom, tried to assure the judge that Lynn was not a flight risk before she made her decision. "He's not going anywhere," Bergstrom said of his client, who was brought to the courthouse by sheriff's deputies, and was wearing a black short sleeve shirt and pants, minus his priest's collar.
Bergstrom tried to appeal to the judge's sense of fairness, but struck out looking. "If he were any other defendant he'd be out on bail," Bergstrom told the judge. "I don't think he should be treated any differently. I think he's entitled to it."
But if the monsignor made a break for it, the judge asked Bergstrom, "Would you serve his sentence?"
"Sure, absolutely," Bergstrom replied. "That's the faith that I have in this man."
Blessington stood and offered his rebuttal. "Counsel's word," he said, referring to Bergstrom, "quite frankly means nothing to me."
"Counsel can't serve the sentence," Blessington continued. "We all know that. It's absurd."
It was time for the judge to rule. She was brief.
"The motion is denied," she said. She did not state a reason.
Blessington also opposed moving the sentencing date, but was overruled by the judge. He did not want to mess with the vacation schedule in the district attorney's office, he said. Also, the prosecution has the right to put on at Lynn's sentencing testimony from "any and all victims" of the actions of the monsignor, Blessington said, adding, "That's a really large universe."
Get set for a lengthy sentencing hearing.
Blessington also objected to the last minute nature of the defense motion to move up the sentencing date.
"Once again, we're walking out the door and we're called back," he griped to the judge. But the judge told Blessington that she didn't mind "zealous" representation in defense of a client, although any defense attorney being zealous in her courtroom was also subject to "getting smacked down," the judge said.
Blessington, however, need not worry about that possibility, as he is obviously the teacher's pet.
Jeff Lindy reminded the judge that he had been the recent victim of a Sarmina smack-down, after he mistakenly told the judge that the monsignor did not own a passport, when he did.
Judge Sarminia told Lindy she had recently received his apology for that transgression by email. She did not seem placated. "Maybe the apology should be done in open court," she suggested.
Note to Lindy: time for more groveling.
The judge's decision left Lynn's family and supporters in tears. As Bergstrom was exiting the courtroom, he cracked a joke. "I just called the Vatican and said, give up a room," he said, meaning that his client would no longer be needing one.
Outside the Criminal Justice Center, Jeff Lindy was holding court with the press. He said the defense is planning to appeal the case once Lynn is sentenced. But the problem is, by the time the appeal is decided, Lynn may have served his sentence.
Lindy talked about his client's condition.
"He's in protective custody, which he should be," Lindy said. "He's in a contemplative position, which his profession has prepared him for." But Lindy said that the monsignor was also left feeling like the fall guy.
"He's upset because he's seems to have the weight of the church on his shoulders," Lindy said.
Victims' advocates, however, where cheered by the judge's decision.
"Given the Catholic hierarchy's ongoing protection of those who commit and conceal child sex crimes, we believe Judge Sarminia has made a prudent choice," said Barbara Blaine, president of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
"If Msgr. Lynn is behind bars, there's virtually no way that he can flee the country, destroy evidence, deceive victims, mislead parishioners or take other steps to further cover up wrongdoing."
"Some may view this decision as harsh," Blaine said in a press release. "We consider it just and smart. And we hope it will end current cover ups and deter future cover ups by Catholic officials across the country."