Judge M. Teresa Sarmina today denied a defense motion that would have allowed Msgr. William J. Lynn out on bail pending an appeal of his historic conviction. Lynn, the first Catholic administrator in the country to be convicted in connection with clerical sex abuse, has been in jail since June 22, when a jury convicted him of one count of endangering the welfare of a child, a third-degree felony.
On July 24, Judge Sarmina sentenced Lynn to three to six years in prison for failing to protect a 10-year-old altar boy back in 1999 from a predator priest. The defense argued that by the time an appeal is heard, the monsignor may have already served his prison sentence, which is why Lynn's defense lawyers thought the monsignor should be freed during the appeal process.
Judge Sarmina, however, rejected that motion. She said that technically under the law, Lynn was not entitled to bail because his sentence was more than two years in duration. Jeffrey M. Lindy, one of Lynn's defense lawyers, argued that although Lynn did not have a right to bail, it was within the judge's powers of discretion to grant him bail.
Lindy cited extraordinary circumstances, namely that Lynn had been the first supervisor in the history of Pennsylvania to be charged under the 1972 state statute for endangering the welfare of a child. Normally, those charged under the child endangerment statute had direct contact with children, such as teachers, parents or guardians. Lynn, however, never laid eyes on the victim in this case, the former 10-year-old altar boy, until he took the witness stand.
But Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington told the judge that this was the third time the defense was trying to get their client out on bail, and that under the law, Lynn wasn't entitled to it.
The defense had contended that Lynn's chance of winning an appeal was "surely no less than a 50/50 proposition" because of "the prosecutor's own recent contradictory interpretations of the EWOC [endangering the welfare of a child] statute"that Lynn had been convicted of.
The defense lawyers cited a 2005 grand jury report, issued under former District Attorney Lynne Abraham, that determined that Msgr. Lynn, Cardinal Bevilacqua and the rest of the archdiocese hierarchy were not liable under the EWOC statute. Then, a second grand jury in 2011, under a new district attorney, Seth Williams, recommended that Lynn be charged under that same EWOC statute.
But the judge didn't even address that argument. Following a 17-minute hearing, the judge said she was denying the motion because of the "serious nature of the crime" that Lynn had been convicted of. She did not elaborate.
Lynn, the archdiocese secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004, wasn't in the courtroom when the judge denied bail. He previously had waived his right to appear at today's hearing, which everybody realized the defense had little chance of winning. None of Lynn's family members showed up either.
Outside the courtroom, Lindy said the judge wasn't in a listening mode. "She really didn't want to hear any argument," he said.
Lindy then opened up another can of worms. Lynn's defense team plans an immediate appeal of the monsignor's conviction to Superior Court. But the archdiocese recently decided to cut back on funds for Lynn's appeal, Lindy said. The archdiocese had previously paid for four defense lawyers, which cost at least $75,000 a week for a 10 week-trial, or a minimum of $750,000.
But the archdiocese had only allocated $25,000 for an appeal, which would be carried on by two of Lynn's defense lawyers, Thomas A. Bergstrom and Allison Khashkelis of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney. The remaining two defense lawyers, Lindy and Alan J. Tauber, have basically been cut loose, Lindy said. Lindy has represented Msgr. Lynn since 2004.
Lindy's remarks prompted a bizarre two-paragraph response from the archdiocese public relations office that baffled the archdiocese's own lawyers:
"Msgr. Lynn's counsel is strongly convicted that there were many errors at trial and the sentence is disproportionate to other punishment meted out to administrators for this same charge. This strong belief and care for Msgr. Lynn and his family has resulted in Msgr. Lynn's primary counsel, Tom Bergstrom, deciding to complete the appeal for Msgr. Lynn largely on a pro bono basis."
"The Archdiocese has and continues to believe Msgr. Lynn is entitled to all the rights afforded him by civil law, including the appeal, and we noted when he was sentenced that we hope that the ultimate decision in Msgr. Lynn's regard is just and merciful."
You have to wonder who writes this stuff.
First of all, the monsignor's defense lawyer stood up in court today and argued that Lynn is the first administrator in the Commonwealth to be charged under the child endangerment statute. There are no other convictions to compare Lynn's to, as well as no other "punishment meted out to administrators for this same charge."
Secondly, the defense lawyers aren't seeking a "just and merciful" punishment for the monsignor, they seek to overturn his conviction on the grounds that he never should have been charged under the EWOC statute in the first place because it didn't apply to him. These contradictions were pointed out to Kenneth A. Gavin, the archdiocese official who issued the statement. His response was, "I can't say much more than the fact that Tom Bergstrom has decided to complete the appeal for Msgr. Lynn largely on a pro-bono basis."
We got that Ken. In response to the archdiocese's statement, Jeff Lindy, one of the archdiocese's defense lawyers, put out his own statement: "I have no idea what that statement means," Lindy wrote of the archdiocese missive. "Is the Archdiocese continuing to support Msgr. Lynn or not? If they are, then they would pay his attorneys' fees on appeal. But it looks like they are no longer supporting him because they've told Tom Bergstrom to have his big firm continue on the case pro bono, and they've told me that whether or not I stay on the case, they're not paying my legal fees on appeal. It certainly appears that the Archdiocese is pulling their financial support for Msgr. Lynn at precisely the point in time when he needs their support the most."
"If we were ever going to win this case, this is we're going to win it -- on appeal, to a dispassionate appellate court that will hear out case and our arguments with an open mind and not prejudge the case as the trial court did," Lindy said, taking a swipe at Judge Sarmina.
"I've been setting up this EWOC issue since long before Msgr. Lynn was indicted when I represented him alone, and then during the trial, my partner, Alan Tauber, persuasively wrote a brief on this issue," Lindy wrote in an email. "It really doesn't make any sense for the Archdiocese to now say that it needs to cap the legal fees that it's paying to Msgr. Lynn."
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput visited Msgr. Lynn in prison early last month. The two men met for 90 minutes, at which time the archbishop supposedly told the monsignor he had his back. But actions speak louder than words. The archdiocese has previously spent $11.6 million in 2011-12 to defend itself in response to the most recent grand jury report. Now Lynn's fate during the appeal process has been entrusted to a pro bono legal team.
To Lindy, a lawyer who's been working for the archdiocese for the past eight years, it doesn't make a lot of sense. No wonder he was shaking his head outside the Criminal Justice Center.
"It's the same institution that brought you the shredding of the documents," Lindy said, referring to Cardinal Bevilacqua's decision back in 1994 to order the shredding of a list of active abuser priests in ministry that Lynn had compiled.