The Non-Conspiracy: Media Provides Fig Leaf for Philly D.A. Who Goes One for Seven in High-Profile Trial, Trumpets Single Conviction

Msgr William Lynn family - June 22, 2012

Devastated: Family of Msgr. William Lynn leave the courthouse after the verdict, June 22, 2012

Ten years … Three grand jury reports … One trial … 11 weeks of testimony … More than 60 witnesses … A trial judge who gave so much favoritism to one side that she was actually described as "often mistaken for a member of the prosecution team." … 13 days of jury deliberations.

What were the results of the charges against the two high-profile defendants in this months-long landmark Philadelphia criminal trial? Let's look:

Msgr. William J. Lynn
- Conspiracy charge #1 (w/ ex-priest Edward Avery): Not guilty
- Conspiracy charge #2 (w/ Rev. Brennan): Dismissed, May 2012
- Endangering the welfare of a child #1 (re: Edward Avery): Guilty
- Endangering the welfare of a child #2 (re: Rev. Brennan): Not guilty

Rev. James J. Brennan
- Conspiracy charge (w/ Msgr. William J. Lynn): Dismissed, May 2012
- Attempted rape (a reduced charge): Deadlocked jury
- Endangering the welfare of a child: Deadlocked jury

In other words, of all the numerous charges sent to a jury, only one charge was returned as a guilty verdict, and it was against a senior priest who left his diocesan secretary position eight years ago.

Trumpeting Williams' flop

For well over a year, the media and Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams had repeatedly insisted that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia had operated a decades-long child sex conspiracy which intended for children to be abused. Yet in the end, nobody believed this whatsoever.

Predictably, the national media has trumpeted Williams' single conviction as a blockbuster headline proclaiming that Church hierarchy had finally been brought to justice. But the real story is that the jury flat-out rejected Williams' wacky claims of a "conspiracy." After millions of tax dollars were spent over the last decade, the jury merely convicted Msgr. Lynn of a single third-degree felony (which, by the way, was enabled by a fairly dubious ruling by the trial judge, Teresa Sarmina).

Post-trial hysteria: False facts and false attacks

In addition, Church-bashers were so frenetic following the announcement of the single successful verdict that clear thinking was abandoned.

- The New York Times: The Times actually misreported the verdict! The paper relayed that the jury "deadlocked" on two of the charges against Msgr. Lynn, when, of course, the jury returned "not guilty" verdicts. (See a screenshot.)

- SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests): In a mean-spirited media statement after the verdict, Peter Isely, the group's nasty Midwest Director, reached another low for the anti-Catholic group by tagging Rev. Brennan as a "serial child molester." In fact, no other person except Mark Bukowski (the accuser in the trial) has come forward to accuse the priest of abuse. This is "despite a massive search by law enforcement authorities and the archdiocese [that] included articles in area newspapers, television ads, and 10,000 letters mailed to former parishioners and children formerly supervised by Father Brennan." Isely's statement was simply a cruel smear.

- Judge Teresa Sarmina and Philly Ass't D.A. Patrick Blessington: Despite Judge Sarmina's order that there would be no outbursts in the courtroom as the verdicts were returned, the unhinged prosecutor Patrick Blessington could not contain himself. Even though the jury acquitted Msgr. Lynn on two of the three charges against him, Blessington angrily demanded that Lynn be jailed immediately, actually claiming that the senior cleric was a "flight risk."

Sarmina actually conceded to this wild request, confirming how biased this judge had been all along. Her decision to immediately jail Msgr. Lynn appears nothing less than vindictive. The excellent Ralph Cipriano has since reported:

"[T]he 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."

Outside the courthouse after the trial, one of Lynn's attorneys, Jeffrey Lindy, told the media:

"You are going to have to look a long, long, long time to find a 61-year-old defendant convicted of a third-degree felony with no prior record, with community ties, who is remanded. You will have to scour the city's archives to see if you can find one other person in his situation."

While abuse victims may feel some justifiable comfort and satisfaction in the one guilty verdict against Msgr. Lynn, the high-profile Philadelphia clergy abuse trial ended with a whimper, not a bang.

Don't let the media fool you.


  1. Publion says:

    This time maybe I will get to propose, rather than second, the motion to give a vote of thanks to Mr. Pierre, not only for his work all along but for this particular article that covers so many of the incinvenient facts conveniently ignored (or worse) by much of the mainstream media.
    The Philly trial site's article summarizing the whole thing displays that reporter, Ralph Cipriano, at the higher end of his range, and an impressive high it is. So much so that one of the most outspoken (if also suspicously whacky) commenters on that site chides him for "buyer's remorse" for apparently reversing his stance from earlier reports filed on that site.
    The judge may well re-consider her jailing now that the telegenic convict-walk has been duly staged and photographed; and on appeal there may well be further correction imposed by higher courts (although this is a Pennsylvania whose political elites – as I have noted in earlier comments on this site – are in on a political pressure-play reaching all the way up to their ex-Governor (and ex-Philly mayor) who is now Chariman of the DNC in a difficult election run-up in an increasingly dubious 'swing state').
    As 2002 represented a new Phase in this whole campaign (the tort-attorneys would no longer sue individual poor-as-a-church-mouse priests but would instead bundle together numerous allegants and allegations and file civil lawsuits for huge sums against Dioceses and Orders, the pot to be split among the allegants after the fees and expenses were deducted), so too I think this Philly trial was hoped to be the opening of another new Phase: criminal charges against Church officials who, as Mr. Cipriano notes, "never touched" anybody.
    The Question still to be answered by future developments is: will the public continue to go along with the Correct Spin and Narrative, or will the public decide that enough is enough and these trials are going to cost far more (in dwindling tax dollars) then they can produce. And perhaps even that there is not enough to justify the trials in the first place, without engaging in all the toxic chicanery we have seen in this trial and – as I suggested about the Lindner-Lynch case in California – in other trials.
    The SNAP/Philly DA alliance would like to accentuate the positive, in the sense that the ulterior objective of going after the Church somehow overrides the integrity (and perhaps legitimacy) of the justice system.
    I would focus on the negative of that gambit: the trial as it was schemed and strategized was an insult – in the formal sense – to genuine criminal justice process (perpetrated by the sworn guardians of that process) and that poisonous tree cannot but bear poisonous fruit.

  2. Dan says:

    Mr. Pierre – you could have saved yourself the time of writing this article and written the one line you really  feel and wanted to say. You just can't get over the fact that they finally got a conviction.  
    Now the heat is on for the Chruch. Just keep the justice coming!!!!

    • Ken W. says:

      Let's see if that one conviction survives appeals before you go waving it as a trophy. I'm normally not a betting man, but I'm willing to on this one: the circus atmosphere and the 100's of hours of irrelevant testimony that existed in this trial will not be tolerated in an appeals court.  Imagine that! A trial where nothing but the facts pertaining to the case are allowed. 

  3. JeannieGuzman says:

    The author of this article wrote, "Yet in the end, nobody believed this whatsoever."  Excuse me, but if you read blogs and posts all over the world, hundreds of thousands of people, if not millions, believed that children were endangered in the Catholic Church by exposing them to Pedophile Priests and members of the clergy!  More importantly, a jury of Lynn's peers, convicted him!  Now, he will need to put on a little orange jumpsuit, and for the term of his sentence, he'll lose all of the deferential treatment paid to priests.  Maybe, he'll learn to grow up and not take "blind orders" from anyone above him.  Maybe after this is over, he'll learn to think like a responsible man, rather than a robotic Catholic Priest!

    • says:

      Jeannie –
      Thank you for commenting, but you need to read the relevant paragraph again.
      After a three-month ordeal, the jury flat-out rejected Williams’ wild claim that the was a “conspiracy” in the archdiocese to abuse children.
      Two of the charges were dismissed, and the other two were ruled “not guilty.”

      Dave Pierre


    • DocKimble says:

      The judicial system is littered with pro-gay, progressive (Communist) judges who hate the Catholic Church. This case is an obvious set-up of an innocent priest for the purposes of intimidating men from considering the priesthood. Look around: there are many cases all over the country where one judge contradicts another on exactly the same type of charge. The HHS Mandate is intimidation of the Catholic Church from the White House. Eric Holder is a crook who uses American drug addicts' need for drugs from Catholic Mexico to end up getting Border Patrol Agents killed, and keep Mexico under gang rule. It's mob rule, gang rule, anarchy. Everything the Present Occupant is doing is Anti-Catholic in some way and the murder of Border Patrol Agent Terry just burnishes his reputation as "Black Superman gonna end 'White Man Law' "  Wake Up !

  4. Jerry Slevin says:

    Thanks, Dave. You are right that the Philly DA, Seth Williams, did not do  much more than catch a small fish, barely, on a lesser charge.
    Why was this? Why did Williams suddenly and explicably at the start of the trial undercut his main conspiracy charge against Lynn by giving Avery, a slam dunk conviction, a soft plea deal, without conditioning it on Avery's testifying against Lynn? Why did Judge Sarmina accept Avery's plea deal?
    In balance, Chaput has salvaged something. He can blame it all on the dead cardinals and their hapless flunky, Lynn. 
    Of course, Chaput is still left to explain the almost three dozen suspected predator priests Rigali  suspended only months ago, not eight years ago. Chaput is dragging his feet on many of these cases and could possibly  face child endangerment charges himself down the road  because of his mishandling of these suspected predators
    Chaput and Rigali both still face questions of their possible roles with respect to the elusive copy of the 1994 "shredding memo" that only surfaced to Williams' attention  a few months ago after Bevilacqua died.
    Now with the gag order lifted, the press can begin real investigative work.
    For example, they can finally ask Chaput's lawyer, Gina Smith's law partner, Ed Reindell, whether in the last two years he has directly or indirectly discussed this case with either Seth Williams or Ed's former assistant, Judge Sarmina.
    If Ed has had any discussions, it may help explain Williams' inept lawyering and Sarmina's cooperation on Avery's soft plea deal.
    Ed gratuitously and positively discussed Williams' future political career on MSNBC last year. Judge Sarmina has reportedly expressed interest in a Federal judgeship.
    As one of the most influential Democratic politicians in PA and the US, Ed could apparently help both the DA's and the Judge's future careers. The Judge's jailing of Lynn is grandstanding, it appears, that makes her look tough against the Philly AD. Chaput had written of the hapless Lynn long ago and likely cares little about how Lynn is now treated.
    Chaput appears to have come out of this reasonably well so far, but it is not over by a longshot. The real question is how did Chaput really accomplish this. Hopefully AP, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the NY Times, CNN  and other media will get to the bottom of this. 

  5. Fitasafiddle says:

    Sorry, Mr. Pierre, but Monsignor Lynn has finally learned who it is he has been working for.  The same men who threw all those children under the bus are now doing the same to him. And performing religious ritual while they do it.
    You bet it's going to shake the boots of the sitting ducks of the bishops conference. The fact that Monsignor Lynn "never touched anyone" has nothing to do with it. He facilitated the raping of children by catholic priests and he belongs in prison. Saying "Yes, Your Excellency" to priest pedophile enablers hanging around altars is not doing the Work of the Lord. 

  6. Publion says:

    ‘Jerry Slevin’ has contributed an even more interesting fact: Gina Maisto Smith, hired by the Archdiocese (in compliance with 2005 Grand Jury recommendations) to oversee the handling of clerical-abuse matters, is not only a former Philly ADA but also a Partner in the same firm as Ed Rendell, former Philly mayor, former PA governor, and current Chairman of the DNC.

    As I read it, Mr. Slevin’s take on this is that, given the possibilities resident in this matrix of connections [Philly DA-Smith(Archdiocese)-Rendell(DNC and all Philly-PA political levels)], the Archdiocese was somehow actually a directing force acting on the Philly trial. Thus then that the prosecution’s poor performance and strategizing of the case is attributable to the DA having ‘thrown the fight’ at the behest of the Smith-Rendell-Archdiocese connection.

    My take had been – and presently remains – that the Rendell connection indicates a possible national-political strategy: playing to a ‘base’ (‘liberals’, including ‘progressive’ Catholics and victim-advocacies) while appealing to undecided law-and-order voters who might vote Republican in the ‘swing’ state of Pennsylvania. Thus that the poor and weird prosecutorial strategy and conduct of this case (and also the statements and behaviors of both judge and prosecutors) were deliberate, secure in the knowledge that major political power and influence was on their side.

    I fully agree with Mr. Slevin that further investigative reporting is greatly to be desired here.

    My initial thoughts are that if the Archdiocese wielded sufficient power to so greatly influence the case then it could have gone further and squashed the whole thing, and could have prevented that long stretch of the trial devoted to reading into the record all those prior cases or stories about the cases involving matters that pre-dated the tenure of either of the accused.

    But it is surely possible (although it yet remains to be demonstrated) that this trial and this case are the result of a mutual effort to satisfy two significant but conflicting agendas: to play to various demographics politically, while not greatly damaging the Archdiocese. Thus Msgr. Lynn winds up the small-fry to take the heat, who may yet wind up either with a reversed-conviction on appeal, or a sentence that will not include prison-time (incarceration for any popularly-conceived ‘pedophile’ carries hardly insubstantial dangers of great physical harm at the hands of informal ‘inmate justice’).

    In this scenario, the usual victim-advocacies (themselves a congeries of interests and agendas) would be allowed to carry on their usual Standard Operating Procedures on the surfaces of this whole affair in order to glean what they can, like remoras making the best of it for themselves while riding a shark with a life and agenda of its own.

    Hard to tell at this point, but I would not rule anything out.

    But, however all this works out, it is clear that behind this case there was much much more going on than any single and simple Correct Narrative. The Church may have been involved, but surely no matter how it works out politics was certainly very powerfully involved.

    Thus, I would say, the insistent (and desperate?) efforts to spin this case as a victory for the advocacy-agenda (which itself is not necessarily congruent with the victims’ desires – a congeries which also have a life and agenda of their own).

    • Fr Jim Smith says:

      I like your insights, but you have missed one utem. The Archdiocese now has a ruling that the shuffling of accused pedophiles was not the result of some conspiracy, but the actions of a solitary employee. How much longer will it take until the unfortunate Msgr Lynn becomes a "rogue" employee?"
      If anyone doubts that he is a scapegoat for more interests than we can imagine, note that he is one of the few secretaries of clergy who did not become a bishop.

  7. Rondre says:

    Yet in the end, nobody believed this whatsoever. Who did you ask? Certainly not me. I believe lynn was a flight risk. Chaput would run him to the Vatican to protect him. Once again the church has been let off the hook. This is another example of bias reporting.

  8. Penn State,Pedophile Priest cleric enabler and Jehovah's Witnesses molestation big news same week.
    Jehovah's Witnesses hit with $28 million sex abuse settlement Oakland,Calif.-Google it.

    Many court documents and news events prove that Jehovah Witnesses require two witnesses when a child comes forward with allegations of molestation within the congregation.
     It has also been shown that child molesters within the organization usually have not been identified to the congregation members or the public at large.
    These people engage in a door to door ministry, possibly exposing children to pedophiles.
    The Watchtower corporation has paid out millions in settlement money already.
    Danny Haszard *tell the truth don't be afraid*

  9. MLLamb says:

    God Bless you, Dave Pierre and all Catholic gentlemen who keep their oath and defend the faith.
    Let us take a pole of Catholic Mothers in Philly and around the globe.  If we could haul every bishop around the globe including the Cardinal prefects and the Bishop of Rome into court, all of the verdicts renderred would not matter as much as the question in a mothers heart.  How do I best protect the soul of my son?

    • KMC says:

      You are correct.  At the same time, we do not want innocent priests being subjected to
      unwarranted assaults on their character.

  10. Dave Pierre continues his great service to the Church, to justice, and to the truth in his coverage of this debacle. We owe him a debt of gratitude. The story itself is just mindboggling.  The post mortem spin by SNAP, and even by this DA, has been laughable, and I could laugh if not for the travesty of justice that has befallen Msgr. Lynn.  This case was choreographed by a judge who no longer belongs on a Pennsylvania bench.  She has disgraced herself and the rule of law.  


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