The Philadelphia clergy abuse trial this past year was historic, but not just for the conviction of Msgr. William Lynn for the mistakes he made back in the 1990s.
After ten years of investigations and three grand juries, the only jury conviction so far is just a single, third-degree felony. (And now we know there are serious questions about the case.)
Has so much ever returned so little? TheMediaReport.com wants to know. That's why we recently filed a public records request with the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office (DAO) in accordance with Pennsylvania's open records statute, the "Right-to-Know Law" (RTKL).
"All documents, in electronic format or otherwise, which reflect, refer or in any way relate to the staff members of the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office assigned to the prosecutions of Msgr. William J. Lynn (CP-51-CR-0003530-2011) and Edward V. Avery (CP-51-CR-0003527-2011), including but not limited to attorneys, paralegals, investigators, and support staff. Also records related to the salaries and benefits of all such assigned staff."
The request is pretty straightforward: We seek the request of records which would result in us lawfully determining how many attorneys, investigators, and other staff worked on the prosecution of the above Catholic clergy. [Read a copy of our actual request.]
The Philly DAO's opposition
The Philly DAO ignored our request, which resulted, according to Pennsylvania law, in a "deemed denial" (it was the second request we had filed), so we filed an appeal with the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records.
Last week, the DAO authored a declaration "in opposition to" our appeal. [Read a copy of the DAO declaration.]
In brief, the DAO's declaration consisted of a red herring and a healthy dose of contradictory information:
1. The DAO wrote, "The DAO does not maintain records detailing which Assistant District Attorneys are assigned to specific cases and the salaries and benefits that such District Attorneys earn while assigned to their cases" (emphasis added).
But we did not ask for what DA's make during their assigned cases. We simply asked for the staffing records for the cases we cited and what these person's regular salaries are.
The DAO adds that "[The DA's] salaries are not tied to any particular case on which they are working." Yes, and we already knew that, as we basically stated in our request and appeal.
2. The DAO wrote that it "does not possess any records responsive to [the] request," but it then claims in the very next paragraph that our request is so "vague," that our request "could implicate a whole host of documents that relate to the number of staff members who worked, in whole or in part, on … thousands of other cases on which these staff members have worked."
See the contradiction? After saying they "do not possess" the records we are seeking, they then say that they have "a whole host of documents" with the very records we are requesting!
We plan to file a response to the DAO's filing by Friday's deadline.
"Do as I say, not as I do"
The hypocrisy of this episode is glaring. While endlessly demanding "transparency" from Catholic Church officials when it comes to documents, the Philly D.A.'s Office now fights off a demand for its own transparency.
(By the way, the excellent Ralph Cipriano reported that there were seven Assistant D.A.'s in the coutroom during Msgr. Lynn's trial and that there were seven Assistant D.A.'s who questioned Msgr. Lynn during the grand jury hearings. We seek documents which would show this, and more.)
If there are any Pennsylvania legal experts who would like to offer us some pro bono suggestions, we would surely welcome them.