Was the historic conviction in June of Philadelphia's Msgr. William J. Lynn based on a crime that never even happened?!
Ralph Cipriano at the Philadelphia Priest Abuse Trial Blog has exclusively reported that a motion filed on Monday in Pennsylvania Superior Court "contains a bombshell disclosure – that Father [sic] Edward V. Avery passed a polygraph test indicating he had never touched the former 10-year-old altar boy he pleaded guilty to abusing."
Before the start of the historic trial last spring, the former priest Avery entered his guilty plea to the abuse charges against him. And it was because of these alleged crimes that Msgr. Lynn was eventually convicted of endangering the welfare of a child. But according to Cipriano:
"[Avery] received a 2 1/2 to five year sentence, even though he told authorities he never even met the boy. The only reason Avery pleaded guilty, according to the motion, was that he was credibly accused by another victim, and that he was offered a good deal by the prosecution … Avery was facing a prison sentence of up to 20 years if convicted …"
Cipriano also adds another stunner: On the day Avery was sentenced (March 22), Judge Teresa Sarmina did not even ask Avery if the charges against him were actually true!
This is astonishing new information, indeed. And there's more.
Did the Philly D.A.'s Office withhold exonerating evidence?
In addition, according to Cipriano:
"In [the] motion … Avery denied sexually assaulting, or even knowing the former altar boy in statements  during a polygraph test, according to the motion. Avery passed the polygraph, [one of Lynn's attorneys] said in an interview. Such tests, however, are not admissible in court.
"Lynn's lawyers say prosecutors never informed them of the polygraph test, which they claim is a violation of Brady v. Maryland, which requires all prosecution evidence that would indicate innocence to be turned over to the defense."
Lynn's attorneys also wrote, "At the very least, knowledge of this information would have affected the tactical decisions pursued by [Lynn's] counsel during the trial."
A decision for Avery
Indeed, Avery had a previous abuse accusation against him when he was accused and confronted in the early 1990s for abusing a boy in 1978. Avery was removed from ministry, but after a psychologist concluded that Avery was an alcoholic and had a bi-polar disorder – not a pedophile – the priest was returned to limited ministry. In 2009, a new individual, named "Billy" in the 2011 grand jury report, came forward to claim that Avery and two other men – Rev. Charles Engelhardt and former teacher Bernard Shero – had molested and raped him in the 1998-1999 school year. (The trial for Engelhardt and Shero begins in October. Both men strongly deny the charges against them.)
As Avery sat in the courtroom before the start of the trial, he certainly knew that his previous accusation, which he was likely guilty of, would be used forcefully against him. He also likely saw a very biased courtroom that was weighed heavily in favor of the prosecution. The judges were incredibly slanted. (See this, this, this and this.)
Avery could plead guilty and serve 2 1/2 years or fight the charges and risk 20 years. He obviously chose the former.
1. Edward Avery would certainly not be the first person to plead guilty to a crime he did not commit. According to the heralded Innocence Project, an organization dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted people: "In about 25% of DNA exoneration cases, innocent defendants made incriminating statements, delivered outright confessions or pled guilty. These cases show that confessions are not always prompted by internal knowledge or actual guilt, but are sometimes motivated by external influences."
2. Again, the accuser, "Billy," has accused not one, not two, but three different men of abusing him around 1998, claiming that he was essentially "passed around" by the men for gratification. It is a wild claim, indeed.
3. For one, Rev. Charles Engelhardt, one of the three men Billy has accused, has never had any other allegations against him in over four decades in ministry.
4. When the Philadelphia review board investigated the claims from Billy, it actually did not find him credible. This was unusual, because the board took a very aggressive approach to the cases which were presented to it. The board removed over half of the priests in cases it studied.
5. If the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office did indeed not turn over Avery's polygraph results to Msgr. Lynn's lawyers, it would appear to be an astounding level of prosecutorial corruption.
Stay tuned. (And don't forget to read Cipriano's must-read post.)