New Philly Trial BOMBSHELL: Historic Conviction of Msgr. Lynn May Have Been Based Upon False Confession

Edward V. Avery and Msgr. William J. Lynn

Innocent men? Startling new information in the cases of Edward V. Avery and Msgr. William J. Lynn

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.

Some thoughts:

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.)


  1. John Joseph says:

    Great job, Dave and Ralph. Who's the liar now?????

  2. drwho13 says:

    Nice try, no cigar!  Lynn is going to do his time.

    • John Joseph says:

      Ignorance is bliss.

    • Ken W. says:

      The case is not over. You cannot say that Lynn is going to do his time with any more confidence than I can say that he will not. Your arrogance is the result of mob mentality, not a result from a desire for the truth.

    • drwho13 says:

      John Joseph,
      That sounds like wishful thinking; the Rev. Gordon J. MacRae will be out of prison any day now as well, right?  He must have close to 20 years in, and there's no end in sight.  Sorry, these guys aren't going anywhere. 

  3. Gail Ramplen says:

    I would really like to know why it is taking so long to get Fr Gordon MacRae out of prison. What sort of justice system do you people have there – it sounds lousy?

  4. Publion says:

    Well well well. We get – finally – to a public airing of one of the dark-corners of legal practice: the ‘plea-bargain’.
    Contrary to popular myth, this is not always (perhaps not often) a case of the accused approaching the prosecution to try to haggle down the probable sentence for being found Guilty. Rather, the prosecution does some calculating and figures how it might best use the accused’s situation for its own purposes. Then it piles on as much as it can to convince the accused that if s/he doesn’t accept the offered deal – the ‘bargain’ – then s/he will face umpty more years behind bars.
    Not such a difficult task in Avery’s case since he apparently already had one credible incident against him and thus was already leaking blood into the legal water. The sharks were nothing if not acute in realizing how he could be played to advantage. They were interested in much bigger fish and if Avery could be used to somehow open the way to those bigger fish, then he could be used.
    The fact that the ideals of Justice and the justice-system are not served by official reliance upon untruth is not of tactical concern here. The End justifies the Means – as it does in all ‘revolutionary law’: if what you do furthers your revolution then it is Good; if what you want to do – even if it is ‘technically’ Evil – serves the ‘revolution’, then it is by definition Good.
    This was – and bringing some element of ‘politics’ into this case is not at all irrelevant – the justification that lubricated the Bush-Cheney invasion of Iraq: who really cares if there are WMD in Iraq or not, because we are working toward a ‘Good’ cause and so anything done to further that cause has to be ‘Good’, even if to a lot of unenlightened fuddy-duddies it seems that we are going to do here is ‘Evil’. (The remainder of the justification is: Anyway, it will all seem Good once we’ve done this thing and won.)
    So then the whole thing gets even darker quickly: Avery is offered a deal very few people can refuse: a reduction from a much longer sentence … all he has to do is plead Guilty. Oh – and implicate the bigger fish that the sharks are really looking to chomp on.
    The Correct come-back is that ‘only guilty people plead Guilty’. That is a consoling fantasy that is nothing but a fantasy.
    And the further Correct come-back is that ‘anyway, the court has spoken’. But this will only work as long as the court does what the Correct folks want. And as this Thing continues now to unravel, and if higher courts intervene to rectify what may well have been wrong in the trial, then we’ll hear the Correct folks singing a whole different tune: ‘gutless prosecutors’, ‘fixed courts’, and it’s all an official ‘conspiracy’ to keep them from getting what they want.
    I’d say this entire Philly trial has been an official conspiracy from the get-go.

  5. Publion says:

    Just to follow up with some thoughts on ‘Gail Ramplen’s comment: there are powerful forces working against reversing miscarriages of justice that have resulted in some form of a wrongful-conviction.
    First, the legal system generally does not like to admit that it is capable of making such convictions, because it publicly draws attention to the fallibility of the system and its liability to manipulation.
    Second, because in almost all cases wrongful convictions involve some form(s) of official misfeasance, or malfeasance, or nonfeasance, especially prosecutorial  misconduct or at least chicanery and questionable practice.
    And that then raises the possibility of some very unpleasant publicity for those who perpetrated such official actions (and quite possibly crimes).
    And that then raises the possibility of other cases being questioned.
    And also the possibility of the State being subject to lawsuits.
    And if all of this is true in the general run of cases, this is – I think – even more applicable to what I call cases from a time of Stampede, since in such times prosecutors and other officials figure they can surf the higher waves of public emotion and get away with even more schemes than might otherwise have been the case.
    And if one case among the Stampede cases – Fr. MacRae’s, say – is reversed or the conviction vacated, then it also raises questions about the Stampede itself: how did it get started? How many more persons are have been wrongfully-convicted because of the Stampede?
    And even more possibilities are raised, none of which are desirable from the point of view or present or retired officials.

  6. jim robertson says:

    This smells real bad to me.

  7. Tim in Cleveland says:

    Sounds like the defense attorneys are grasping at straws to me.  I don't see how the polygraph test can be exonerating when such tests are inadmissible.  Lynn's attorneys appear to recognize this when they say that it would affect "the tactical decisions pursued by [Lynn's] counsel during trial."  As an attorney, I must say that that is a clever argument, but it won't work.
    This isn't a "bombshell."

  8. Julie says:

    I'd say its a bombshell, and I am happy that Dave is following it.

  9. David says:

    Have the posecutors made any statements?

  10. Josephine says:

    How come we are never provided the dollar amount (cost to taxpayers) for these bogus trials
    and incarcerations?  In other words, are we financing someone's mean hobby: being mean to priests?

  11. jim robertson says:

    "Being mean to priests. " Doesn't cover it. If this is an un just sentence then it must be corrected
    . But who benefits from a sentence that was quite so conviently injust. The priest sure reason enough.
    But who just put the victims shoes on their feet. Who benefits excessivly from a miscarrige of justice against the Catholic Church.
    Why none other than the Catholic Church, ladies and gents. Step this way no waiting no lines.  the show's already started!
    What a tre- easy f%$k up.


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