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Giving readers an unvarnished, uncensored, insider's view of the biggest courtroom dramas.

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    By Ralph Cipriano
    for BigTrial.net

    Sometimes a journalist can make the mistake of falling in love with a story. Even when it turns out to be not true.

    That seems to be what's happened over at The Philadelphia Inquirer, in the case of the six former members of the city's Narcotics Field Unit.

    After a seven-week trial a jury in May found the officers not guilty on all 47 charges of a 26-count RICO indictment that alleged conspiracy, deprivation of civil rights, robbery, extortion, carrying a firearm in relation to a crime of violence, possession with intent to distribute cocaine, falsification of records, and aiding and abetting.

    To recap, the jury heard all the evidence in the case and 47 times the jury foreman told the judge that the verdict was not guilty on every charge.

    But at the Inquirer, the editorial board keeps on serving up sour grapes about the case, while rehashing disproven allegations and nasty quotes at the heart of a defamation lawsuit filed by the acquitted cops and one of their superior officers. The conduct of the newspaper has left lawyers for the cops scratching their heads and wondering what is going on.

    "Reading that editorial, it strikes me as an inane, malevolent attack on the character and reputation of six heroic police officers who have withstood the test of a trial by a jury of their peers and found to be not guilty of anything that they were charged with," said James J. Binns, the defense lawyer for Officer Michael Spicer, one of the defendants.

    "I don't understand what the purpose of that editorial would be other than malice," Binns said.

    Under the headline, "Laws apply to the police too," and a picture of Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey with an apparent halo around his head, the editorial says:

    Escaping conviction wasn't enough for five former Philadelphia narcotics officers who stood trial on corruption charges. Their recent defamation suit appears designed to discourage authorities from going after any cops suspected of illegal behavior.

    Certainly the acquittals of the officers accused of shaking down drug dealers sends a strong message to prosecutors whose cases hinge on the testimony of felons. But that shouldn't stop them from pursuing justice, even when the defendants wear blue uniforms.

    Six officers were accused of routinely beating and robbing drug suspects as members of the Narcotics Field Unit. But a federal jury acquitted five of them in May despite damning testimony not only by their alleged victims, but also a former member of the unit who made a plea deal.

    Who does the fact-checking over there? Six cops were accused by the government and the jury acquitted all six defendants, not five. Apparently the jury didn't believe that "damning testimony" from the drug dealers in the case when they unanimously reached 47 not guilty verdicts. The jury also apparently didn't buy the testimony of Jeffrey Walker, the former narc who cut a plea deal to cooperate after he was caught red-handed in an FBI sting.

    The Inquirer also doesn't seem to know that the sixth acquitted officer, Linwood Norman, has joined the defamation suit, as reported Friday on this blog.

     Let's get back to that Inky editorial:

    The witnesses accused the officers of acting like street thugs, roughing up suspects, ignoring due process, planting evidence, pocketing seized money and lying in police reports. The squad's superiors allegedly asked few questions because the unit was so productive.

    In fact, the officers' complaint calls it "the most accomplished and effective narcotics unit in the history of the Philadelphia Police Department." Even if that's true, the distinction would not excuse the criminal behavior the officers were charged with.


    The seriousness of the charges led Mayor Nutter to call the accused "sick scumbags." Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey described it as "one of the worst cases of corruption I have ever heard." District Attorney Seth Williams' 2012 decision to no longer prosecute cases resulting from the accused officers' investigations was followed by dozens of civli rights suits against the officers and the reversal of hundreds of earlier drug convictions. The officers' lawsuit accuses all three officials of defaming them.

    "Their editorial begins by explicitly begrudging my clients their rights to get their good names back," said Christopher D. Mannix, the lawyer who filed the defamation suit on behalf of the six acquitted officers and their former supervisor, Lt. Robert Otto.

    The Inquirer editorial "implies that my clients should be content that they got their jobs back," Mannix said. "Then, it gratuitously besmirches my clients by repeating Mayor Nutter's venomous slur."

    "I guess either the Inquirer was trying to prove our point -- that the officers will never escape the official slurs on their character -- or they were deliberatively propagating it," Mannix said about the newspaper.

    Mannix also disagreed with the newspaper on what the "strong message" was for the prosecutors in the case who lost 47-0.

    "The 'strong message' is not how difficult it is to rely on criminals for testimony," Mannix said. "It is that the government should properly investigate serious charges."

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    By Ralph Cipriano

    Bergstrom & Lynn Back In Superior Court
    for BigTrial.net

    Msgr. William J. Lynn is back in jail. He won't be seeing the Pope when he comes to town next month. Meanwhile, Thomas A. Bergstrom, the monsignor's longtime defense lawyer, is back in state Superior Court, arguing that his client deserves to get out of jail or be granted a new trial.

    Bergstrom is operating on friendly turf. On Dec. 26, 2013, a panel of three state Superior Court unanimously reversed Lynn's 2012 conviction on a single count of endangering the welfare of a child, and ordered that the monsignor be "discharged forthwith."

    But on April 27, four state Supreme Court justices reversed the Superior Court's reversal, setting off a chain of events that culminated with Lynn's return to jail on April 30th.

    The legal battle in the monsignor's case dwells on the wording of the state's original child endangerment law that said, "A parent, guardian or other person supervising the welfare of a child under 18 years of age commits an offense if he knowingly endangers the welfare of the child by violating a duty of care, protection or support."

    The Superior Court decided that under that statute, Lynn wasn't a supervisor.

    The state Supreme Court disagreed, saying that under the law, Lynn was a supervisor.

    "The Supreme Court's Opinion was remarkable for what it did and did not say," Bergstrom, along with lawyers David A. Schumacher and Allison Khaskelis, argued in a 10-page supplemental brief  submitted June 30th.

    "While the 'Commonwealth urge[d] the [Supreme Court to reverse the Superior Court and reinstate [Lynn's] conviction . . . that is plainly not what the Supreme Court did," Bergstrom wrote.

    Instead, Bergstrom wrote, the state Supreme Court opinion turned on the narrow issue of whether under the law, Lynn, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's former secretary for clergy, was a supervisor.

    "The majority [of the state Supreme Court] then held that [Lynn] could be classified as a supervisor," Bergstrom wrote. But the state Supreme Court "left the door entirely open regarding whether [Lynn] knowingly endangered the welfare of a child," Bergstrom wrote, referring to the wording of the rest of the original statute. In his brief, Bergstrom argues that the Commonwealth has "utterly failed to prove this element of the crime," namely whether Lynn knowingly endangered Billy Doe.

    The Superior Court has already agreed with Bergstrom on the issue.

    Bergstrom quoted the Superior Court's unanimous opinion of Dec. 26, 2013, "There was no evidence that [Lynn] had any specific knowledge that [former priest Edward] Avery was planning or preparing to molest children at St. Jerome's," the Superior Court panel of judges wrote.

    "Indeed, Avery was not even diagnosed with a mental impairment that suggested he had a predisposition to commit sexual offenses," the state Superior Court judges wrote. "As such, the notion that Avery was an ongoing, ever-present danger more than a decade after having sexually assaulted R.F. [a previous victim] was tenuous at best," the Superior Court judges wrote. "Here, the information available to [Lynn] only suggested Avery's acts of sexual abuse were a byproduct of his alcohol abuse, and there was no evidence that Avery had resumed drinking or that [Lynn] knew of such behavior."

    The Superior Court judges wrote that Lynn did not "know of" Billy Doe, "nor did he have any specific information that Avery intended or was preparing to molest [Billy Doe] or any other child at St. Jerome's," Bergstrom argued.

    Returning to the wording of the law, Bergstrom argued that the Commonwealth also did not prove that Lynn "owed a duty of care, protection or support" to Billy Doe. In conclusion, Bergstrom asks the Court for relief "in the form of immediate reversal or, in the alternative, a new trial."

    In response, the district attorney's office yesterday filed a 32-page response brief that says that Lynn "was a person supervising the welfare of many children, because as a high-ranking official in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, he was specifically responsible for protecting children from sexually abusive priests."

    The D.A. wrote that prosecutors in the case "introduced extensive evidence that [Lynn's] handling of Rev. Avery's case was not an anomaly, but was in accord with his established practice for dealing with sexually abusive priests."

    "The evidence demonstrated that [Lynn] violated his duty to prevent priests from sexually molesting children . . . in furtherance of his objective to conceal the misconduct and to protect instead the reputation of the Archdiocese," the district attorney wrote.

    "Simply put, [Lynn] did not safeguard the physical and moral welfare of [Billy Doe] by placing Rev. Avery, a known child molester, in a position to molest him," the district attorney wrote.  "For all his legal gyrations, it was precisely this conduct that brought [Lynn] within the class of individuals subject to criminal liability for EWOC," the district attorney wrote, referring to the crime of endangering the welfare of a child.

    "By his own concession, [Lynn] supervised the welfare of the children of the Archdiocese, including [Billy Doe], and knowingly endangered [Billy Doe]'s welfare by placing Rev. Avery in a location and situation that gave him license to abuse [Billy Doe]," the district attorney wrote.

    Whgile Bergstrom argues that the test under the law should be whether Lynn knowingly endangered Billy Doe, the D.A. argues that "only knowledge of endangerment is required."

    The "knowledge of a particular result is not required, the district attorney wrote. So the prosecutors ask that the "judgments of sentence" be affirmed, and Lynn remain in jail, according to the response filed by Hugh J. Burns Jr., chief, of the D.A.'s appeal unit; Deputy District Attorney Ronald Eisenberg, First Assistant District Attorney Edward F. McCann Jr., and D.A. R. Seth Williams.

    On June 22, 2012, a jury in Common Pleas Court found Lynn guilty of a single charge of endangering the welfare of a child. He was the first Catholic administrator in the country to be sent to jail for not properly supervising predator priests. On July 24, 2012, Judge M. Teresa Sarmina sentenced Lynn to three to six years in prison.

    Lynn had served 18 months of his sentence on Dec. 26, 2013 when a panel of three state Superior Court judges -- John T. Bender, Christine L. Donohue and John L. Musmanno -- reversed the monsignor's conviction and ordered him "released forthwith." But Judge Sarmina didn't agree, and instead imposed conditions on the defendant that amounted to house arrest.

    Lynn had spent 16 months under house arrest until April 27th, when the state Supreme Court reversed the reversal by the Superior Court. Three days later, Judge Sarmina granted a motion by the D.A.'s office to revoke bail and send Lynn back to jail to serve out the remainder of his sentence.

    As of yet, no date has been set for oral arguments in Superior Court before the same panel of three judges that previously reversed Lynn's conviction.


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    Held Up By A Hustler
    By Ralph Cipriano
    for BigTrial.net

    The archdiocese caved; Billy Doe got paid.

    That's the depressing bottom line in the civil case of Doe v. Archdiocese of Philadelphia et al, according to multiple sources.

    On the court docket today, Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Jacqueline F. Allen dismissed both a motion for partial summary judgment filed by the former altar boy, and a motion for summary judgment filed by the archdiocese, as "moot," because both parties had "settled all claims . . . in the instant matter."

    The settlement is confidential. As part of the settlement, Msgr. William J. Lynn, the archdiocese's former secretary for clergy, was dismissed as a defendant in the civil case, according to sources. Billy Doe's civil lawyers had also sued the estate of the late Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua, the former archbishop of Philadelphia, but that claim too was settled, according to the court docket.

    A trial in the civil case had been scheduled for Nov. 9th. Three defendants who had supposedly sexually assaulted the former altar boy remain in the civil case as defendants: former priest Edward V. Avery, the late Father Charles Engelhardt, and former Catholic teacher Bernard Shero. The trio of alleged assailants were the defendants at two historic criminal trials. Avery pleaded guilty on the eve of the first trial in 2012; the following year Engelhardt and Shero were convicted by a jury in the second trial on sex charges and sent to jail.

    The heavyweight in the civil case has always been the archdiocese, the defendant with the deepest pockets. A spokesperson for Archbishop Charles Chaput, who would have had to approve the settlement, did not respond to a request for comment.

    Thanks to the archbishop, the civil case is most likely over. Unless the state Supreme Court responds to Hail Mary-type legal appeals filed on behalf of the late Engelhardt and Shero, the criminal convictions will stand. And the civil trial in November may become just a forum for a jury to decide how much more damages should be awarded to the plaintiff.

    "Billy Doe" is a grand jury's pseudonym for the former altar boy turned heroin addict who told an incredible and constantly-evolving story about supposedly being raped by two priests and a school teacher.

    In normal times, Billy would have been laughed out of the D.A.'s office on the face of his ridiculous allegations. But in this case, District Attorney Seth Williams wanted to make prosecutorial history. He wanted to become the first district attorney in the country to put a Catholic administrator behind bars for transferring known priestly abusers from one clerical assignment to another.

    And Billy Doe's crazy stories were one of only two cases that fit into the statute of limitations.

    Even people in the D.A.'s office knew that Doe wasn't a credible witness. He'd been kicked out of two high schools and had been in and out of 23 drug rehabs. He was arrested six times as an adult, including one bust for possession with intent to distribute 56 bags of heroin. He had a long track record of lying to doctors, social workers and law enforcement authorities.

    One high-ranking official in the D.A.'s office even confirmed that people in his office agreed with a defense lawyer's characterization of Billy Doe as a "lying sack of shit."

    Records back that up. According to medical records gathered for the civil case, Doe at first told his drug counselors that he had "no history of physical or sexual abuse."

    Then, according to those records, Billy told his many drug counselors that he was: sexually abused at 6 by a friend; sexually abused at 7 by a teacher; sexually abused or raped at 8 by an unknown assailant; sexually abused or raped at 9 by an unknown assailant; and sexually abused again at 9 by a 14-year-old family friend.

    It was, as one defense lawyer, wrote, an ongoing "fantasy of sexual abuse." And that was before Billy told the district attorney he was raped at 10 by two priests, and at 11 by a school teacher.

    To make matters worse, the stories that Billy Doe told were constantly changing.

    At first, Billy told two archdiocese social workers that after a 6:30 a.m. Mass, Father Engelhardt had supposedly attacked him in the church sacristy, locking all four doors, stripping himself naked, and forcing the boy to have oral sex. Then, according to Billy, the priest flipped Billy over and pounded away at him with five hours of brutal anal sex. After it was over, Billy claimed, the priest threatened to kill him if he told anybody about it.

    Billy had originally claimed that Father Avery "punched him in the head" and knocked him unconscious. When Billy woke up, he claimed he was naked and that the priest had tied him up with altar sashes. Avery then supposedly then raped Billy anally so brutally that he "bled for a week."

    Billy had originally claimed that teacher Bernard Shero had punched him in the face and attempted to strangle him by wrapping a seatbelt around his neck before he supposedly raped Billly in the back sat of Shero's car.

    But when Billy Doe told his story of abuse to the police and grand jury, all that anal sex, the death threat, the punch in the head from Avery, the punch in the face from Shero, the claims about being tied up naked with altar sashes and strangled with a seat belt, all those details were dropped from Billy's stories.

    Instead, Billy told a completely new tale about oral sex and mutual masturbation with his alleged assailants, complete with brand new story lines about Father Engelhardt supposedly showing him pornography and serving him altar wine, and Father Avery forcing Billy to perform a strip tease to music.

    Billy's lack of credibility was accompanied by an law enforcement investigation compromised from day one, because the D.A., against the usual office policy, had allowed Billy's father, a Philadelphia police sergeant, and Billy's mother, a nurse, to sit in on the D.A.'s interview with Billy, who was an adult.

    A subsequent grand jury report had more than 20 factual errors in it. And when the D.A. finally got around to investigating the case, nearly two years after the grand jury report was published, what did the D.A.'s own detectives discover? That just about every witness they interviewed, including Billy's own mother and brother, contradicted Billy's stories.

    But on the eve of trial, Avery pleaded guilty to involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a child, and conspiring with Msgr. Lynn to endanger the welfare of a child.

    Avery, then 69, was facing a sentence of 13 1/2 to 27 years; instead, he got a sweetheart deal, 2 1/2 to 5 years. Avery subsequently recanted his confession, testifying in court that he had lied and taken the plea bargain because he didn't want to die in jail.

    In settling the case, the archdiocese's lawyers apparently decided that they couldn't get around Avery's plea bargain. Or the criminal convictions of the other two defendants left in the civil case.

    There's a voluntary confidentiality stipulation in the civil case that has effectively silenced all the participants. Lawyers for the archdiocese could not be reached for comment.

    Engelhardt, 67, died in jail last November after serving nearly two years of a 6 to 12 years sentence. He had been convicted of endangering the welfare of a child, corruption of a minor and indecent assault.

    Engelhardt's estate remains a defendant in the civil case. On the court docket today, Judge Allen denied Billy Doe's motion to overrule Engelhardt's objections to the plaintiff's document requests.

    Shero, 51, was sentenced to 8 to 16 years in jail after he was convicted by a jury of the rape of a child, attempted rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a child, endangering the welfare of a child, corruption of a minor, and indecent assault.

    Reacting to the news of the settlement, Bonnie Shero, the defendant's mother, said she couldn't believe how it just keeps getting worse.

    "We all feel the injustice of everything that's happened since day one," she said about the case. "Now for [Doe] to have all this money, to do what? I feel terrible about it. We never thought the archdiocese would cave and give him the money."

    Both Engelhardt and Shero lost appeals in Superior Court, and have since appealed their criminal convictions to state Supreme Court, where the success rate is less than 10 percent.

    Another recent legal factor going against the archdiocese was the state Supreme Court's recent reversal of an earlier Superior Court reversal of Msgr. Lynn's original conviction. The monsignor was convicted on one count of endangering the welfare of a child, namely Billy Doe.

    In Lynn's original trial, the trial judge allowed the prosecution to drag in 21 supplemental cases of sex abuse in the archdiocese, dating back to 1948, three years before Lynn was born.

    The state Superior Court had ruled that the state's original child endangerment law did not apply to Lynn, a conclusion that a previous district attorney, Lynne Abraham, and a previous grand jury, had already stated in writing.

    But the state Supreme Court reversed the reversal, and blasted Lynn and the archdiocese.

    In their opinion, the state Supreme Court described Lynn as the "point man" regarding allegations of sex abuse by the clergy. It was Lynn's job to protect the welfare of children, the state Supreme Court said. Instead, Lynn took no actions to ensure children's safety. It was part of a pattern by the monsignor under the administration of Cardinal Bevilacqua, the court said.

    Lynn "suppressed complaints and concerns by the colleagues" of abusive priests such as Avery, the Supreme Court stated. And when contacted by law enforcement in cases involving abusive priests, Lynn "misrepresented facts to thwart their investigation of these priests and their crimes," the Supreme Court wrote.

    In such a legal climate, the archdiocese apparently decided that rather than risk a long trial, some bad publicity and a big jury verdict, it was time to pay up.

    So it was a pragmatic decision made by a bunch of lawyers and an archbishop playing the numbers. Predictably, it was done under cover of darkness, as have all the sinister deeds in this case beginning with the political calculations of the district attorney and that so-called "investigation" of the grand jury.

    Unfortunately in this case, from start to finish, truth was always the first casualty.

    Catholics ought to protest the settlement. And everyone associated with it should be ashamed of themselves.

    Especially the archbishop, who just signed off on a pack of lies. When the truth would have set everyone free.

    0 0

    By Ralph Cipriano
    for BigTrial.net

    Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams was scheduled for a deposition at 1 p.m. Monday in a defamation case filed against him by Police Officer Linwood Norman.

    But yesterday in Common Pleas Discovery Court, Judge Idee C. Fox canceled the deposition because she claimed that the plaintiff's lawyer, Christopher D. Mannix, should have filed an order for pre-complaint discovery.

    Mannix maintained that no such order was required, but the judge overruled him. The issue of the D.A.'s deposition, however, is far from settled because Judge Fox declined to enter a protective order sought by the D.A.'s office to prevent a future deposition of Williams.

    "The D.A. is unavailable on Sept. 14, and given his understandably busy schedule, he is unlikely to be available for  a deposition at any point prior to the date on which Norman's complaint is due," wrote Assistant District Attorney Michael Scalera in a motion for a protective order filed Sept. 10.

    In the motion, Scalera asserted that a protective order was needed to prevent "a busy public official" from "the annoyance, oppression and burden of submitting to a deposition based on nothing more than Norman's unfounded suspicion that the D.A. might have said something actionable about him at some point."

    Linwood's libel and defamation claim grew out of the so-called rogue cops case that charged Linwood and five other members of the Narcotics Field Unit with routinely robbing and beating drug dealers they arrested.

    A jury, however, handed the feds a crushing defea by finding all six narcotics officers not guilty on all 47 counts in the highly-publicized RICO case.

    Linwood's libel and defamation claim was filed in July in Common Pleas Court against three defendants: the district attorney, Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, and Mayor Michael Nutter.

    Norman's suit followed an amended defamation claim filed in federal court against the same three city officials on behalf of Officers Michael Spicer, Brian Reynolds, Perry Betts, John Speiser and Thomas Liciardello, as well as the group's former supervisor, Lt. Robert Otto.

    Mannix has said previously that the two defamation cases would probably be consolidated into one case in federal court.

     After they won their jobs back, the officers filed their defamation suit. The officers claimed they were defamed at a July 31, 2014 press conference held by Police Commissioner Ramsey and Mayor Nutter to discuss the indictment of the narcs. At the press conference, Mayor Nutter called the officers "sick scumbags" and Police Commissioner Ramsey pledged to destroy their badges.


    D.A. Williams was sued for defamation because he sent a letter to the police commissioner in 2012 announcing that his office would no longer prosecute any cases brought by Officers Spicer, Reynolds, Betts, Speiser, Liciardello and Otto. The D.A.'s letter, however, didn't mention Norman. Whatever else the district attorney might have said that was defamatory about Norman was not mentioned in the writ of summons, which may explain why Mannix wanted to take the D.A.'s deposition.

    The D.A.'s office has also been busy fighting the defamation case in federal court, as has a city lawyer on behalf of the mayor and police commissioner. But on Sept. 3, Judge Paul S. Diamond granted the plaintiffs' request to file a second amended complaint by Oct. 2. The judge also dismissed without prejudice motions from all three defendants to dismiss the case.

    0 0

    By Ralph Cipriano
    for BigTrial.net

    Like a zombie that refuses to die, the Billy Doe civil case is still scheduled for trial at 9:30 a.m. Nov. 9th, in Courtroom 480 of City Hall.

    Many people assumed the case was over after Archbishop Charles Chaput caved and decided to settle with the notorious junkie hustler, but court records say the show will go on.

    Msgr. William J. Lynn, and the estate of the late Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua have already been dismissed as defendants, as has the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. But Billy Doe's lawyers are still pressing forward with what they hope will become a show trial against three remaining defendants in the case -- former priest Edward Avery, former Catholic school teacher Bernard Shero, and the estate of the late Father Charles Engelhardt.

    Avery and Shero remain in prison for sexually assaulting the former altar boy; Engelhardt died in prison last November.

    But lawyers for Engelhardt's estate are still trying to clear his name, and they have gotten some help from a judge. On Sept. 9th, Judge Linda Carpenter granted an "emergency motion to compel the independent medical examination" of the plaintiff. According to the judge's order, Billy Doe has to travel from Florida to be examined at 10 a.m. Sept. 17th in the offices of Dr. Stephen Mechanick, a forensic psychiatrist in Bryn Mawr. And if Doe fails to appear, the judge ruled, Engelhardt's estate can apply for sanctions.

    In their Sept. 4th emergency motion to compel the independent medical examination of Billy Doe, lawyers for Engelhardt's estate argued that the plaintiff is seeking compensatory and punitive damages for the "alleged sexual abuse and negligence resulting from "one isolated and independent act of battery" that supposedly occurred when Billy was a 10 year old altar boy.

    Doe was previously examined by Dr. James I. Hudson, a Belmont, MA psychiatrist, "in connection with this litigation," the emergency motion said. Dr. Hudson had been retained by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia who issued an expert report on May 19th "relating to plaintiff's extensive psychiatric history and whether Plaintiff's symptoms could be considered attributable to childhood sexual abuse or be cited as evidence of prior sexual abuse."

    But apparently the archdiocese's lawyers would not share their expert report with Engelhardt's lawyers, who so far have been paid for by the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, the priest's religious order.

    Engelhardt's lawyers wrote that prior to submitting a pre-trial memorandum, they contacted the archdiocese's lawyers, and were given permission to name Dr. Hudson as an expert in their case. The archdiocese's lawyers were fully aware and "did not object to this [expert] designation," Engelhardt's lawyers wrote in their emergency motion.

    But on Aug. 3rd, the archdiocese's lawyers advised Engelhardt's lawyers in a letter that they had settled the cased against Lynn, the archdiocese and Bevilacqua's estate.

    "When counsel for the archdiocese failed to return several calls over the course of several days, counsel for Enghardt contacted the experts directly and was advised that the archdiocese had communicated its preference that the experts no longer participate in this case," the emergency order said. "The experts, many of whom the Archdiocese is using in other abuse cases, felt obligated to honor the Archdiocese's direction."

    "After a week of attempts to speak to counsel, counsel for the Archdiocese finally confirmed this position via email dated August 10, 2015," the emergency motion said. Engelhardt's lawyers then decided to find their own expert. Billy Doe's lawyers, however, refused to make their client available for examination.

    That led Engelhardt's lawyers to cry foul.

    "Defendant Engelhardt is entitled to obtain an independent mental examination of the Plaintiff" because it is "reasonable and necessary to the defense of this case," Engelhardt's lawyers wrote in their request for an emergency order. "Engelhardt intends to use in the trial the testimony of the physician who examines Plaintiff as to the nature, extent and probable duration of Plaintiff's injuries complained of and to refute the expert testimony presented by Plaintiff," wrote Thomas R. Hurd and Monica T. Holland, on behalf of the estate of Father Charles Engelhardt.

    While the archdiocese's lawyers weren't talking to Engelhardt's lawyers, court files reveal they were communicating with Billy Doe's lawyers.

    On June 17th, Nicholas M. Centrella, a lawyer for the archdiocese, informed Billy Doe's lawyers that all expert witnesses in the case were "retained and paid solely by Archdiocese to defend itself in this matter." If the case was settled, Centrella wrote, "there is no agreement with any co-defendant that those experts become experts for the co-defendants."

    "However, we also do not believe that there is any prohibition on them [co-defendants] separately retaining the psychiatric and damage experts if those experts are willing to testify on their behalf," Centrella wrote.

    In an Aug. 3rd letter to Judge Jacqueline F. Allen, Billy Doe's lawyers stated that "in light of the prior criminal convictions" of the remaining defendants Avery, Shero and Engelhardt, "it is now likely that, what was thought to be a possible 4 to 6 week liability/damages trial, is now going to be a 3 to 5 day damages trial only."

    In a Sept. 1 letter to Engelhardt's lawyers, Billy Doe's lawyers "strenuously" objected to any additional examination of their client.

    Billy Doe's lawyers complained that in a civil case more than four years old, Engelhardt's lawyers for the first time were requesting that Billy "return from Florida to participate in another, intrusive, all-day question and answer session about heinous acts of sexual abuse that he [Billy] simply wants to forget at this point."

    Billy Doe "has already lost time from work coming to Philadelphia for previous depositions and court hearings," his lawyers wrote. Doe has also traveled from Florida to Boston "for an overnight trip involving a psychiatric examination, the cost of which you refused to share with the Archdiocese," his lawyers wrote Engelhardt's lawyers.

    In pursuing a show trial, Billy Doe's lawyers can only be seeking the publicity that would accompany a large jury award. Of the remaining defendants, Shero is a pauper and Engelhardt's estate is minimal. Meanwhile, Avery has claimed in court papers that he's so broke he had to fire his lawyers and will defend himself in the civil case.

    Avery is currently serving a sentence of 2 12 to 5 years at SCI Laurel Highlands, in Somerset, PA. His former lawyer, Clark Hill, filed an Aug. 20th petition to withdraw from the case. "Avery has indicated he can no longer afford to pay Clark Hill PLC to represent him and that he will proceed to represent himself in this matter pro se," Hill wrote.

    On Aug. 28th, upon consideration of Hill's request, Avery was ordered to show cause why the motion should not be granted. Avery "currently housed at SCI-Somerset shall participate via video conference, " Judge Allen ruled. The video conference is scheduled for 11 a.m. Sept. 18th in Courtroom 1106 of the Criminal Justice Center.

    Avery pleaded guilty on the eve of the first archdiocese sex abuse trial in 2012, where the marquee defendant was Msgr. Lynn. The following year Engelhardt and Shero were convicted by a jury on sex charges and sent to jail. Despite a mountain of reasonable doubt in the case.

    Over the years, Billy has drastically changed his story about the abuse he allegedly suffered from Engelhardt.

    Billy Doe originally told two archdiocese social workers that Engelhardt attacked him in the church sacristy after a 6:30 a.m. Mass. Engelhardt supposedly locked all four doors of the sacristy and stripped himself naked, before forcing the boy to have oral sex, Billy claimed. Then, according to Billy, the priest flipped Billy over and pounded away at him for five hours of brutal anal sex. After it was over, Billy claimed, the priest threatened to kill him if he told anybody about it.

    But when Billy Doe told his story of abuse to the police and grand jury, the anal sex and the death threat disappeared from Billy's story.

    Instead, Billy told a completely new tale about oral sex and mutual masturbation with his alleged assailant, complete with a brand new story line about Father Engelhardt supposedly showing him pornography and serving him altar wine before the attack.

    Meanwhile, the archdiocese has refused to comment on the Billy Doe case. How much cash they gave Billy remains a mystery that should interest local Catholics.

    UPDATE: On Wednesday, Judge Carpenter vacated her Sept. 8th order granting an emergency motion to compel the independent medical examination of Billy Doe. According to the docket, that judge's order was entered in error as an uncontested motion.

    Today, Judge Jacqueline Allen granted an emergency motion by Engelhardt's estate to compel the independent medical examination of Billy Doe. According to the docket, Judge Allen ordered Billy to appear at Dr. Mechanick's office either at 10 a.m. today or within 30 days at a date, location and time "mutually agreed by the parties."

    UPDATE NO. 2: On Monday, Judge Allen approved lawyer Clark Hill's petition to withdraw from the case. "Edward V. Avery will hereafter represent himself in this matter pro se," the judge wrote.


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    First Assistant D.A.: "I'm tired of their shit."
    By Ralph Cipriano
    for BigTrial.net

    An amended complaint filed in federal district court charges that the indictment of six Philadelphia narcotics officers was a "perverse retaliation" provoked by a "petty and childish" feud between the narcs and the district attorney's office.

    "The Plaintiffs, mainly [Lt. Robert] Otto and [Officer Thomas] Liciardello, had been battling with the District Attorney's Office for more than a year over the issue of the proper handling of confidential informants, and, the system of proffers," lawyer Christopher D. Mannix wrote in a second amended complaint filed today.

    "The District Attorney's Office's positions on these aspects was unprofessional and often petty and childish," Mannix wrote. "These disputes had nothing to do with the integrity of the Plaintiffs, and nothing to do with the charges eventually brought -- although the disputes later prompted the charges in what was a perverse retaliation against the Plaintiffs."

    The defamation and false light suit was filed on behalf of six former narcotics officers and their supervisor against District Attorney R. Seth Williams, Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey, and Mayor Michael A. Nutter. The suit seeks monetary and punitive damages for irresponsible "grandstanding" allegedly done by the three city officials.

    The complaint tracks the origin of the defamation to a Dec. 3, 2012 letter sent by D.A. Williams to Police Commissioner Ramsey, a letter subsequently leaked to reporters. In the letter, the D.A. stated he would no longer prosecute cases involving five of the narcs and their supervisor. In the complaint, Mannix described the letter as a "direct and false attack on the credibility of the Plaintiffs."

    Less than a week before the letter was sent, "First Assistant District Attorney Edward McCann said, with regard to the Plaintiffs, approximate words or approximate words to the strong effect: 'I'm tired of their shit. Enough is enough,'" the amended complaint states.

    "The 'enough' had nothing to do with integrity or credibility," Mannix wrote. Instead, Lt. Otto "called into question the actions of Chief Brian Grady and Chief Jan McDermott of the District Attorney's office on the issues of the treatment of cooperating witnesses, and proffering," Mannix wrote.

    Lt. Otto on Feb. 12, 2012, wrote a memorandum "critical of the unprofessional conduct" of Grady and McDermott, a memorandum subsequently read by District Attorney R. Seth Williams, and First Assistant McCann, the amended complaint states.

    "Meanwhile, the FBI itself was upset with certain of the Plaintiffs, especially with respect to a major drug case where the Plaintiffs had proceeded not knowing or having any reason to know that their subject was also an FBI subject of investigation," Mannix wrote.

    "The Corruption Task Force that investigated the events recounted in the indictment were prodded to do so by reason of the long-standing bureaucratic squabbles involving the Plaintiffs on the one hand, and the D.A.'s office and Certain Police Department personnel and the FBI on the other hand," Mannix wrote. "The latter parties prodded the Task Force because of the unrelated disputes."

    On July 29, 2014, six narcotics officers who are plaintiffs in the defamation suit -- Officers Michael Spicer, Brian Reynolds, Perry Betts, Linwood Norman, John Speiser and Thomas Liciardello -- were indicted by the U.S. Attorney's office and charged with routinely beating and robbing the drug dealers they arrested.

    On May 14, 2015, all six defendants were found not guilty by the jury on all 47 counts of the RICO indictment. On July 10, 2015, an arbitrator reinstated all six defendants to their jobs. A month later, in August, one of the defendants, Perry Betts, voluntarily retired after he flunked a drug test.

    "The reinstatements ordered by the Arbitrator do not in any sense make those Plaintiffs whole," Mannix wrote. "Among many other things, their good names have not been reinstated and they will each lose out on almost an average of $50,000 in overtime pay a year."

    "The D.A. and [Police] Commissioner had no legitimate evidence of credibility issues with the Plaintiffs, and, the letter of Dec. 3, 2012 did not arise out of credibility issues," Mannix wrote. "The unmistakable message communicated by the Dec. 3, 2012 letter was deliberately and maliciously unrelated to the real, petty reason for the letter."

    "D.A. Williams was not exercising legitimate prosecutorial discretion in the writing of the letter," Mannix wrote. "D.A. Williams and Commissioner Ramsey were effectively working in concert with respect to the no-just cause transfers that were the immediate result of the Dec. 3, 2012 letter."

    After the D.A.'s letter was released, the officers were transferred out of the Narcotics Field Unit.

    "The nightmare that began on Dec. 4, 2012, continues," Mannix wrote. "Defendants and the press have permanently distorted the truth about and the character of the Plaintiffs." Over the years, Mannix wrote, the plaintiffs "have received an extraordinary amount of commendations, recognitions, citations and nominations."

    On April 25, 2013, a district attorney's investigation revealed that out of 53 complaints against the officers, 39 complaints were "either exonerated, unfounded, declined, not sustained, closed" or cleared, Mannix wrote. Thirteen complaints remained open. One complaint resulted in an adverse finding as in "not sustained but PO was found guilty in front of Police Board."

    Additionally, Plaintiff Otto, after 27 years of service "has never had an adverse finding as a result of a citizen complaint and has no official disciplinary record," Mannix wrote.

    In the complaint, Mannix ridiculed the "literally laughable case put on by the United States Attorney," using as an example an allegation that Officers Liciardello and Spicer had wrongfully arrested a woman on narcotics violations and that her wallet and money was missing.

    "It turned out that the 'stolen' money and wallet were accurately placed on property receipts," Mannix wrote.

    The amended complaint charges continuing defamation by city officials against the plaintiffs. For example, right after the jury verdict, Commissioner Ramsey told reporters, "I thought the U.S. Attorney had a good case, but unfortunately the jury didn't agree."

    "That was a devastatingly effective double-barreled shot at the outcome of the trial and the names of the Plaintiffs," Mannix wrote about Ramsey's comments.

    On May 27, 2015, First Assistant District Attorney McCann tweeted, "A not guilty verdict means the prosecution didn't prove it's case. Doesn't mean you are innocent or owed an apology and parade in your honor."

    Seventeen days after the cops were reinstated, the Philadelphia Daily News quoted Commissioner Ramsey as saying, "The real problem was that the case was lost in court. It is very, very unfortunate that the U.S. Attorney's Office did not win that case."

    In the same article, Cameron Kline, a spokesman for the district attorney's office, was quoted as saying, "the result of the criminal trial therefore does not alter out approach concerning these officers." Kline told the newspaper that new matters involving these officers would be reviewed on a "case-by-case basis."

    McCann subsequently tweeted, "The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is." Winston Churchill.

    "It is difficult to top Churchill, but as to First Assistant District Attorney Edward McCann's invocation of the 'malice' and 'ignorance' of others, it is easy: The First Assistant surely 'doth protest too much,'" Mannix wrote. "Malice and ignorance have been the very constants in the cruel farce the Plaintiffs have been subjected to by the Defendants."

    "While Defendants have been crushing any idea that the names of the Plaintiffs have been cleared, the press is doing the same," Mannix wrote. He quoted in the amended complaint a May 20, 2015 editorial in the Inquirer that implied the former narcs were still guilty.

    In that editorial, the Inquirer repeated the comments that inspired the suit: Mayor Nutter calling the accused "sick scumbags," and that Police Commissioner Ramsey describing the indictment of the narcs as "one of the worst cases of corruption that I have ever heard."

    A spokesman for the district attorney's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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    Pelullo and Scarfo
    By George Anastasia
    For Bigtrial.net

    Mrs. Scarfo won't be going to jail.

    After pleading guilty to a mortgage fraud charge that was a small part of her husband's multi-million dollar looting of a Texas company, Lisa Scarfo, 36, was sentenced today to two years probation and 200 hours of community service.

    "Mrs. Scarfo, good luck. I hope you get your life back together," U.S. District Court Judge Robert Kugler said after imposing the sentence during a 10-minute hearing in federal court in Camden.

    Kugler cited her "limited role" in the scam orchestrated by her husband, mobster Nicodemo S. Scarfo. But the judge added that he did not doubt that she knew what she was doing when she filed false statements in a mortgage application in 2008 that allow the couple to purchase a $715,000 home in Egg Harbor Township outside of Atlantic City.   

    In a statement read by her attorney, Richard Sparaco, Lisa Scarfo apologized to the court. She said she had made a "serious mistake" that had "devastated her family" and she pleaded for leniency.

    Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven D'Aguanno, the lead prosecutor in the eight-year investigation, said the government did not oppose probation. Under sentencing guidelines, Mrs. Scarfo faced a maximum prison sentence of six months, according to the judge.

    Her husband and his top associate, Salvatore Pelullo, were each sentenced to 30 years in prison in July after a jury convicted then of masterminding the behind-the-scenes takeover of FirstPlus Financial Group in 2007 and then systematically looting the company of $12 million.

    The money, the government alleged, was used to finance a lavish lifestyle that included the purchases of a $850,000 yacht, a corporate jet, a Bentley automobile, jewelry and the home in Atlantic County that was the focus of the mortgage fraud charge.

    Prosecutors alleged that Scarfo, the son of jailed Philadelphia mob boss Nicodemo D. "Little Nicky" Scarfo, and Pelullo used fear, threats of violence and the aura of organized crime to remove officials who oppose their takeover and to intimidate others in the company to go along with the plan.

    "Nicky Scarfo and his associates tried to take La Cosa Nostra corporate, using traditional strong-arm tactics to take over a publicly traded company and loot it like a personal piggy bank," said Assistant U.S. Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell in a statement released after Scarfo was sentenced back in July.

    "Scarfo and his crew gave new meaning to the term `corporate takeover,' pushing out the legitimate leadership of a publicly traded company and then looting it," added Paul Fishman, the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey whose office prosecuted the case.

    Scarfo, Pelullo, FristPlus CEO John Maxwell and his brother William, an attorney who served as private counsel to the company, were convicted of racketeering conspiracy, bank fraud, mail fraud, securities fraud, extortion and money-laundering earlier this year. John Maxwell was sentenced to 10 years in prison. His brother got 20 years.

    All four defendants are appealing.

    Lisa Scarfo was one of several defendants who pleaded guilty prior to the start of the trial. She admitted filing a false tax return that exaggerated her income as part of an application for a $500,000 mortgage for the Egg Harbor Township home. The government alleged that a $215,000 down payment for that purchase came from the looting of FirstPlus.

    The Scarfos were married on Feb. 14, 2008, while the FirstPlus scam was in full bloom. It was Nicodemo Scarfo's second marriage. The couple have a son, also named Nicodemo, who was born a few months later.

    A probation officer, testifying at trial, said Nicodemo Scarfo boasted that his baby was "Nicodemo 3d." The boy, now about seven, is the namesake of two notorious mobsters.

    His grandfather, one of the most violent mob bosses in Philadelphia history, is currently serving a 55-year term for racketeering and murder. The 84-year-old crime boss was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the FirstPlus case. Authorities said both his son and Pelullo visited him in prison and discussed the conspiracy and their plans to take over the company.

    Authorities opted not to formally charge the elder Scarfo, noting that he will likely die in prison. His probation date is 2033 when he will be 104 years old. His son, who has been in jail since his arrest in 2011, has two prior convictions for mob-related gambling and racketeering offenses. His earliest release date, absent a successful appeal, is in 2036.

    Steven D'Aguanno, who spearheaded the FirstPlus probe, said after today's hearing that the government was satisfied with probation for Lisa Scarfo, acknowledging as the judge had done, that her role was a small one in the overarching conspiracy.

    "It's been a long road," D'Aguanno said of the probe that began back in 2007, adding that his office was pleased with the convictions and sentences that have capped the case.

    George Anastasia can be contacted at george@bigtrial.net.

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    Ted Simon and George Martorano
    By George Anastasia
    For Bigtrial.net

    Earlier this month, George Martorano was released from a prison.

    It was long overdue.

    Martorano, 65, had spent 32 years in federal institutions. Jailed in 1983, he pleaded guilty a year later to drug dealing charges, admitting that he ran a multi-million dollar narcotics ring that dealt in cocaine, heroin and marijuana.  It was his first offense. Yet the judge -- the late John B. Hannum -- sentenced him to life.

    On the face of it, it hardly seemed logical or fair. It was the maximum sentence. Martorano could have gone to trial, gotten convicted and would have faced no harsher punishment. Where was the benefit in pleading out? Usually that factors in to the sentencing process. You take a plea, you catch a break.

    Conventional wisdom at the time was that Martorano -- nicknamed "Cowboy George" and the son of mobster Raymond "Long John" Martorano -- was looking at a 10-year max. If he got lucky, maybe less.

    Instead, the judge dropped the hammer.

    Why Hannum chose to go in that direction is part of a bigger, more complicated story that literally changed the face of the Philadelphia mob.  At least that's the position of aging mob informant Nicholas "Nicky Crow" Caramandi whose testimony in the late 1980s decimated the crime family he and Long John Martorano had once served.

    Caramandi, now 80, turned government witness in 1986 after being busted in a mob extortion case that focused on the development of Penn's Landing. Martorano, he now says, was the reason.

    While in prison awaiting trial, Caramandi had serious concerns about his future. Mob boss Nicodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo was an intolerant despot and Caramandi wondered if Scarfo, who was behind the Penns Landing shakedown, would move to eliminate him in order to avoid being implicated.

    Caramandi sought out Long John Martorano, who was also in the Philadelphia Detention Center at the time after being convicted of drug dealing and of the gangland murder of Roofers Union boss John McCullough. Caramandi asked Martorano to find out if he "had a problem with the Little Guy."

    A few days later, while they were both in the prison exercise yard, Martorano said he had had some friends on the outside check into the situation. "You're dead," he said. The message was clear, Caramandi said; Scarfo planned to kill him.

    Within hours The Crow was on the phone from prison to the FBI. The next day he was in federal custody and his life as an informant had begun.

    But did he really have a problem with Scarfo? Caramandi now believes that Martorano had fabricated the story. The reason?

    "He believed Scarfo and Bobby Simone had sold his kid down the river," Caramandi said. "So he used me to get back at them."

    Bobby Simone, Scarfo's longtime lawyer and, in the minds of some at least, a mob associate, had represented George Martorano in the drug case before Hannum. Simone had convinced Martorano to enter the guilty plea.

    Raymond Martorano, from prison, was as shocked as everyone else when his son got life. And, Caramandi and others believe, he held Scarfo and Simone responsible. If true, getting Caramandi to flip was a clever, almost Machiavellian move by Long John.

    Caramandi's testimony brought down the Scarfo organization. It was the ultimate revenge for the Sicilian -born Martorano.

    Caramandi was the chief witness when Scarfo, City councilman Leland Beloff and Beloff's aide, Bobby Rego, were convicted in the Penn's Landing extortion. Scarfo, along with a dozen top associates, was convicted again in a broader racketeering murder case in which Caramandi again took the stand. 

    Simone was later convicted for his role in the Penns Landing case and other alleged mob activities. He died in 2007.

    Scarfo is still serving a 55-year sentence for racketeering. Many of his co-defendants have since returned to South Philadelphia and are now part of an underworld in flux. But that's a story for another day.

    Long John Martorano was released from prison in the late 1990s after his conviction in the McCullough murder was overturned. He was gunned down in South Philadelphia in January 2002. He died two weeks later. No one has ever been charged with that murder, one of at least three that federal and local law enforcement investigators are still hoping to lay at the feet of a group of active mob members. Stay tuned.

    George Martorano was set free on Oct. 5 under new guidelines that are part of a compassionate release program. He was, by all accounts, an exemplary inmate at a federal prison in Florida where he served as a mentor for other inmates in a program designed to help prisoners adapt to life behind bars and prepare for life on the outside.

    Martorano educated himself during his three decades behind bars, taught life skills and creative writing, served as a counselor and mentor to scores of prisoners and  wrote more than a dozen plays and novels. If anyone was entitled to a break, it was he.

    "Extraordinary" is just one of the superlatives Martorano's lawyer, Theodore Simon, uses to describe his client. Simon, who worked tirelessly to win Martorano's release, said Martorano had impacted the lives of thousands of inmates in a positive way through his teaching and counseling and that society would benefit from his release.

    "He's turned lives around," said Simon, a highly regarded defense attorney whose clients have included Amanda Knox, Ira Einhorn and Robert Durst, among other high profile defendants.

    He said he was hard pressed to think of anyone who had been as "transformed" as Martorano during his time behind bars, calling him "an extraordinary human being."

    Simon said Martorano had "provided consistent, extraordinary and exemplary service to his fellow inmates by having created numerous programs and classes, mentored countless inmates, taught classes to thousands of inmates while at the time becoming an author of more than 30 literary works."

    "I have always maintained that it is a gift to be a lawyer," Simon added in a prepared statement, "but on Oct. 5, the day of George's release, the bigger gift will be for society and all the good that George will continue to do."
    Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrea Foulkes, who represented the prosecution in the release process, also cited Martorano's exemplary prison record in explaining her office's position.

    "During his 32 years of incarceration, George Martorano provided exceptional assistance to other inmates in furthering rehabilitation and re-entry skills, mentoring inmates with significant mental health issues, and serving as a suicide watch counselor for troubled and depressed inmates," she said in a prepared statement released this week. "Prison staff praised Martorano for promoting a culture of non-violence and contributing to a healthy environment within the prison walls. Those factors influenced the decision to support his early release."

    THIRTY-TWO YEARS! Other inmates, convicted of murder and more heinous crimes, often serve less time. Martorano's supporters, who for years argued for his release, called him the longest serving non-violent offender in the federal prison system.

    And while he's now a free man and has reportedly relocated to Florida, the how and why of Hannum's life sentence remain central questions in the George Martorano case.

    Was a deal struck and did the judge knowingly bury Cowboy George because of who his father was? Did the push for life come from federal authorities who hoped to flip George and get him to cooperate? Or were Simone and Scarfo behind the move, orchestrating a deal to legally rub out the Martorano faction?

    Another twist, less nefarious but equally as detrimental to George Martorano, was this: Hannum was subpoenaed as a character witness for Bobby Simone who was on trial for income tax evasion in federal court in Camden in the summer of 1984. This was after Martorano had pleaded guilty, but before he was sentenced.

    Hannum was criticized in the media for testifying on Simone's behalf, even though his testimony was considered innocuous. Simone, who defended himself, beat the case, offering a novel argument in which, among other things, he described himself as a degenerate gambler who was deeply in debt to mob loansharks.

    He had a choice, he said, he could pay the mob or pay the IRS. "Who was I suppose to pay?" he asked. "The interest is about the same. The health aspect is a little different."

    There are those who believe Hannum was still bristling at the media criticism that September when he sentenced George Martorano. As a result, that theory goes, the judge bent over backwards not to be perceived as showing any favoritism to a Simone client. Hannum denied motions to recuse himself from the case, another point Martorano raised in several failed appeals over the years.

    We may never know what actually motivated the judge.

    But Simon said his client believes he has the answer.

    "At some point in time, the full, complete and accurate story will be told," the lawyer said, noting that his client is a skilled and prolific writer.

    Whatever factors were in play, the result was what many now believe was an unwarranted and unfair life sentence for George Martorano.

    And that, in turn, led to a life-altering decision by Nick Caramandi that changed the face of the Philadelphia mob.

    George Anastasia can be reached at George@bigtrial.net.



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    By Ralph Cipriano
    for BigTrial.net

    Next Friday, in Courtroom 480 at City Hall, they're scheduled to pick a jury in the civil case of Billy Doe vs. the Archdiocese of Philadelphia et al.

    The case still bears that title even though in August, the archdiocese settled with Billy Doe for a undisclosed pile of cash. It's an unholy pact that should have prompted every Catholic in town to demand that their archbishop tell them how much.

    There are still three defendants left in the civil case; three men who went to jail for sexually abusing the credibility-challenged former altar boy turned heroin addict and dealer: ex-priest Edward Avery, the late Father Charles Engelhardt, and former Catholic school teacher Bernard Shero.

    In the case of Shero, Judge Rosalyn K. Robinson ruled this morning that she was granting the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment in part. "It is hereby ordered, adjudged and decreed," the judge wrote, that "defendant Shero is collaterally estopped from denying or disputing that he committed the acts of sodomy and sexual abuse alleged in plaintiff's complaint."

    A similar motion in the case of Avery is expected to be granted as well. That means for defendants Shero and Avery, rather than be allowed to contest the alleged sexual abuse of Billy, the civil trial, scheduled to begin Nov. 9th, would just become a hearing on how much more in damages should be awarded the plaintiff, to compensate for his alleged pain and suffering.

    But here's where it gets interesting. Judge Robinson said she'll be ruling on the motion for summary judgment next week in the case of the late Father Engelhardt. And since the jury in Engelhardt's criminal case reached no verdict on the most serious charge, a count of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a child, the judge may allow the civil jury to decide what actually transpired between the priest and the altar boy.

    "Our argument is that a civil jury should be allowed to decide what assault if any occurred," said Thomas R. Hurd, the lawyer defending the estate of the late priest.

    Hurd cautioned that the decision whether to grant summary judgment is up to the court. But asked if he expects to be able to cross-examine Billy Doe, Hurd replied that he certainly hopes so.

    If not, the civil case is basically over before it starts.

    Way back on Jan. 30, 2013, in the second archdiocese sex abuse trial, a Common Pleas jury found Shero guilty of the rape of a child, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a child, endangering the welfare of a child, corruption of a minor, and indecent assault.

    In the case of Engelhardt, the jury on the same date reached no verdict on a count of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a child. But the jury found the priest guilty on four other counts: endangering the welfare of a child, corruption of a minor, indecent assault on a person less than 13 years old, and conspiring with Father Ed Avery to commit sexual assault on Billy Doe.

    Judge Ellen Ceisler subsequently threw out the conspiracy conviction as unproven.

    It was a good start; it's a shame she didn't keep going.

    On March 22, 2102, on the eve of the first archdiocese sex abuse trial, Avery pleaded guilty to involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a child and conspiring with Msgr. William J. Lynn to endanger the welfare of a child. At the time, Avery was facing a possible sentence of 13 1/2 to 17 years; his plea bargain resulted in a  sentence of 2 1/2 to 5 years.

    At the Engelhardt-Shero trial, Avery, called as a prosecution witness, recanted, saying he had lied to take the plea bargain because he didn't want to die in jail.

    In the civil case, a judge granted Avery permission to represent himself pro se. But Avery, who just got turned down for parole again, is still an inmate at SCI Laurel Highlands, in Somerset, PA, located some 238 miles west of Philadelphia. Checking the docket, since no arrangements have been mentioned that would bring him to town to play lawyer, it's doubtful that Avery will be around to defend himself during the civil trial.

    With the archdiocese out of the picture, the civil case at this point basically boils down to a publicity stunt. Avery and Shero are broke; Engelhardt, who took a vow of poverty, doesn't have more than $1,000 left in his so-called estate.

    So there's no money to go after. What Billy Doe's civil lawyers are looking for is a multi-million verdict from another gullible jury that will make a great headline in the local papers, where every accused priest is already guilty, as well as hopefully on the TV news.

    But Hurd's presence could turn the civil case into a real trial.

    The 67-year-old Engelhardt died in November 2014 at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pa., after spending his last hours as a prisoner under armed guard and handcuffed to a hospital bed, while he was being denied potentially life-saving cardiac surgery.

    At his funeral, Father James J. Greenfield, the leader of Engelhardt's religious order, the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, vowed to continue the legal battle to clear the priest's name.

    On Sept. 9, at Hurd's request, Judge Linda Carpenter granted an "emergency motion to compel the independent medical examination" of the plaintiff. According to the judge's order, Billy Doe had to travel from Florida to be examined by Dr. Stephen Mechanick, a forensic psychiatrist in Bryn Mawr.

    Such exams aren't cheap. But the oblates continue to fight on.

    Billy Doe testified in the first archdiocese sex abuse case, but defense lawyers elected not to cross-examine him because the marquee defendant, Msgr. Lynn, had never met Billy.

    On June 22, 2012, a jury in Common Pleas Court found Msgr. Lynn guilty of a single charge of endangering the welfare of a child. He was the first Catholic administrator in the country to be sent to jail for failing to adequately supervise predator priests. On July 24, 2012, Judge M. Teresa Sarmina sentenced Lynn to three to six years in jail, where he remains.

    In the second archdiocese sex abuse case, Doe, who told an incredible tale on the witness stand, was capably cross-examined by Hurd's law partner, Michael J. McGovern. But even though Billy told a constantly changing story contradicted by common sense -- as well as all the witnesses and evidence  in the case gathered by the district attorney's own detectives -- the jury inexplicably chose to believe Billy. And then they refused to talk about it afterwards.

    It was a verdict that not only shocked the trial judge but several reporters who witnessed the miscarriage of justice.

    In the civil case, Billy Doe was brought in for repeated depositions, and questioned by a roomful of lawyers.

    Next week, if a judge rules in his favor, Thomas R. Hurd may get the final chance to cross-examine a witness that many lawyers in this town already know to be a professional liar.

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  • 11/04/15--05:54: Gerry's Sinking Ships
  • By Ralph Cipriano
    for BigTrial.net

    In July, after he got through negotiating a new labor contract, H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest, the  philanthropist who owns the Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News and philly.com, celebrated by passing out $1,000 bonuses to his employees.

    Today, a month after Terry Egger, Lenfest's hand-picked successor, took over as publisher, he will lay off 46 newsroom employees.

    What the hell happened, union leaders want to know. When he was passing out bonuses, Lenfest bragged he had turned the company around, recalled Bill Ross, executive director of the Philadelphia Newspaper Guild. Then, "He [Lenfest] hires the guy" [Egger] . . . and has him do all the dirty work."

    The layoffs begin a merger of what are now three distinct news operations, the Inquirer, Daily News and philly.com, into "a unified, one-newsroom approach," Egger wrote Monday in a letter to all employees.

    Lenfest, along with the late Lewis Katz, were the winning bidders at a court-ordered auction in 2014, buying the city's only two daily newspapers and website for the inflated price of $88 million. But Philadelphia Media Network, the parent company that owns the two papers and website, has lost $90 million in advertising revenues since 2011, Egger said. The current layoffs are needed to save between $5 million and $6 million, Egger told employees.

    That prompted union leaders to recall that Lenfest previously donated around that same amount, $5.8 million in 2010, to keep the SS United States, the rusting ocean liner docked on Delaware Avenue, out of the scrapyard.

    "This isn't the only sinking ship Gerry's invested in," Ross cracked.

    It costs $60,000 a month to keep the SS United States dry-docked on Delaware Avenue. When it was built in 1952, the ocean liner dubbed "America's flagship" was the world's fastest passenger ship with passengers that included JFK, Marlon Brando and Marilyn Monroe.

    A conservancy named after the ship announced last week that it's raised $100,000, which for now will keep the ship out of the scrapyard. The conservancy has big plans to tow the ship to the Brooklyn harbor, and turn it into a floating office and restaurant complex. It would cost $2 million to move the ship, and between $50 million and $200 million to finance the entire project.

    Without millions more in donations, however, the scrapyard looms for America's flagship. Lenfest, for one, has said he won't be donating any more money to the project.

    "I've already put up a lot of money to give the conservancy reasonable time to restore it," Lenfest told Jeff Gammage and Matt Gelb of the Inquirer on Oct. 25th. "I have no plans to do anything further."

    The Philadelphia Inquirer, founded in 1829, was once known as the city's "paper off record." It covered the Civil War, won 20 Pulitzer Prizes, and used to carry the bylines of Bartlett and Steele, George Anastasia, and Steve Lopez. But this year, the Inky needed a grant from the Wyncote Foundation to cover the mayor's race.

    As with the SS United States, Lenfest's generosity with PMN appears to have a  limit.

    "As we look ahead over the next three years, we need to be self-sustaining, which means that our revenue needs to be greater than our expenses," Egger wrote employees. "In order for PMN to 'stay in the game,' we need to focus our energies with unprecedented precision and urgency."

    On Sept. 30th, the Billy Penn website had a scoop, that Lenfest had discussed creating a nonprofit that would "align" the Inquirer, Daily News and philly.com with Temple University.

    Could the Inky, Daily News and philly.com eventually be owned by a nonprofit?

    Lenfest is already on record as saying it's a great concept.

    "I think eventually it would be wonderful if nonprofits would own newspapers," Lenfest told Philanthropy magazine in an interview last year. "And they're allowed to do that in the U.S. code  now, to take that in that kind of revenue. Eventually I foresee foundations taking ownership of newspapers."

    This afternoon, Egger will meet with union leaders to disclose who's on the layoff list.

    Union leaders feel betrayed.

    "We spent eight months bargaining for a contract with no indication that this was afoot," said Howard Gensler, president of the Newspaper Guild.

    "They've been hiring constantly throughout the year," he said of PMN. "Now all these people we've hired are in jeopardy."

    Looking forward to the long game, Gensler said that if the papers are indeed going nonprofit, "I think they need to get this house in order before they bring another house into it."

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  • 11/06/15--09:54: Billy Doe Punks Out
  • You paid Billy Doe how much?
    By Ralph Cipriano
    for BigTrial.net

    In the civil case of Billy Doe vs. the Archdiocese of Philadelphia et al., it's all over before it even got started.

    This morning, lawyers in the case were scheduled to pick a jury in Courtroom 480 at City Hall, in preparation for going to trial at 9:30 a.m. Monday, "trial date certain," according to the court docket.

    But late last night, Billy Doe's lawyers notified other lawyers in the case that the trial was off and the case was "being discontinued."

    The big question is why. The short answer appears to be that with no money left on the table, Billy Doe's lawyers decided not to risk exposing their client's complete lack of credibility by proceeding with what would have been at best, a show trial. A show trial where the only thing left to gain was some headlines about a big jury verdict that they would have never been able to collect from the three penniless defendants left in the case.

    But on the risk side of the risk/reward ledger, there was a chance, depending on the judge's rulings, that the show trial could have turned into a real trial, and Billy Doe would have been unmasked in court as a complete fraud. The next big question is what was it that Billy Doe and his lawyers were so afraid of coming out that they didn't want to run the risk of going ahead with the trial, and putting their boy on the stand?

    In the absence of official comment, let the speculation begin. But before we get to that, however, how do you think Archbishop Charles J. Chaput feels right now? He's the guy who gave Billy Doe a confidential settlement in August because he'd presumably been frightened to death by his lawyers about the prospect of a big jury verdict for Billy, and against the church.  But then, on the eve of trial, after that fat check from the archdiocese had already cleared the bank, Billy Doe and his lawyers punk out.

    Who's left holding the bag? Archbishop Chaput, the chump who got suckered, possibly for millions. Not to mention all of those faithful Catholics who still throw their dollars in the collection basket.

    Party time for Billy
    There were a trio of potential time bombs still ticking if the Billy Doe civil case went to trial on Monday, as originally planned. Since the lawyers in the case aren't talking and the spokesman for the archdiocese is still hiding under his desk, let's take a look at what might have frightened Billy and his lawyers.

    Potential Time Bomb No. 1: Judge Rosalyn K. Robinson had yet to rule on a motion filed by the plaintiff for summary judgment against the late Father Charles Engelhardt, who died in jail after being falsely accused by Billy. If the judge ruled against that motion, it would have cleared the way for the lawyer for the late priest's estate to cross-examine Billy.

    The door in the civil case was left open because the jury in Father Engelhardt's criminal case didn't reach a verdict on the most serious charge him, a count of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a child.

    That same door, however, was closed to the other two defendants left in the civil case, ex-priest Edward Avery and former Catholic school teacher Bernard Shero. That's because Avery pleaded guilty and Shero was found guilty by a jury of multiple charges against him.

    Regarding Avery and Shero, Judge Robinson had already ruled that each defendant was "collaterally estopped from denying or disputing that he committed the acts of sodomy and sexual abuse alleged in plaintiff's complaint."

    But the judge had yet to rule on the motion for summary judgment against Engelhardt.

    "Our argument is that a civil jury should be allowed to decide what assault if any occurred," Thomas R. Hurd, the lawyer for Engelhardt's estate, told Big Trial last week.

    If Billy Doe was subject to cross-examination, Hurd could have had a field day. There was so much material to choose from.

    For starters, there was all the evidence that didn't make it into the criminal trial of Engelhardt and Shero. Such as the meticulous calendars kept by Billy's mother that recorded all significant events in the lives of her two altar boy sons. Like every time those two altar boys were supposed to serve Mass. The problem for Billy was that his mother's calendars showed no early morning Masses  during the school year Billy claimed he was raped by two priests.

    Since the criminal trial of Engelhardt and Shero, lawyers in the civil case have come across plenty of "newly-discovered evidence" in the form of contradictory and false statements made by Billy Doe to his many drug counselors. One defense lawyer aptly described those statements as an ongoing "fantasy of sexual abuse."

    The newly discovered evidence included medical records that showed that Billy at first told his drug counselors he had "no history of physical or sexual abuse."

    Then Billy claimed to his drug counselors in chronological order that he was:
     sexually abused at 6 by a friend;
     sexually abused at 7 by a teacher;
     sexually abused or raped at 8 by an unknown assailant;
     sexually abused or raped at 9 by an unknown assailant;
     sexually abused again at 9 by a 14-year-old family friend.

    Billy's lawyer on the eve of trial
    This was before Billy got around to telling the district attorney that he was raped at 10 by two priests, and at 11 by a school teacher.

    Potential Time Bomb No. 2: On Sept. 9th, Judge Linda Carpenter granted an "emergency motion to compel the independent medical examination" of the plaintiff. According to the judge's order, Billy Doe was required to travel from Florida to be examined by Dr. Stephen Mechanick, a forensic psychiatrist in Bryn Mawr.

    If the forensic psychiatrist had some doubts about Billy's credibility, that could have posed a problem for Billy and his lawyers.

    Potential Time Bomb No. 3: On the eve of the Billy Doe civil case, originally scheduled to begin Monday, a bunch of subpoenas went out seeking witnesses who could poke more more holes in Billy's stories.

    People like retired Detective Joseph Walsh, who led the district attorney's investigation into Billy Doe's allegations. All the evidence that I've seen gathered by Walsh, and all the witness statements the detective took, contradicted the tales told by Billy. Including the statements the detective took from Billy's own mother, father and older brother.

    The pile of evidence gathered by Walsh was so damning that one defense lawyer, Mike Wallace, used to say whenever he saw Walsh coming, "Here comes my detective."

    Another problem witness for Billy would have been Judy Cruz-Ransom, a social worker who was a victims’ assistance coordinator for the Philadelphia archdiocese. Cruz-Ransom and another archdiocesan social worker, Louise Hagner, took the first statement from Billy, after he called in on an archdiocesan hotline to claim he was abused. 

    In the appeal of Engelhardt's and Shero's criminal convictions, defense lawyers accused prosecutors of misconduct because they didn't tell them about a secret interview they had with Cruz-Ransom before the criminal trial started.

    In the civil case, however, defense lawyers were able to depose Cruz-Ransom. And what did they discover? That Cruz-Ransom corroborated the testimony of Hagner in the criminal case, testimony that was relentlessly attacked during the criminal trial by the district attorney. 

    In her civil deposition, Cruz-Ransom confirmed many details told by Hagner. Such as Billy Doe appeared sober and seemed to be faking tears as he told wild stories about being anally raped for hours by his alleged assailants, getting punched and knocked unconscious,  being tied up with altar sashes and strangled with a seat belt.

    All those wild stories disappeared when Billy retold his tales to the police and grand jury, in favor of a completely new story line about strip teases, oral sex and mutual masturbation. Billy's explanation for his creative story-telling was that he was high on drugs when he talked to the social workers.

    Passing the basket for Billy
    Billy Doe may have punked out in the civil case. But there are couple of appeals in the criminal cases still left over from the district attorney's self-proclaimed "historic" prosecution of the church.

    A crusade that was a cynical political ploy for the district attorney of Philadelphia to cash in on the sins of the archdiocese by using phony victims.

    Shero, serving 8 to 16 years, has an appeal pending before the state Supreme Court.

    Msgr. William J. Lynn, serving 3 to 6 years, has an appeal pending before the state Commonwealth Court.

    Former priest Avery, currently serving a sentence of 2 12 to 5 years, has no appeals pending. He just got turned down again for parole.

    UPDATE:

    On Monday, Judge Rosalyn K. Robinson posted an entry on the court docket that said, "the court having been advised this case has been settled, the case shall be marked 'discontinued'" on the docket, and shall be "removed from the applicable list and inventory of pending cases."

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    Joe Vito and son
    By George Anastasia
    For Bigtrial.net

    Joe Vito Mastronardo, the "Gentleman Gambler" who lived life on his own terms and moved to the beat of a drummer that only he could hear, died in a federal prison this afternoon where he was serving a 20-month sentence for bookmaking.

    The cause of death was believed to be complications from pneumonia, although no official word was released from the Federal Medical Center in Devens, MA, where Mastronardo was doing time after entering a guilty plea earlier this year in the high profile case.

    He was 65.

    Mastronardo was considered one of the premier odds makers in the Philadelphia area and one of the best in the country. His betting line  -- the "Joe Vito line" --  was an industry standard. Mastronardo, who got his start taking bets while working as a teenaged caddy at a suburban country club, made millions over the years and was constantly the focus of law enforcement attention.

    This came in part because of his high volume business, but also because he was the son-in-law of former mayor and police commissioner Frank L. Rizzo. Joe Vito married Rizzo's only daughter, Joanna. They had one son, Joseph F.

    "He had a beautiful heart," said Dennis Cogan, Mastronardo's friend and former defense attorney. "He would never do anything to hurt anyone and he was generous to a fault."

    That applied to customers as well as friends, Cogan noted, pointing out that no one who bet with Mastronardo was ever the victim of violence or threats of violence.

    "If you couldn't pay, your punishment was you couldn't bet with him anymore," Cogan said.

    Mastronardo was jailed after federal authorities took over a gambling case originally developed by the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office. He and more than a dozen other defendants, including his son, his brother John and his wife were originally charged in connection with a multi-million dollar sports betting ring.

    Charges against Joanne Mastronardo were dropped as guilty plea negotiations were completed for all the other defendants. Joseph F. Mastronardo was sentenced to five months. He completed that sentence and was at home with his mother when they learned of Joe Vito's death.

    "My mother spoke to him on the phone this morning," Joe Mastronardo said. "She said his voice was weak. That was a sign. He had gained 15 to 20 pounds. We thought he was doing well, but with those respiratory problems, you have to stay on top of things. They didn't."

    Mastronardo's poor health was an issue as his case worked its way through the federal court system. His son said doctor after doctor had testified that his father should be sentenced to house arrest because of his medical problems.

    For years, Mastronardo had battled throat cancer. He had serious respiratory problems with frequent bouts of pneumonia. He was a stroke victim and in the year before his incarceration he had a feeding tube in his stomach.

    "He absolutely shouldn't have been there," Joe Mastronardo said of his father. "There was absolutely no reason for this to happen. They threw my Dad in jail for no reason and they killed him."

    The younger Mastronardo lashed out at federal prosecutors and the federal judge in the case, contending that they were blinded by a desire to punish.

    "It's despicable," he said. "It's our system at its worst . . . It's selective enforcement of the law . . . My father's life was on the line (at sentencing) and they didn't care."

    In pushing for a prison sentence, federal authorities contended that medical facilities available to inmates were equipped to deal with Mastronardo's health issues.

    During that process, Dennis Cogan, who represented John Mastronardo in the case, was one of several attorneys who raised a skeptical eye to the feds' position.

    "I'm not saying he had longevity," said Cogan, after ticking off the various respiratory and cancer-related issues that plagued his one-time client. "But he was able to survive all those years because" of the expert medical treatment he received in top-notch Philadelphia area hospitals.

    "Everybody tried to tell them (federal authorities and the sentencing judge) that he had serious medical issues," added Christopher Warren, who represented Mastronardo's son in the gambling case. "We warned them about what could happen and that is precisely what happened."

    Warren called Joe Vito Mastronardo "a Philadelphia icon."

    "He was one of a kind and he will be missed," Warren said, noting that Mastronardo "never made any apologies for what he did."

    Over lunch one afternoon after he had been indicted, Mastronardo talked about bookmaking as a business. He saw it that way and never denied what he was involved in. He was highly successful at it and developed a high end clientele, businessmen who liked to bet but who did not want to become involved in underworld gambling rackets.

    Mastronardo was never associated with organized crime and in fact, his son said, he once told mob boss Nicky Scarfo "to go fuck himself" and refused to be shaken down by the psychopathic mob leader.

    That the mob wanted a piece of Mastronardo's action was clear. But gangsters never were able to get their hooks into him. Instead, he advanced his business, becoming one of the first to use the Internet, pass words, on-line betting and wire rooms in Costa Rica through which bets could be placed.

    The latest case was indicative of the kind of cash that flowed through the operation. 

    Investigators seized more than $1.3 million in cash at the Mastronardo home in the Meadowbrook section of Huntingdon Valley, including $1.1 million stashed in PVC pipes buried in the back yard. Another $1.7 million was found in bank accounts frozen by the feds, part of a seizure action that totaled more than $6.3 million. And there was a money trail of wire transfers in excess of $3.2 million to financial institutions in Sweden, Malta, Antiqua and Portugal.

    Wiretap and gambling records showed players betting $20,000 to $50,000 on a single game and one gambler "settling up" his debt by delivering a $250,000 payment to the Mastronardo operation.

    (See a profile of the Gentleman Gambler, Bigtrial, October 31, 2013.)

    Warren, young Joe Mastronardo's lawyer, called the sentences imposed after the pleas had been entered unwarranted, given the nature of the case.  "What purpose, other than getting a pound of flesh, does the punishment in this case serve?" he asked. 

    In Joe Vito's case, it could be argued, the price was more than a pound of flesh. It was his life.

    George Anastasia can be reached at George@bigtrial.net.

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    By George Anastasia
    For Bigtrial.net

    Have the feds lost their mojo when it comes to the mob?

    That's certainly a reasonable question after another organized crime prosecution ended with a not guilty verdict last week. The acquittal of Vince Asaro, an 80-year-old reputed mob capo, in a case in federal court in Brooklyn, is the latest example of federal authorities coming up short in a high profile Mafia trial. 

    The same could be said for the last three Mafia prosecutions in Philadelphia where, at best, the feds could only claim partial victories. 

    Asaro, an alleged member of the Bonanno Crime Family, was charged with murder, extortion and robbery, including being one of the organizers of the infamous Lufthansa Airline heist celebrated in the movie Goodfellas. Mobsters made off with more than $5 million in cash and $1 million in jewelry after hitting a storage facility at JFK Airport in 1978.

    While the robbery was allegedly set in motion by mob associate James "Jimmy the Gent" Burke (Robert DeNiro played a character based on Burke in the film), no one had ever been charged with the crime until Asaro was indicted two years ago. By then most of the others involved were dead.
    Burke died in prison after being convicted of other offenses.

    The Asaro trial was billed by the New York Times as the last big mob trial in New York, a development based in part on the steady demise of the American Mafia and in equal part on a shift in prosecutorial interest to terrorism, drug trafficking and corruption.

    Those factors, along with a growing belief that jurors are demanding more than just the testimony of paid mob informants, may have played a role in the not guilty verdict that appeared to shock Asaro as much as it did the prosecutors.

    "I couldn't believe it," the silver-haired wiseguy told reporters as he headed home a free man after spending two years in prison awaiting trial. While walking toward the car that would ferry him home, Asaro quipped to one of his attorneys, "Don't let'em see the body in the trunk."

    The anonymous jury deliberated for just two days after listening to three weeks of testimony and evidence that included mob turncoats, secretly recorded conversations and surveillance photos, all the tools that in the past have help convict major mob figures in cities throughout the country.

    The Justice Department boasts a conviction rate -- guilty verdicts and guilty pleas -- in more than 90 percent of organized crime cases, but the Asaro trial may be part of a trend in the opposite direction.

    The Times cited two other recent cases in federal court in Brooklyn in which mobsters walked and also pointed out that Thomas Gioeli and Dino Saracino, while convicted of racketeering charges, were found not guilty of more serious murder charges that were part of their case.

    Similar developments have played out in Philadelphia with mob leader Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino and five top associates acquitted of murder and attempted murder charges in 2001 even thought they were convicted of racketeering connected to gambling,, loansharking and the receipt of stolen goods. The difference was a potential life sentence as opposed to the eight to 14-year terms Merlino and his co-defendants received.

    Merlino subsequently beat a murder case in federal court in Newark as well.

    More recently, Philadelphia mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi walked away after juries in two trials failed to convict him of gambling and extortion in a racketeering case that, like the Asaro prosecution, seemed to lack focus. His nephew, George Borgesi, and mob capo Joe Licata also were acquitted. Four other defendants were convicted.

    "I think those cases are just not as valued anymore," said Louis Natali, a defense attorney and professor of criminal law at Temple University Law School in describing the perceived mood within the Justice Department. "The emphasis today is on corruption and terrorism."

    What's more, Natali said, jurors bring a 21st century perspective to the courtroom.

    "On the scale of horrible things," Natali said, pointing to 9-11 and the most recent acts of violence in Paris, "Mafia murders aren't so horrible anymore."

    And when, as in the Asaro case, the murder charge dates back to 1969 and the robbery to 1978, jurors may question what is to be gained by prosecuting a senior citizen based on the suspect testimony of informants who, in many cases, have committed murders themselves and who are now perceived as paid government witnesses.

    "The case may have been stale," said Natali. "And his cousin was a rat. Jurors don't like that."

    Asaro's chief accuser, his cousin Gaspare Valenti, has been receiving $3,000-a-month from the FBI. He began cooperating in 2008 and made a series of tape recorded conversations with Asaro that were played at trial.

    A defense attorney called the payments an "FBI pension plan."

    "I think jurors are tired of serial cooperators," added Christopher Warren, the defense attorney who represented Licata in the first Ligambi trial and Borgesi in the second.

    "Juries are asking, 'Where's the beef?' They're questioning the currency and relevancy of events that are 20 or 30 years old."

    In an assessment that applied to both the Asaro and Ligambi prosecutions, Warren added, "These guys are yesterday's news."

    Another problem, said a lawyer who has worked both sides of the aisle, is the tendency of prosecutors to "over-reach" and to paint with broad strokes,. The lawyer, who asked not to be identified by name because any perceived criticism could be detrimental to future clients, said jurors expect more from the government that the testimony of cooperating witnesses who have cut a deal to get out from under their own problems.

    Valenti is one example. In the Ligambi cases, Louis "Bent Finger Lou" Monacello was another.

    Compare the Ligambi prosecutions, built around gambling and loansharking charges cobbled together as a racketeering conspiracy, to the prosecutions of mob bosses like Nicodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo in the late 1980s and John Stanfa in the mid 1990s.

    Taking down the Mafia at that time was a government priority and the prosecutors assigned to those cases -- in Philadelphia lawyers like Joel Friedman, Louis Pichini, Barry Gross, Robert Courtney and David Fritchey -- were considered among the best in the office.

    Today, according to observers in both government and at the defense bar, the office's top prosecutors are working corruption, narcotics and terrorism. Those are the cases on which careers are now built. What's more, said several sources, the current administration in the U.S. Attorney's Office in Philadelphia has de-emphasized mob cases. 

    "You can't go to war by yourself," said a former prosecutor who noted that while the FBI still has an organized crime squad committed to making cases against Cosa Nostra, if the prosecutor's office is less than enthused, those cases will never get in front of a jury.

    That was not the mood of the office in the 1980s and 1990s when federal, state and local authorities joined forces to dismantle the mob.

    More than 20 mob members and associates were killed during Scarfo's eight-year reign of terror as  Philadelphia - South Jersey mob boss. His trial in the late 1980s included detailed testimony about a series of murders and attempted murders from shooters who carried out those hits and who led authorities to the weapons that were used. Scarfo and a dozen top associates were convicted and it is only now, nearly 30 years later, that some of those mobsters have been released and have returned home.

    Scarfo is not due to be paroled until 2033 when he will be 103.

    In the Stanfa case, the prosecution not only had the testimony and weapons of hitmen, but also dozens of highly incriminating tapes in which Stanfa, in his own words, implicated himself and his co-defendants in a series of murders and attempted murders.

    None of that was present in the two Ligambi trials. And very little of it existed in the Asaro prosecution. Surveillance photos show Asaro at mob social clubs, attending funerals and socializing with well-known gangsters like the late mob boss John Gotti.

    Where, in any of that surveillance, the defense asked the jury, do you see Vincent Asaro committing a crime, or doing anything wrong? The tapes made by Valenti hinted as mob activities and indirectly referenced the Lufthansa heist, but failed to provide definitive proof of anything.

    The Ligambi and Asaro cases, said Warren, were built around "a bunch of leftovers" that juries rejected.

    Goodfellas is a classic mob movie, one of the best and most realistic ever made. But the Goodfella case -- as the Asaro trial was billed -- never lived up to its hype.

    George Anastasia can be contacted at George@bigtrial.net.



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    "Be Careful Who You Pick On"
    By Ralph Cipriano
    for BigTrial.net

    James J. Binns, Philadelphia trial lawyer and longtime cop booster, is a good friend of David Wolfson, Chief of the Margate City Police Department.

    The friendship dates back to 2007. That's when Binns, who lives a half a block away from the Margate City Police Department, donated to the local cops four bicycles and four Harley Davidson police motorcycles. Binns also dedicated two "hero cop" plaques in memory of Sgt. Richard Himbler and Patrolman John J. Donnell, two Margate officers who died in the line of duty.

    A year later, a grateful Chief Wolfson appointed Binns as honorary chief of the department.

    So that's why the chief was so surprised on Dec. 13, 2011 when he stopped by the Margate police station and discovered that one of his officers had arrested the 72-year-old honorary chief who was being held in jail on a charge of criminal mischief.

    That prompted the chief to start his own investigation. When it was over, the charge against Binns was dropped and subsequently expunged. Meanwhile, the cop who arrested Binns, Officer Christopher Taroncher, got hammered by a hearing officer for being dishonest and untrustworthy, and was suspended without pay for six months. He was also the subject of a civil rights lawsuit filed by Binns.

    "We're good friends," Chief Wolfson testified about his relationship with Binns on July 9, 2012 at a police department disciplinary hearing.

    "So needless to say I was upset," the chief said when he found out that Binns was a prisoner at his police station. The chief, who was off duty the day Binns got arrested, said he asked Sgt. Mark Ciambrone what happened. The sergeant replied that the officers had "just merely followed procedure."

    That response sounded " kind of funny," the chief testified. Because just a week earlier, the chief said,  his officers had questioned a suspect involved in an $80,000 theft. The suspect was a "documented crack addict" who was interviewed inside the police station and "wasn't placed in a cell," the chief said.

    The chief suspected that the arrest was not only an attempt to embarrass the honorary chief, but also the chief. "Forgive my language, but I think the matter was done to break my balls," Wolfson testified.

    The hearing officer reached the same conclusion.

     Jimmy Binns "has a reputation for flamboyance and, although an attorney by profession, he has even appeared as an actor in the 'Rocky' series of motion pictures," wrote Richard J. Williams, a retired judge who formerly served as acting administrative director of the Atlantic City-Cape May N.J. courts. The "appearance of special status for Mr. Binns did not sit well" with Officer Taroncher, who "believed that the courtesies shown to Mr. Binns by the department were inappropriate," the judge wrote.

    Whether Officer Taroncher was justified in his feelings "is not pertinent to this case," the judge wrote. "What is pertinent is the fact that police officers cannot misuse their official powers as an outlet to express their displeasures or personal feelings. That is what Officer Taroncher did."

    Officer Taroncher declined comment, referring questions to his attorney, James J. Leonard Jr. of Atlantic City.

    "Our position has always been that Officer Taroncher did what he thought was appropriate based on the information that was available to him," Leonard wrote in an email. "This was an honest officer just trying to do his job, not a witch hunt to persecute Mr. Binns."

    "While Mr. Binns has a very honorable and distinguished record of being an avid and passionate supporter of police officers in our region, Chris Taroncher proudly serves the City of Margate with honor and distinction," Leonard wrote. "It's unfortunate that this incident could not have been resolved in a different way not involving litigation and hearing officers."

    Jimmy Binns lives on the 9200 block of Amherst Avenue, on the end unit of a three-unit townhouse development. The center townhouse was owned by Allen and Barbara Ginsberg. It was a civil dispute between Binns and the Ginsbergs that resulted in Binns being arrested. The dispute was over two air conditioning condensers that serviced the Ginsberg's house but were improperly located on Binns's property.

    "During the summer of 2011, a dispute arose between Binns and the Ginsbergs over those condensers," Judge Williams wrote. "Binns claimed that the condensers belonging to the Ginsbergs were unduly noisy, vibrated excessively and disturbed his sleep."

    "Asserting that the condensers were located on his property without proper authorization, Binns filed a claim with his title insurance company," the judge wrote. "This resulted in a letter dated Oct. 28, 2011, from the claims counsel for the title insurance company to the Ginsbergs asserting that the units were improperly located on Binns's property."

    The letter notified the Ginsbergs that the builders of the subdivision "neglected to create an easement for your condenser units and located them on the property owned by Mr. Binns." The title company requested that the units be removed from Binns's property or that an easement be purchased from Binns.

    By December 2011, when the dispute had not been resolved, the judge wrote, Binns "hired an HVAC contractor who disconnected the two units and placed them on the driveway in front of the Ginsbergs' garage. The copper tubing extending from the units had been crimped and the electric wires were capped."

    On Dec. 12, 2011, at approximately 3 p.m, Officer Taroncher, a seven-year veteran, was dispatched in response to a call to the police station from Barbara Ginsberg. While Officer Taroncher was at Ginsberg's townhouse, Chief Wolfson stopped by and "cautioned the officer that the matter was probably civil rather than criminal in nature," the judge wrote.

    "Officer Taroncher responded by indicating that he didn't know because he hadn't completed his investigation," the judge wrote. Before he left, Officer Taroncher took pictures of the condensers and a voluntary statement from Barbara Ginsberg. She also gave Officer Taroncher a copy of the letter from the title insurance company that stated there were no easements that permitted the condensers to be located on Binns's property. The officer, however, "never followed up" by contacting the title company, the judge wrote.

    When Officer Taroncher returned to the police station, a superior, Lt. Kenneth Bergeron, asked whether the copper lines on the condensers were crimped and the wires capped. Taroncher's reply was yes on both counts.

    "Lt. Bergeron then told Taroncher that, from his experience, the disconnection of the units was professionally done," the judge wrote. "Because of that he [Bergeron] said he didn't think there was any basis for a charge of criminal mischief."

    Officer Taroncher called the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office to obtain authorization to issue an arrest warrant. While on hold, waiting for the prosecutor to come to the phone, Officer Taroncher had a conversation with Sgt. Ciambrone and Officer Michael Edge in the squad room, a conversation that was recorded on tape by the Margate City Police Department.

    "Although no advice from the Prosecutor's Office had been received as to whether criminal charges were warranted, Officer Taroncher was eager to make an arrest," the judge wrote.

    Officer Taroncher told the other police officers that "he wanted to act quickly before someone 'upstairs' in the department arrived and told him 'no,'" the judge wrote. The officer "mockingly suggested that they ride up on motorcycles to arrest Binns," referring to the police motorcycles that Binns had previously donated to the department.

    During the conversation, Sgt. Ciambrone asked Officer Taroncher how far he intended to take his investigation of Binns. "Until I get a round of golf," Officer Taroncher replied. It was "a sarcastic comment mocking a senior officer," the judge wrote, a senior officer who had been the guest of Binns at a "high-end golf course."

    "Give me that round of golf -- I'll make the file disappear," Officer Taroncher wisecracked while on hold with the tape was running.

    When Officer Taroncher finally spoke to Assistant Proseccutor Erica Halayko, he told her he wanted to know if he could charge Binns with criminal mischief. The officer said that two condensers had been removed, the pipes cut, the wires "ripped out," and the condensers "thrown behind the garage."

    Officer Taroncher told Halyako that Binns admitted that he had the two condensers removed. The officer told the prosecutor the condensers had been there for eight years, had permits from the city, and that there was an easement in place permitting the condensers to be located on Binns's property.

    In his ruling, the judge laid out what Officer Taroncher didn't tell the prosecutor. "Officer Taroncher did not tell the assistant prosecutor that there was a legal opinion [from the title company] that the condensers were improperly located on his target's property," the judge wrote. The officer also didn't tell the prosecutor that the easement that he referred to did not mention condensers, "or that the units had been professionally removed by a contractor and placed on the neighbors' driveway rather than being 'ripped out' and 'thrown' behind the garage."

    After he talked to the prosecutor, Officer Taroncher called a plumbing and heating contractor to obtain a damage estimate. The officer falsely stated that the two air-conditioning units had been "ripped out," with cut pipping and ripped wires. He asked for a "ballpark" estimate, and was "particularly concerned about whether he costs would be over $2,000, the legal threshold for a criminal mischief complaint, the judge wrote.

    The contractor supplied an oral estimate of $7,000 if the units were not removed properly, the refrigerant wasn't pumped out, the valves weren't closed and if moisture had penetrated the units.

    Officer Taroncher called the Atlantic County prosecutor's office again, this time speaking with Assistant Prosecutor Lauren Kirk. Officer Taroncher told the prosecutor that Binns had decided to "cut the piping and rip out the air conditioning unit," the judge wrote. The officer "emphatically told [Kirk] that the condensers were supposed to be on Binns's property, stating there was an easement and permits allowing them to be there."

    Kirk asked about damages and Taroncher told her about the $7,000 estimate. In response to a question from the prosecutor, the officer stated that the $7,000 was a written estimate when it was an oral estimate, the judge wrote.

    Armed with a criminal complaint authorized by the Atlantic City Prosecutor's Office, "Sgt. Ciambrone and Officer Taroncher proceeded to Binns's home where they arrested him," the judge wrote. "Binns was handcuffed, placed in the back of the patrol car and transported to police headquarters." At the police station Binns was placed in a holding cell until he was photographed and fingerprinted, and subsequently released on his own recognizance.

    Because the offense Binnns was charged with was "not a serous nature," and the suspect was "not at risk,"the judge wrote, "standard police procedures" would have called for having the suspect surrender at police headquarters.

    Nobody was worried about Binns fleeing the jurisdiction. When the Margate cops sought an arrest warrant for Binns, Sgt. Ciambone told the judge, "I'm not looking for bail. We know who he is. He's not going anywhere . . . I know he's going to appear."

    "Despite this, however, Officer Taroncher was adamant in his desire to go out and arrest Binns," the judge wrote.

    At his disciplinary hearing, Officer Taroncher testified that "allowing Binns to surrender himself would be a privilege and show favoritism to him," the judge wrote. "He [Taroncher] was determined that he would not let that happen."

    Officer Taroncher testified that he "wanted to act quickly to arrest Binns because he was concerned that if the chief of some other superior officer knew an arrest was imminent, they would prevent him [Taroncher] from going out and instruct him to have Binnns surrender himself at the station," the judge wrote.

    The day after Officer Taroncher arrested Binns, Chief Wolfson reviewed the investigative file and listened to recordings of Officer Taroncher's phone calls to the prosecutor's office, including his conversation with his fellow officers. The chief called the prosecutor's office and notified them that  he believed "Officer Taroncher has mislead the prosecutors," the judge wrote.

    The chief was upset that when Officer Taroncher prepared a discovery package for the prosecutor's office, the officer withheld the letter from the title company that stated there was no easement that would have permitted the condensers to be located on Binns's property.

    The chief gathered all materials in the case against Binns, including the letter from the title company, and personally delivered them to the prosecutor's office. The prosecutor immediately dismissed the charge against Binns.

    At the July 9, 2012 disciplinary hearing, Officer Taroncher testified that Binns was "very cooperative" during his arrest. Asked if it was true that he arrested Binns to "bust the chief's balls," Officer Taroncher replied, "It's not true. My feeling is that before this ever happened, there's been a lot of problems."

    "He's friends with the chief," Taroncher testified about Binns. "He has a bit of influence in the department . . . I feel the relationship with the police department is improper."

    When asked why he made the crack about showing up to arrest Binns on a motorcycle, Taroncher replied, "It was inappropriate, but just a joke."

    In his ruling, Judge Williams wrote that it was "particularly disturbing" that Officer Taroncher "wanted to make the arrest before any top leaders of the department found out about his plans to do so." The officer "was afraid" that his superiors would have allowed Binns to "surrender himself," the judge wrote. Instead, "Taroncher wanted to go out to make the arrest of Binns so he could handcuff him and place him in a holding cell."

    "I find the violations herein to be serious," the judge wrote. "They involve issues of honesty and trust which are essential requirements for law enforcement officers."

    "Officer Taroncher was untrustworthy in his dealings with the assistant prosecutors from whom he sought approval to arrest Binns. He withheld certain evidence, presented other evidence in a slanted fashion, and responded untruthfully to an assistant prosecutor's question about the evidence."

    Judge Williams ruled that Officer Taroncher would suffer the strongest possible penalty short of termination, a six-month suspension without pay. The judge also warned Officer Taroncher that he would be terminated for a "further violation of a similar nature."

    Officer Taroncher wasn't the only Margate police officer that the judge criticized. Judge Williams also faulted "a lack of guidance on the part of Officer Taroncher's supervisor, Sgt. Ciambrone," whom, the judge found, "joined in" Taroncher's misconduct.

    "The investigation of Jimmy Binns was a hot potato in the Department and Sgt. Ciambrone made no secret of the fact that he wanted as little to do with it as possible," the judge wrote. "But when you are a supervisor, the nature of the position requires that you be willing to deal with a hot potato and not simply leave it for your subordinate."

    On Dec. 1, 2014, Binns sued Officer Taroncher and the Ginsbergs in U.S. District Court in Camden N.J. for violations of his civil rights that included false arrest and false imprisonment. The lawsuit was settled out-of-court. In the settlement, the City of Margate paid Binns $105,000; the Ginsbergs paid him $12,500. Then the Ginsbergs sold their house and moved away.

    Binns has been a trial lawyer for more than 50 years, handling some prominent cases involving cops. He won a $4.7 million verdict against Officer Frank Tepper, who shot and killed an unarmed 21-year-old man. Binns also successfully defended pro-bono a decorated Philadelphia narcotics officer  accused by the federal government of engaging in a RICO conspiracy to beat and rob drug dealers. The verdict in that case; all six accused officers were found not guilty by a jury on all 47 charges of a 26-count RICO indictment.

    Binns also happens to be a cop himself, having graduated from the Police Academy last year as the oldest graduate ever, at 74. He currently serves as a highway patrol motorcycle police officer for the Darby Township Police Department.

     So, from one cop to another, Binns has some advice for Officer Taroncher: "Don't ever misuse your badge."

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    By Ralph Cipriano
    for BigTrial.net

    The State Correctional Institute at Waymart has a new librarian.

    Six days a week, Msgr. William J. Lynn, the former secretary for clergy for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, checks books in and out of the prison library for fellow inmates; he also keeps track of periodicals.

    "It keeps him busy," said Lynn's lawyer, Thomas A. Bergstrom. "They have a  huge library and it's really up to date."

    As he works his job for 19 cents an hour, the monsignor can't help but watch the calendar and wonder whether he'll be getting out of jail again soon. Lynn has an appeal for a new trial pending with the state Superior Court. It's before a sympathetic panel of judges that has already overturned Lynn's prior conviction once before.

    The reason why the wait time on the current appeal is so short is that one of the three Superior Court judges that heard Lynn's appeal, Christine L. Donohue, was elected last November to the state Supreme Court. So the panel of judges has only two weeks left to issue its decision on the Lynn case before Judge Donohue leaves the Superior Court to become Supreme Court Justice Donohue.


    "I saw him on Monday, and he's doing well," Bergstrom said about his client currently housed at the state prison some 140 miles north of Philadelphia.. When he's not working at the library, the monsignor is working out and trying to lose weight.

    "He's getting through it," Bergstrom said. "He's still hopeful" about his appeal.

    On June 22, 2012,  a jury in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court convicted Lynn on a single count of endangering the welfare of a child. The alleged victim in the case was identified as "Billy Doe," a former 10-year-old altar boy who claimed he was raped by two priests and a school teacher. Lynn became the first Catholic administrator in the country to be sent to jail for not properly supervising abusive priests.

    On July 24, 2012, Judge M. Teresa Sarmina sentenced Lynn to three to six years in prison. Lynn had served 18 months on Dec. 26, 2013 when a panel of three state Superior Court judges -- John T. Bender, Christine L. Donohue and John L. Musmanno -- reversed the monsignor's conviction and ordered him "released forthwith." But Judge Sarmina disagreed, and instead, imposed conditions on the defendant that amounted to house arrest. Lynn was confined to staying on two floors of a church rectory in Northeast Philadelphia. He had to wear an electronic ankle bracelet and ask his parole officer for permission whenever he wanted to go see his doctor or lawyer.

    Lynn had spent 16 months under house arrest on April 27th when the state Supreme Court reversed the reversal by the Superior Court. Three days later, Judge Sarmina granted a motion by the Philadelphia district attorney's office to revoke bail and send Lynn back to jail to serve the remainder of his sentence.

    Since he returned to jail, Lynn has logged another eight months' prison time. If he loses his appeal, the monsignor will up for parole in October after he completes his minimum sentence of three years.

    To date, the legal battle in the monsignor's case has dwelled on the original wording of the state's  child endangerment law. The law, which took effect in 1972, says, "A parent, guardian or other person supervising the welfare of a child under 18 years of age commits an offense if he knowingly endangers the welfare of the child by violating a duty of care, protection or support."

    When the panel of state Superior Court judges reversed Lynn's conviction, they ruled that Lynn didn't meet the legal definition of a supervisor of children because he had no direct contact with children; rather, he supervised priests who had contact with children.

    The state Supreme Court disagreed, saying that under the law, Lynn was a supervisor of children who was responsible for their welfare, even though Lynn claimed he had never even met Billy Doe.

    The issue of whether Lynn fit the definition of a supervisor of children was, however, only one of several issues raised during his appeal. Since the Superior Court only addressed that one issue, the other appeal issues raised by Lynn's lawyers were still pending before the court.

    The biggest remaining issue concerned Judge Sarmina's decision at trial to allow 21 cases of supplemental sex abuse to be entered into evidence against Lynn, to show a pattern of conduct in the archdiocese. The supplemental cases dated back to 1948, three years before Lynn was born. The defense contended that Judge Sarmina's ruling made it impossible for Lynn to get a fair trial.

    On Sept. 7, 2013, when Lynn's appeal was argued before the Superior Court, Bergstrom pointed out that by his count, 26 of 32 trial days were taken up with hearing evidence from the supplemental cases. Only six days of the trial were spent on the alleged crimes behind the actual charges against Lynn.

    Arguing for the Commonwealth before the state Superior Court that day was Hugh J. Burns Jr. chief of the appeals unit of the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office. Burns told the Superior Court that the 21 supplemental cases of sex abuse were "probative and relevant" to Lynn's "knowledge and intent."

    One judge was clearly not impressed.

    "That's your position?" asked Judge Bender, the president judge of the 15-member appellate court. At the same hearing, Judge Bender asked Bergstrom how long his client had been in jail, prompting speculation that turned out to be true about whether Lynn would soon be getting out.

    Sometime before the New Year, the monsignor should know whether the state Superior Court will once again rule in his favor.

    Then, if the district attorney appeals that decision, it would be up to the state Supreme Court to decide once again whether they want another shot at Msgr. Lynn.

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  • 12/22/15--12:20: Msgr. Lynn Gets A New Trial
  • By Ralph Cipriano
    for BigTrial.net

    A panel of state Superior Court judges today vacated Msgr. William J. Lynn's prior conviction on endangering the welfare of a child and ordered a new trial.

    Lynn,  the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's former secretary for clergy has been in and out of prison since his original conviction three years ago.

    In a 43-page decision, the Superior Court judges ruled that the trial court -- Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina -- "abused its discretion" by allowing 21 supplemental cases of sex abuse to be admitted as evidence against Lynn.

    The 21 cases dated back to 1948, three years before Lynn was born, and took up at least 25 days of the 32-day trial. In his appeal brief, Lynn's lawyer, Thomas A. Bergstrom, argued that the prosecution "introduced these files to put on trial the entire Archdiocese of Philadelphia, hoping to convict [Lynn] by proxy for the sins of the entire church."

    The Superior Court judges agreed, ruling that the "probative value" of the supplemental cases "did not outweigh its potential for unfair prejudice, and that this potential prejudice was not overcome by the trial court's cautionary instructions."

    In their decision, the Superior Court judges blasted Judge Sarmina, whom they reversed on the same case for the second time in the past three years.

    "None of the evidence concerned the actual victim in this case, and none of it directly concerned [Lynn's] prior dealings with either [former priest Edward V.] Avery or [Father James J.] Brennan," the two co-defendants on trial with Lynn, the Superior Court judges wrote. "In this regard, the trial court has apparently mistaken quantity for quality in construing the probative value of this evidence en masse." The Superior Court judges found that the "probative value of significant quantities of this evidence was trivial or minimal."

    On June 22, 2012, a jury in Common Pleas Court found Lynn guilty of a single charge of endangering the welfare of a child. He was the first Catholic administrator in the country to be sent to jail for failing to properly supervise predator priests.

    On July 24, 2012, Judge M. Teresa Sarmina sentenced Lynn to three to six years in prison.

    Lynn had served 18 months of his sentence on Dec. 26, 2013 when a panel of three state Superior Court judges -- John T. Bender, Christine L. Donohue and John L. Musmanno -- reversed the monsignor's conviction and ordered him "released forthwith." But Judge Sarmina didn't agree, and instead imposed conditions on the defendant that amounted to house arrest.


    Lynn had spent 16 months under house arrest until April 27th, when the state Supreme Court reversed the reversal by the Superior Court. Three days later, Judge Sarmina granted a motion by the D.A.'s office to revoke bail and send Lynn back to jail to serve out the remainder of his sentence.

    The legal battle over the monsignor's case dwelled on the wording of the state's original child endangerment law. The law, which took effect in 1972, says, "A parent, guardian or other person supervising the welfare of a child under 18 years of age commits an offense if he knowingly endangers the welfare of the child by violating a duty of care, protection or support."

    The Superior Court ruled that under the statute, Lynn wasn't a supervisor of children, but a supervisor of priests who had contact with children. The state Supreme Court disagreed, saying that under the law, Lynn was a supervisor.

    Since his return to jail, Lynn has served another eight months of his sentence, meaning he has been in prison a total of 24 months, as well as 16 months under house arrest.

    In today's decision, the same panel of Superior Court judges -- Bender, Donohoe and Musmanno -- again reversed Lynn's conviction, this time because of the supplemental evidence.

    The district attorney of Philadelphia is widely expected to appeal the Superior Court's decision to the state Supreme Court, of which Judge Donohoe will become a member next year.

    Once on the Supreme Court, it is expected that Justice Donohoe would recuse herself from taking part in any decision by the state Supreme Court on whether they would want to hear a second appeal in the Msgr. Lynn case.

    Reacting to today's decision, Bergstrom said, "I think it's the right decision and I'm pleased with it."

    Bergstrom said that supplemental evidence is usually allowed into evidence to show "other acts of the defendant." But at Lynn's trial, Judge Sarmina allowed 21 supplemental cases in as evidence, most of which did not concern Lynn but "other acts of others," Bergstrom said. The resulting prejudicial effect on the jury was "completely awful and devastating," Bergstrom said.

    As of late this afternoon, Bergstrom had still been unable to reach his client to give him the good news. Bergstrom said he had no idea when Lynn would be released. The monsignor is currently working for 19 cents an hour as the prison librarian at the State Correctional Institute in Waymart, Pa.

    As far as any further appeals in the case, Bergstrom wasn't making any predictions.

    "We'll see what happens next" was all he would say.

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    By Ralph Cipriano
    for BigTrial.net

    This morning, Thomas A. Bergstrom finally got hold of his client, Msgr. William J. Lynn, to tell him the good news that his conviction had been vacated by the state Superior Court, and that Lynn was going to get a new trial.

    The monsignor was "very pleased" to hear it, Bergstrom said. The two men discussed if and when they were going to get Lynn out of jail. And then Lynn wanted to know if Bergstrom knew what District Attorney Seth Williams was going to do.

    That's the big question. The district attorney, who has stonewalled this blog for three years, released a statement to the Inquirer that said the D.A. "is committed to protecting all the citizens of Philadelphia against crimes of violence such as those committed by Msgr. Lynn."

    The district attorney has 14 days to decide whether he will appeal the latest reversal by the state Superior Court to the state Supreme Court. Frankly, the citizens of Philadelphia are more in danger from the district attorney's crimes of violence against justice in his so-called "historic" prosecution of the church then they are by any of the alleged acts that Lynn was tried for. Especially when you consider the very real possibility that the alleged victim in this case, Billy Doe, the credibility-challenged former altar boy, probably made the whole thing up.

    While Lynn was waiting to get out of the prison at SCI-Waymart, his lawyer was busy in Philadelphia filing an emergency motion in Common Pleas Court to get the case reassigned to another judge. Even though his conviction is overturned, Lynn cannot be released from prison without an order from the trial judge, M. Teresa Sarmina.


    "In light of the fact that the Superior Court's Dec. 22, 2015 opinion was based upon the improper ruling by the trial court to allow certain evidence -- coupled with the trial court's [Sarmina, J.] previous hard sentence and other rulings -- Lynn respectfully moves the court to reassign his case to a different judge," Bergstrom wrote in a motion filed today.

    In filing his motion, Bergstrom argued that the state Superior Court had just decided that Judge Sarmina had abused her discretion by allowing the prosecution to enter in as evidence 21 supplemental cases of sex abuse. The cases dated back to the 1940s, in documents maintained in the archdiocese's so-called secret archive files.

    "The vast majority of the abusive acts occurred long before Lynn assumed the role of Secretary for Clergy," Bergstrom wrote. Bergstrom also pointed out how, in a previous appeal, when the state Superior Court previously ruled that Lynn should be "discharged forthwith," it was Judge Sarmina who decided that Lynn should remain in a rectory "on house arrest, and subject to electronic monitoring."

    "During his release on bail to home confinement, Lynn requested of Judge Sarmina permission to marry his niece at her wedding ceremony on Aug. 15, 2014 in Bucks County," Bergstrom wrote. "Judge Sarmina granted his request to attend the meeting, but denied his request to perform the ceremony."

    Judge Sarmina also declared that if she granted Lynn bail, she was worried that he might flee to the Vatican. It's one more reason why Tom Bergstrom is seeking a new judge.

    But if his request is not granted, Bergstrom will once again be in the uncomfortable position of going before Judge Sarmina to argue that his client deserves to get out of jail.

    Meanwhile, in light of the state Superior Court's decision, Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, took some new shots at Judge Sarmina.

    "Finally, Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina was taken down for her disgraceful decision to present evidence against Lynn that antedated his birth," Donohue wrote. "The Superior Court judges ripped her for presenting evidence that was 'trivial or minimal.' It was obvious from her deceitful ploy that she was putting the entire Catholic Church on trial. But she is far from the only unethical official in this scam."

    Donohoe then preceded to criticize D.A. Williams and the Inquirer.

    "The key witness for Philly D.A. Seth Williams was 'Billy Doe,' a known drug addict, thief and serial liar who was kicked out of two high schools," Williams wrote. "Even his own mother testified against him."

    "The Philadelphia Inquirer was so anxious to put Lynn in the slammer that when I offered it $58,000 in 2013 to run a full-page ad exposing the many faces of corruption, I was turned down," Donohue wrote. "The depth and breadth of dishonesty, vengeance and bigotry that marks this witch-hunt is astounding. Shame on all the parties to it."

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    By Ralph Cipriano

    The D.A.'s credo: Never let the facts get in the way of a good story
    for BigTrial.net

    He may have won a new trial but he's not getting out of jail anytime soon.

    That's the political reality facing Msgr. William J. Lynn. Last week, a panel of three state Superior Court judges overturned Lynn's 2012 conviction for endangering the welfare of a child, and ordered a new trial.

    But at least for the next month, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's former secretary for clergy will continue to work as the prison librarian at SCI-Waymart for 19 cents an hour while lawyers back in Philadelphia continue the battle over his case.

    Standing in the way of Lynn's release is Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams, and Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina. At a press conference today, the D.A.  announced he was appealing the decision by the panel of judges to the entire state Superior Court. Williams requested an "en banc" re-argument of the case before all nine judges on the appeals court, rather than just a three-judge panel. If he gets turned down, the district attorney promised, he'll appeal to the state Supreme Court, where the D.A. has a winning track record.

    The Superior Court previously reversed Lynn's conviction in 2013 and ordered that he be "discharged forthwith." Lynn got out of jail, but Judge Sarmina placed him under house arrest. The D.A. appealed. The state Supreme Court then reversed the reversal and, at the D.A.'s request, Judge Sarmina promptly sent Lynn back to jail.

    At his press conference today, D.A. Williams engaged in some of his usual grandstanding. He managed to screw up the facts of the case and use his own daughters as political props, so he could do more grandstanding. In Philadelphia, this lame act is what passes for the city's top prosecutor.

    "One in four women and one in six men are sexually abused before the age of eighteen," Williams began his press conference. "And 90 percent of those who are sexually assaulted know their attacker."

    Going by the D.A.'s math, if there are approximately 100,000 or so male victims of sex abuse wandering the streets of our city, couldn't the D.A. have found somebody who had actually been sexually assaulted by a priest rather than a fraud like Billy Doe?

    "The victim in this case knew his attacker and Msgr. William Lynn covered up Father [Edward V.] Avery's record," Williams continued. "My office is committed to ensuring the safety of all the citizens of Philadelphia and today, specifically the victim of Msgr. William Lynn. Simply put, we will continue use all of my office's resources to ensure that the Defendant Lynn remains in state custody as ordered by Common Pleas Judge M. Teresa Sarmina."

    The panel of state Superior Court panel of judges overturned Lynn's conviction because they found that Judge Sarmina had abused her discretion by allowing into evidence 21 supplemental cases of sex abuse dating back to 1948, three years before the 64-year-old Lynn was born.

    But Williams argued that Judge Sarmina  had "properly admitted into evidence 'other bad acts' . . . to show a pattern and practice of concealment and protection of child sexual-predator priests" by Lynn. 

    "The same evidence also established the defendant's expert knowledge of the characteristics of pedophiles," Williams argued. The evidence introduced by the prosecution at trial "showed the Philadelphia jury and the world that the defendant's handling of Father [Edward V.] Avery was completely typical of his handling of other similar predator priests," the district attorney said, sounding drunk on his own press clippings. "The defendant knew just how dangerous such priests were."

    "I have three daughters . . . "
    "We knew Msgr. Lynn's behavior," Williams said. "We knew how he handled those cases." Lynn, the D.A. said, was "more worried about the treasury of the church, and again forgetting that his treasury is people. And so to protect the bank account [he] didn't even  call the police; didn't even call the parents."

    I don't go to a lot of press conferences held by D.A. Williams. [He no longer invites me]. But for the third time at one of those press conferences about the Lynn case, I've heard Williams use his own daughters to make a political point with reporters, by saying how upset he would be if his daughters were molested or raped.

    Gee, thanks Dad.

    "I have three daughters," Williams said today. "If a priest sexually assaulted my daughter I would at the very least [expect] my church to call me."

    "They didn't do that," Williams said. "What did they do? They sent Father Avery to St. Jerome's. Didn't tell the priest there, didn't tell the nun that the guy they put in charge of the CYO is a pedophile. So we had to show all these other acts . .  to show Msgr. Lynn knew how dangerous it was to put a pedophile into a school with children. so we had to show all those bad acts."

    The district attorney described Lynn as somebody who "shuffled pedophile priests from one parish to another unsuspecting parish."

    Where to begin. A pedophile is someone sexually attracted to children, generally age 11 or younger. Lynn knew about a prior victim of Avery's who testified at the monsignor's criminal trial in 2012. The  victim, a 49-year-old doctor, testified that when he was 15 years old he was fondled by Avery. When he was 19, the victim testified, he consented to accompany Avery on a ski trip where he was molested.

    A pedophile doesn't target 15 year-olds and 19 year-olds. And, for anybody who cares about the facts of the case, Avery never ran the CYO.

    "It's all wrong," Thomas A. Bergstrom, Lynn's defense lawyer, said about the D.A.'s oratory. "The premise to the whole thing is his assertion that Avery is a pedophile, which he wasn't." Bergstrom also objected to Williams saying that Lynn "transferred pedophile priests, which he didn't."

    "Lynn didn't have the power to transfer and assign priests," Bergstrom said. This was the evidence presented at trial. The only official in the archdiocese who had that kind of power was Lynn's boss, the late Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua.

    "So they just lie about things and everything flows from that," Bergstrom complained about the D.A. "He [Williams] has done that all along. He's beating a drum but unfortunately the facts don't support him. But his constituency doesn't care about that."

    Avery didn't run the CYO at St. Jerome's, Bergstrom said What he did do occasionally, at the request of the church pastor, was to hear confessions from children in a group setting at the church, with parents and priests nearby. Avery also was an occasional disc jockey at St. Jerome's, for weddings, adult dances and one high school dance.

    At his press conference, D.A. Williams conceded that Lynn might be tried again.

    "There could be a new trial," Williams said. "And if so, we're fully committed to empaneling a jury and going to trial again."

    Meanwhile, while the appeals continue, "We will fight to keep Msgr. Lynn in state custody where he belongs," Williams said. The D.A. said he wanted to ensure that Lynn stays in jail so "that he doesn't have an opportunity to be reassigning priests in the future."

    It's really hard to believe that the archdiocese would ever be dumb enough to put Msgr. Lynn back in his old job as secretary for the clergy, a position he held from 1992 to 2004. Can't imagine the lawyers and the insurance company would sign off on that one.

    But the D.A. was on a roll. As far as Seth Williams is concerned, the appeals in the Lynn case can go on forever. As long as he gets to hold more press conferences and make more speeches.

    Bergstrom is right. The facts don't matter at all to our crusading D.A.

    "The guy they put in charge of the CYO is a pedophile . . . "
    I've had my own experience. I wrote a story three years ago about 20 factual errors that I found in the D.A.'s 2011 grand jury report on the church.

    The mistakes were brazen rewrites of grand jury testimony to fit the D.A.'s own story line.

    A 14-year-old boy got in bed with a priest. Both males had their boxer shorts on. But 11 times in the grand jury report, the D.A. wrote that the priest, Father James J. Brennan, anally raped 14-year-old Mark Bukowski. Even though Bukowski testified at the grand jury, and at trial, that it never happened. The proof was at trial, when Father Brennan was only charged with attempted rape, for what his lawyer described as a "savage spooning."

    Billy Doe's mother testified to the grand jury that her son underwent a drastic personality change in high school. But that didn't fit the D.A.'s story line. So the D.A. simply rewrote the mother's testimony to say that her son's drastic personality change happened in grade school, when little Billy supposedly was raped by Father Avery, as well as another priest, and a school teacher.

    After I found the factual errors, I wrote up a list of questions and sent it over to the D.A.'s office. His response: stonewalling. For three years, he's refused to answer those questions and more.

    That same grand jury report, complete with all 20 factual errors, remains online today at the D.A.'s website with all of its original lies intact.

    This D.A. doesn't give a damn about facts. Not when he can invent his own facts. And have the rest of the media pass it along as gospel.

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    By Ralph Cipriano
    for BigTrial.net

    The state Supreme Court on New Year's Eve turned down an appeal by Bernard Shero in the Billy Doe case.

    On June 12, 2013, Shero, then 51, was sentenced by Judge Ellen Ceisler to 8 to 16 years in jail after he was convicted by a jury of rape of a child, attempted rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a child, endangering the welfare of a child, corruption of a minor, and indecent assault.

    The Supreme Court decision means that Shero is out of appeals on the state court level. In a 36-page decision last March, a panel of three Superior Court judges ruled that seven appeals issues raised by Shero, a former Catholic school teacher, "are either waived or devoid of merit."

    The state Supreme Court decision was more succinct. In a one-page order, the court declared, "And now, this 31st day of December, the Petition for Allowance of Appeal is DENIED." The only other sentence on the page mentioned that "Justice Eaken did not participate in the decision of this matter." That's because Justice Eaken is presently serving a suspension with pay in the "porngate" scandal pending a trial by a judicial ethics board.

    Shero was tried along with the late Father Charles Engelhardt who was sentenced by Judge Ceisler sentenced to 6 to 12 years in jail after being convicted of endangering the welfare of a child, corruption of a minor and indecent assault.

    The 67-year-old priest died in prison in November, 2014. Engelhardt also lost his appeals in state Superior Court as well as state Supreme Court.

    On Aug. 19, the state Supreme Court in a one-page order on the Engelhardt appeal declared that "Petition for leave to file Petition for Allowance of Appeal Nunc Pro Tunc is DENIED."

    With Engelhardt's death, his case is over. Shero's lawyer, Burton A. Rose, could not immediately be reached on whether he plans any federal appeals in the case.

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    Careful, Mariana might be watching
    By Ralph Cipriano
    for BigTrial.net

    If "Mariana" ever chaperoned an eighth grade dance, many junior high boys might leave in handcuffs.

    Going by the legal logic expressed on this blog by "Mariana" -- who may or may not be former Assistant District Attorney Mariana Sorensen -- any guy in pants who presses his penis against another clothed person may be guilty of rape. That's the stated opinion of a commenter on this blog who identified herself only as "Mariana." A commenter who, in a question directed by me to former ADA Sorensen, may have divulged the legal logic behind that fatally flawed 2011 grand jury report that Sorensen wrote.

    Regular readers of the blog may recall that I occasionally mention that 2011 grand jury report and how it contained more than 20 factual errors. After three years of hearing about that, "Mariana" apparently got pissed enough to spill the legal beans in the commentary section on this blog.

    For three years, Sorensen's old boss, District Attorney Seth Williams, has relentlessly stonewalled all of my questions about that flawed 2011 grand jury report, still proudly posted on his website. Williams may be reckless enough to misstate facts at press conferences when he knows the rest of the media won't hold him accountable. But he's not dumb enough to be drawn into a battle he can't win, namely any discussion about the mistakes in that 2011 grand jury report.

    But, thanks to "Mariana," we may now have some insight into the twisted legal logic behind that 2011 grand jury report. 

    Here's how the commentary went down between myself and "Mariana." It began under a story I posted about our grandstanding D.A. making erroneous statements at a press conference where he announced he would do everything in his power to keep Msgr. William J. Lynn in jail.

    Lynn is the trophy head Williams bagged in the Billy Doe prosecution. An anonymous commentator who was ripping prosecutors in general then wrote that he was "in possession of grand jury testimony [where] prosecutors invented facts."

    That prompted "Mariana" to ask who gave the anonymous commentator the grand jury testimony not introduced at trial. "Sounds as if there should be another investigation,""Mariana" concluded.

    I jumped in and asked, "Is this Mariana Sorensen? If it is, maybe you can explain all those errors in  the 2011  grand jury report." That prompted "Mariana" to unload. I broke up what she wrote into paragraphs so that readers could draw a few breaths while going through her legal diatribe:

    Ralph -- I have nothing to explain to you. Except that I can't even begin to quantify your "errors." Especially counting, as you do, every repetition of a single purported mistake. Your original article claiming 20 errors in the grand jury report is completely bogus. So every time you've quoted or referenced your own dishonest work would constitute another error (lie??). Given how often you like to do that, I would estimate that your untruths are approaching triple digits. 

    I'm not going to go through all your misrepresentations of the facts, but given that you count the use of the words rape and sodomy with respect to Fr. Brennan's crimes as 11 discreet errors (because, according to you, it is impossible to commit a rape if the victim is wearing underwear), I suggest that you consult your blog's sponsor on the law. Last time I researched the topic, there was no ruling by Pennsylvania courts, but several other states and federal courts that have considered the question have held that rape and sodomy can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt even when the victim is wearing underwear or other clothing.

    The necessary “penetration no matter how slight” can be accomplished through or around the clothing. See, for example, Davis v. Commonwealth of Virginia, 643 S.E. 2d 322 (Va. 2006)(penetration found through “regular issue . . .polyester pants . . .and undergarments as well), citing United States v. Norman, 139 F.3d1099, 1103 (10th Cir. 1997)

    (“Unquestionably, some penetration could occur through pliable clothing. . . . Existence of such material does not ... protect defendants from prosecution under the statute [object sexual penetration of a child].”); Nguyen v. Cate, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 33561, 33 (U.S. District Ct. N. Cal. 2012) (Where the victim described contact “in the middle …[of her] butt,” ”“the jury could find sufficient evidence of sodomy even if they believed that the contact occurred outside Sandy’s clothing.”); People v. Ribera, 34 Cal. Rptr. 3d 538 (Ct. of App. Of Cal., 5th App. Dis. 2005)(evidence was sufficient to prove sodomy where victim testified that defendant “poked” his penis into her behind, even though victim was wearing underwear). 

    See also, Chrobak v. State of Arkansas, 58 S.W. 3d 387 (evidence was sufficient to prove rape where defendant penetrated by moving the victim’s underwear and pajamas to the side); Cummings v. Burge, 581 F. Supp. 2d 436 (W.D.N.Y. 2008)(rape accomplished by pushing underwear aside).

    Now, I have a question for you. Who gave you copies of grand jury testimony that was not ever made part of the public record?

    Here's what "Mariana" and I were referring to. Eleven times in the 2011 grand jury report, the district attorney stated that in 1996 Father James J. Brennan raped 14-year-old Mark Bukowski during an overnight stay at the priest's house, a visit requested by Bukowski's mother. The subject is actually of current interest as the DA has announced plans to retry the case Oct. 24th, more than four years after a jury deadlocked on the original charges against Father Brennan.

    Now we can all agree a priest should never have been in bed with a 14-year-old under any circumstances, nor should he have ever touched the boy in any inappropriate way, as the allegations claim in the Father Brennan case. Again, we have to remember that the accused is innocent until proven guilty, which didn't happen in the first trial. My sole aim in discussing this again is to show the intellectual dishonesty of the district attorney's office.

    This excerpt is from pages 11 and 12 of the grand jury report:

    Father Brennan, who was now shirtless, insisted that Mark remove his gym shorts and climb into bed with him in only his underwear, which Mark did. Mark attempted to sleep on his side, with his back to Father Brennan, because he was afraid to look at the priest. As Mark lay in that position, Father Brennan hugged him from behind, resting his chin on Mark’s shoulder and pulling the boy closer to him.

    When Father Brennan pulled Mark toward him, Mark felt Father Brennan’s erect penis enter his buttocks. Mark began to cry, and asked himself over and over again, “Why is this happening?” as Father Brennan anally raped him. Mark fell asleep that night with Father Brennan’s penis still in his buttocks.


    In Mariana's legal citations she jumped between what might be described as spooning and what might be described as rape; penetration of the buttocks as opposed to penetration of the anus.

    But the grand jury report unequivocally stated that "Father Brennan anally raped" Bukowski.

    When he testified before the grand jury on Oct. 8, 2010, Mark Bukowski said:

    I got into bed with him [Father Brennan] and he was now shirtless and insisted not in a violent or threatening way that I should remove my gym shorts. So I did, got into the bed and immediately took the position of having my back to him because I didn't want to look at him ...

    He began to hug me from behind and rest his chin on my shoulder with his beard scratching my upper neck area. He continually pulled me closer, while moving closer himself with his arms around my upper chest. This time I felt his erect penis between my butt cheeks. My boxers were still on, however, I do not know if he had shorts on. With the way it felt and how aggressive, yet gentle he was, it was if he wanted to pull himself through me and for me to come out the back of him. I remember lastly thinking what the fuck happened tonight and crying myself to sleep with his penis still between my butt cheeks, saying to myself over and over again, why is this happening?

     In the grand jury report, Bukowski described a spooning, a penetration of his buttocks, and not an anal rape.

    When Father Brennan was tried as a co-defendant with Msgr. Lynn, on the witness stand, Mark Bukowski testified that both he and the priest had t-shirts and boxer shorts on the night they spent in the priest's bed. 

    In her legal logic, "Mariana" cited incidents where apparently the attacker pushed aside the victim's underwear on his way to achieving penetration of either the buttocks or the anus. 

    "Mariana" can argue all the legal technicalities in rape law until all of our eyes glaze over and we all forget, forgive me, the bottom line of the case. Here's where the brilliant legal argument espoused by "Mariana" turns out to be, in her words, "completely bogus."

    The grand jury report called for indicting Father Brennan and charging him with rape and involuntary deviant sexual intercourse with a minor. But when the actual trial began, the rape charge against Father Brennan was reduced to attempted rape, with no official explanation ever from D.A. Williams, ADA Sorensen, or anybody else.

    Sorry, "Mariana," but in the real world, namely the court of law, you lost big time. Not even D.A. Williams, who would do just about anything to put a priest in jail, was willing to go to war with your novel definition of what constitutes anal rape.

    Is "Mariana" really ADA Mariana Sorensen? We have one more clue.

    After "Mariana" and I got through exchanging pleasantries, Dennis Ecker weighed in. Most of the regular readers of this blog will recall Ecker as a tireless [some would say mindless] victims' advocate who claims himself to be a victim of sex abuse.

    Ecker told "Mariana" if Ralph and others believe she is really Mariana Sorensen, he knows her to be the "greatest kindest woman God placed on this earth. A woman I define as a hero." If "Mariana" isn't Mariana Sorensen, then "Mariana""should be honored to be mistaken for her," Ecker wrote. 

    A no-doubt blushing "Mariana" then replied, "Dennis, you are the hero.""Mariana" went on to praise Dennis for remaining "civil, kind and open-minded in the midst of all of the mean-spirited and ignorant comments about abuse survivors on this blog."

    Sorry, Mariana, we were probably not talking about real abuse survivors, we were talking about Billy Doe.

    Now Mariana, you state you don't want to go into all my other "misrepresentations of the facts" that I mentioned in my original post. Why the hell not? Let's go point by point. I've got the grand jury transcripts and other evidence gathered by the D.A.'s own detectives to back up what I'm saying, that you twisted the official record to fit your story line in the grand jury report.

    You know, the grand jury testimony where Billy Doe's mother said that her son underwent a dramatic personality change in high school. That didn't fit your story line so you rewrote it to say that the dramatic personality change occurred in grade school, when Billy was supposedly raped by two priests and a school teacher.

    Your real problem is that you never thought any of that secret stuff would ever come out in the media. And as far as who gave me those grand jury transcripts, wouldn't you like to know?

    We have a shield law in Pennsylvania that protects a reporter from having to reveal his sources. Suffice to say it may have been someone concerned about the misdeeds of unaccountable prosecutors like yourself. You know, people who work under cover of secrecy, and can do anything they want. Like twisting a savage spooning into a rape.

    Some zealot drunk on what Daily News columnist Christine Flowers, herself a lawyer, recently described in the Msgr. Lynn case as "prosecutorial lust."

    Brace yourself, "Mariana," the whole house of cards may be collapsing.

    Someday, you may be hauled into a courtroom, or before some legal ethics board. And you may have to state who you really are. And explain your blatant dishonesty, all in the name of an end result that in your mind was justified by any means necessary. 

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