Monday, June 25, 2012

Finally, a Verdict in Philly Priest Trial

The jury took a while, but....

"Jury divided on 4 of 5 clergy-abuse charges in Philadelphia; Judge offers to let them rehear parts of the testimony" by Maryclaire Dale  |  Associated Press, June 21, 2012

PHILADELPHIA — A divided jury will have a day off to dwell on clergy sex-abuse charges pending against two Roman Catholic priests before returning for a 13th day of talks Friday.

Jurors deliberated anew for several hours Wednesday after telling a Philadelphia judge they were at an impasse on four of the case’s five charges in the landmark trial. The panel will not meet Thursday because a juror has a family conflict, the judge said.

Jurors are weighing criminal charges against the Rev. James Brennan and a church supervisor, Monsignor William Lynn, who is the first US church official charged over his handling of abuse complaints.

Lynn was tried on conspiracy and child endangerment charges for allegedly helping the church cover up abuse complaints within the Philadelphia archdiocese from 1992 to 2004.

Brennan is accused of trying to rape a 14-year-old boy.

The jury announced Wednesday it had reached a verdict on one charge, but did not think it could agree on the other four.

The jurors’ note to the judge suggested the split was 10-2 on one charge, but it was unclear what the vote was on other counts or on which charge they had reached a verdict.

Common Pleas Judge M. Teresa Sarmina instructed them to keep trying and offered to let them rehear portions of testimony from two accusers if it would help them reach consensus. The jury had asked for that evidence last week.

The judge’s offer led lawyer William Brennan to move for a mistrial on behalf of his client, James Brennan. The lawyer argued that she was pointing jurors to a portion of the case.

‘‘You’ve in effect made yourself a 13th juror,’’ argued Brennan, who is not related to his client.

Sarmina countered that they had previously asked for the help and denied his motion. The jury did not ask to rehear the testimony in question Wednesday afternoon, or ask for any help understanding the law.

Lynn, 61, served as secretary for clergy in the Philadelphia archdiocese from 1992 to 2004. James Brennan, 48, is charged with attempted rape and child endangerment for his alleged abuse of a teenage boy on an overnight stay at the priest’s apartment in 1996.

Another priest, the Rev. Edward Avery, pleaded guilty to sexual assault before trial and is in prison. Lynn is charged with endangering Avery’s victim and Brennan’s accuser.

Sarmina acknowledged Wednesday that it could take days to rehear the testimony from those two young men, but she said that might be better than the alternative.

She reminded the jurors that the case may have to be retried if they deadlock and told them to make one last attempt to return a verdict. She asked them to deliberate with open minds but also said they should not surrender their individual opinion to reach an agreement.

Seven men and five women are on the jury. They include a federal court clerk, a gospel singer, and a graduate student....


"Catholic official convicted of endangering children; First in US to be found guilty of abuse coverups" by Erik Eckholm and Jon Hurdle  |  New York Times, June 23, 2012

PHILADELPHIA — In the first criminal conviction of a Roman Catholic Church official in the United States for covering up sexual abuses, Monsignor William J. Lynn was found guilty Friday of endangering children by allowing a known pedophile priest to continue ministering to youths....

The mixed verdict was seen as a victory for the district attorney’s office in Philadelphia, which has been investigating the archdiocese aggressively since 2002.

Some victim advocates were elated.

“The guilty verdict sends a strong and clear message that shielding and enabling predator priests is a heinous crime that threatens families, communities, and children, and must be punished as such,’’ said Barbara Dorris of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.

Others, however, were ambivalent. Karen Polesir, a spokeswoman for the group, said her immediate reaction to the verdict was tears.

‘‘I'm brokenhearted for all the victims that were brave enough to come forward, and the whistleblowers that were brave enough to come forward,’’ Polesir said. ‘‘I'm glad for the one count of guilty, but that is not enough to vindicate the victims and survivors. I feel that there was overwhelming evidence against Monsignor Lynn and that the decision is just heartbreaking.’’

Victim advocates hope Lynn’s conviction will embolden prosecutors in other states to investigate whether senior church officials failed to stop abuses, and they also say it could lead to more victim lawsuits in Philadelphia and around the country. But such proceedings may often be restricted, legal experts said, by statutes of limitations.  

Not that they are unimportant, but I can see the corporate media running with the coverage of those trials -- to the exclusion of other important events.

The jury could not agree on a verdict for Lynn’s codefendant, the Rev. James Brennan....

Lynn’s lawyers have promised to appeal any conviction, arguing that the law on child endangerment at the time did not apply to supervisors and that the judge had allowed prejudicial evidence, among other issues....

The prosecutors presented a flood of evidence, legal experts said, that the archdiocese had concealed abuse accusations and that Lynn had not acted strongly to keep suspected molesters away from children, let alone to report them to law enforcement.

But the tortuous jury deliberations showed the difficulty of placing criminal blame on one church official when there was evidence that other senior officials, starting with the cardinal at the time, had worked to prevent bad publicity and lawsuits. The jurors also wrestled with the definition of conspiracy, at one point asking the judge to define ‘‘agree.’’


Still, the trial has already sent a sobering message to church officials and others overseeing children around the country.

"I think that bishops and chancery officials understand that they will no longer get a pass on these types of crimes," said Nicholas P. Cafardi, a professor of law at Duquesne University, a canon lawyer and frequent church adviser. "Priests who sexually abuse youngsters and the chancery officials who enabled it by allowing a known sexual abuser to remain in ministry can expect criminal prosecution.”

Related: Conviction of church official could have wide impact


Lynn’s own lawyer told the jury that "in this trial, you have seen the dark side of the church."

The revelations of sexual abuse and seeming official indifference have tormented an archdiocese that was long known for imperious leaders and an insular camaraderie among its priests — "the priestly equivalent of the blue wall of silence," said Rocco Palmo, the Philadelphia-based writer of Whispers in the Loggia, a blog on Catholic affairs.

It has also been costly: The financially ailing archdiocese said this week that legal fees and internal investigations triggered by the abuse cases had cost $11.6 million since early 2011....


Related: California Man at Peace With Priest's Trial  

While we are in Philly:

"Philadelphia project puts healthy food in corner stores" by Sarah Kliff  |  Washington Post, June 15, 2012

PHILADELPHIA - Philadelphia has the highest obesity rate and poorest population of America’s big cities. It also has an ambitious plan - launched out of 632 corner stores - to put healthy food on every table. 

I'm sorry, readers, but I'm full up on the obesity agenda when I'm hungry all the time and the elites are gorging themselves at scrumptious buffets.

The $900,000 investment in better health depends on apples and oranges, chips and candy, $1,200 fridges, and green plastic baskets. The results could steer the course of American food policy.

I'm not against healthy food. We have plenty of it coming off the farms around here; however, why is the corporate government cracking down on gardening  and farming under the banner of health and safety?

Philadelphia is trying to turn corner stores into greengrocers. For a small shop, it’s a risky business proposition. Vegetables have a limited shelf life, so a storeowner must know how much will sell quickly - or watch profits rot away. 

You have to eat that stuff first.

Storeowners also lack the buying power of supermarkets and are often unable to meet the minimum orders required by the cheaper wholesalers that grocery stores use.

With shelf space at a premium, shop owners must pick and choose the products they think will sell best. Chips and candy and soda are a sure bet. Eggplant? It’s hard to know.

Access to healthy foods has been a cornerstone of the Obama administration’s food policy, dedicating hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funds to projects like this one.

Related: Michelle Obama's Appetite

Power must make one hungry.

The goal is to eradicate food deserts - low-income areas that lack access to nutritious foods - by 2017.

No reward to look forward to?  

Oh, I thought you meant desserts.  Whew!

“More parents will have a fresh food retailer right in their community - a place that sells healthy food, at reasonable prices, so they can feed their families the way they want,’’ first lady Michelle Obama said when she launched the White House’s $400 million Healthy Food Financing Initiative.

I always felt each community should have a health center and hospital.

More than just a drain on families, obesity is a huge economic drag: The United States spends $147 billion each year treating the condition.

But even as the White House has scaled up such efforts, more research has questioned its basic assumption: that people will eat better if given better options.

Multiple studies have scoured local, state, and national data looking for a causal relationship between weight and access to healthy food. None has found it.

“It’s a theory that makes sense, and it’s intuitive,’’ said Helen Lee, a fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California, whose research focuses on racial disparities in health outcomes. “But my concern would be that we’re investing in a strategy that may not be very promising. If you’re investing government money, you should carefully be evaluating how much you’ve invested and how much you’re getting out of that.’’

That’s where Philadelphia comes in. Along with building the country’s largest network of healthy corner stores, the city is conducting the largest study to date of what happens when nutritious options are introduced into neighborhoods that have traditionally gone without. It’s measuring what people bought before, what they’re eating now, and whether that improves....


As long as the kids are not eating meat I guess it's okay. 

And maybe this story will make you phat:

"Pa. car thief swiped earrings off baby left inside" Associated Press, June 23, 2012

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — A thief stole an SUV with a baby inside as the mother unloaded groceries, then swiped the little girl’s earrings before ditching the vehicle, police said.

The 1-year-old was unhurt and quickly reunited with her mother after the car was stolen Wednesday in Allentown.

Investigators say the girl’s mother left the baby in her car seat in the air-conditioned vehicle while she unloaded groceries at home.

The thief dumped the car about two miles away. A man passing by heard a ringing cellphone inside the vehicle and saw the abandoned baby.

The theft remains under investigation.


And what's going on over at the Vatican these days?

"American nuns say questions not defiance; Leader decries Vatican’s view of US group" by Rachel Zoll  |  Associated Press, June 19, 2012

NEW YORK - The Vatican’s number two official blamed the media for fueling the scandal over leaked Vatican documents.  

Also see: Obama Campaign Springs a Leak

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s secretary of state, told an Italian Catholic weekly that journalists reporting on the leaks scandal are “pretending to be Dan Brown . . . inventing stories and replaying legends.’’ Brown wrote “The Da Vinci Code’’ and “Angels and Demons’’ the best-selling fictional accounts of power struggles and scandals inside the Catholic Church.

Ah, a contemporary conspiracy!

The Vatican has been on the defensive ever since sensitive documents alleging corruption and exposing power struggles began appearing in the Italian media in January. A recent book containing dozens of documents from Pope Benedict XVI’s own desk has compounded what many see as a plot to undermine Bertone’s authority.  

It wouldn't be the first time a Pope has been removed.

In a separate development Monday.... 


Also see: Philadelphia Priest Trial Ends

"Pope seeks advice from cardinals on leak scandal" Associated Press, June 24, 2012

VATICAN CITY — In a bid to try to ‘‘restore a climate of ­serenity and trust’’ in the church, the Vatican confirmed Saturday that it has enlisted the Fox News correspondent in Rome to help improve its communications strategy as it tries to cope with the scandal....  

You guys really are making deals with the devil.

The Vatican has been scrambling to contain the damage ­after the leak of hundreds of Vatican documents exposed corruption, political infighting, and power struggles at the highest level of the Catholic Church. The pope’s butler, Paolo Gabriele, is under arrest at the Vatican, accused of aggra­vated theft after the pope’s own documents were found in Gabriele’s Vatican City apartment.

One Holy See investigation into the links is a criminal one headed by Vatican gendarmes. There is also an internal inquiry led by a commission of three cardinals tasked with getting to the bottom of the scandal....

The meetings Saturday were another indication of the seriousness with which he has taken the scandal and the damage it has done to the trust that is supposed to form the basis of the Vatican’s governance....

Italian authorities have been looking into an alleged web of kickbacks and favors, including purported sexual ones, involving businessmen, church hierarchy, and public officials....  

Time to get up and leave the church.