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Articles on this Page
- 02/12/13--14:20: _New Date For Mob Tr...
- 02/13/13--14:45: _AKA Miami
- 02/14/13--14:11: _Uncle Joe Wants To ...
- 02/19/13--14:49: _Christmas, Cocaine ...
- 02/20/13--15:28: _Kaboni Savage In Hi...
- 02/25/13--13:07: _Bail Denied For Lig...
- 02/25/13--17:22: _Death Threats From ...
- 02/26/13--15:03: _Mean Streets And Mu...
- 02/27/13--14:06: _Murder, Mayhem And ...
- 02/28/13--17:27: _The Imam's Clout
- 02/28/13--18:19: _Billy Doe's Junkie ...
- 03/01/13--04:54: _The Split In The D....
- 03/04/13--15:15: _The Mystery Of "Ses...
- 03/07/13--02:20: _Mom's Calendars Und...
- 03/11/13--15:07: _Mob Soldier Indicte...
- 03/11/13--15:28: _The Rap Sheet For T...
- 03/11/13--15:44: _ D.A. Rolled Out Re...
- 03/14/13--10:28: _60 Minutes To Air J...
- 03/14/13--15:06: _D.A.'s Grand Jury R...
- 03/14/13--16:39: _Money Woes For Mob ...
- 02/12/13--14:20: New Date For Mob Trial; Kaboni Savage Drug Case Continues
- 02/13/13--14:45: AKA Miami
- 02/14/13--14:11: Uncle Joe Wants To Go Home
- 02/19/13--14:49: Christmas, Cocaine And A Red Lobster Gift Certificate
- 02/20/13--15:28: Kaboni Savage In His Own Words
- 02/25/13--13:07: Bail Denied For Ligambi In Mob Retrial
- 02/25/13--17:22: Death Threats From A Prison Toilet
- 02/26/13--15:03: Mean Streets And Murder
- 02/27/13--14:06: Murder, Mayhem And Philadelphia Politics
- 02/28/13--17:27: The Imam's Clout
- 02/28/13--18:19: Billy Doe's Junkie Hustle
- 03/04/13--15:15: The Mystery Of "Sessions"
- 03/07/13--02:20: Mom's Calendars Undermine Billy Doe's Story
- 03/11/13--15:07: Mob Soldier Indicted For Murder
- 03/11/13--15:28: The Rap Sheet For Two Star Witnesses
- 03/11/13--15:44: D.A. Rolled Out Red Carpet For Billy Doe
- 03/14/13--10:28: 60 Minutes To Air John Veasey Story
- 03/14/13--15:06: D.A.'s Grand Jury Report Riddled With Errors
- 03/14/13--16:39: Money Woes For Mob Boss?
By George Anastasia
Judge Eduardo Robreno has set April 16 as the date for the retrial of mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi and three co-defendants.
But most courtroom observers say you'd be would be wise to hold off on putting that notice in your "save the date" calendar.
"He's just trying to push the process along," said one veteran of the criminal justice system. "I doubt the trial will go off that quickly."
In fact, the prosecution hasn't formally announced that it intends to retry Ligambi and the others on the 11 charges that a jury left "undecided" when it delivered its verdicts earlier this month. That decision is now in the hands of the U.S. Justice Department in Washington.
Not unexpectedly, Robreno also denied motions by lawyers for six of the defendants seeking to have all the charges against them dismissed. The judge also set sentencing dates in May for four defendants who were found guilty by the jury in a split verdict that still has defendants, their attorneys and many courtroom observers scatching their heads.
Meanwhile, seven floors below Robreno 15th floor courtroom, another big trial continued to play out as prosecutors laid out the case against drug kingpin Kaboni Savage and three co-defendants. FBI Agent Kevin Lewis, the lead investigator in the case, finished his fifth day on the witness stand early this afternoon.
Two other prosecution witnesses were called later in the day. The first of several cooperating witness who worked the drug underworld with Savage is expected to take the stand when the trial resumes this morning.
The two cases offer different and changing views of the Philadelphia underworld.
Ligambi and his co-defendants were charged with racketeering conspiracy in a case built around allegations of gambling, extortion and loansharking. Testimony focused on video poker machines that generated a few hundreds of dollars a week (or month) in profits and street-level extortion loans of several thousand dollars.
Defense attorneys derisively referred to the case as "racketeering lite." Others said the case was indicative of the waning days of Cosa Nostra.
Savage and his co-defendants, on the other hand, are charged in a case that includes 12 homicides and that epitomizes the bloody and wantonly violent drug underworld. Testimony thus far has focused on a drug network where a kilo of cocaine costs $27,000 and where the "players" in that game dealt in multi-kilogram shipments and hundred-thousand dollar business deals.
Savage and two of his co-defendants could be sentenced to death if convicted.
The penalties in the Ligambi case are substantially less, but could effectively end the criminal careers of some of the defendants.
Ligambi, 73, his nephew George Borgesi, 49, and a top associate, Anthony Staino, 55, could face retrial on racketeering conspiracy charges. The jury could not decide that count against those three defendants. Ligambi and Staino also face gambling-related chares on which the jury hung.
Mob underboss Joseph "Mousie" Massimino, 62, potentially faces a retrial on three gambling charges on which the jury hung as well.
But Massimino, mob soldier Damion Canalichio and mob associate Gary Battaglini were convicted of racketeering conspiracy by the same jury. They are scheduled to be sentenced in May. Staino was convicted of two extortion charges for which he also will be sentenced.
Massimino and Canalichio, with prior convictions and criminal records, could be facing 10 to 12 years in prison when they are sentenced.
A retrial, if it happens, is expected to be shorter and more focused than the 10-week trial that led to 21 days of often confusing jury deliberation. Most obsevers say the prosecution has an advantage in any retrial because it is able to reshape its case. Fewer tapes, fewer witnesses and more pointed testimony would likely be part of a new presentation for a prosecution team that believed the jury in the first trial got lost.
Part of that might be attributable to a prosecution presentation that many believed was disjointed and unorganized. The second time around, that probably won't be the case.
The jury had to decide 62 charges against seven defendants in a 52-count indictment. It came back with 46 not guilty decisions. The panel was undecided on 11 charges and delivered just five guilty verdicts.
Nevertheless, those convicted face significiant jail time. In addition, Ligambi, Borgesi and Staino run the risk of being convicted of a racketeering conspiracy count that carries a maximum 20-year sentence. At Ligambi's age, a conviction would be tantamount to a life sentence.
For Borgesi the situation is particularly galling. The volatile mobster, who was finishing a 14-year sentence for a 2001 racketeering conviction when he was indicted with Ligambi and the others in May 2011, was found not guilty of 13 of the 14 charges against him by the juyr.
But the jury hung -- was undecided -- on the racketeering conspiracy charge, a decison that Borgesi's lawyer, Paul Hetznecker, is expected to challenge as illogical in a post-trial motion.
The decision on whether to retry on the unresolved charges is expected to be announced in the near future. In the meantime, Ligambi, Borgesi and the four other defendants remain in the Federal Detention Center.
Savage, 38, and his co-defendants are in the same facility,.
His trial was marked by a rare note of levity this afternoon when FBI Agent Edward Frimel testified about how he and others members of a fugitive task force tracked Savage down in 1999 when he was wanted on a murder charge pending in Philadelphia (He later beat that case when a key witness was killed days before trial. That murder is one of the 12 homicides in the current case).
Frimel said he and other members of the task force learned that Savage was staying at an apartment in Stoney Run Village in Maple Shade, N.J. He said when they entered the apartment they found Savage "hiding under a pile of clothes and a comforter" at the foot of the bed in the apartment's one bedroom.
A veteran of the fugitive unit, Frimel said it was "not unusual" for find fugitives hiding under beds or clothes and blankets. Then, he added, "I once had a guy standing in a corner with a lampshade on his head."
The comment drew laughter from attorneys, jurors and members of the audience.
And before Assistant U.S. Attorney John Gallagher completed his questioning of Frimel, he came back to that incident.
"The guy with the lampshade," Gallagher asked. "You caught him, right?"
"For sure," Frimel replied.
George Anastasia can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By George Anastasia
His name is Robert Wilks, but on the streets and on dozens of secretly recorded conversations he is frequently referred to by his nickname, "Miami."
He grew up in the notorious Richard Allen Homes public housing project in North Philadelphia, was dealing small quanities of drugs by age 17 and by his mid-twenities was moving half kilos and kilos of cocaine.
In 2004, already in jail on a drug charge and facing a broad federal drug racketeering indictment, he decided to cooperate. This morning, for the second time, he took the stand against one of the men who he said supplied him drugs -- Kaboni Savage.
One week into the trial of Savage and three co-defendants, the jury finally heard from a player in the violent, volatile and highly profitable drug underworld that authorities say Savage dominated through fear, intimidation and murder.
Savage, 38, and two co-defendants could be sentenced to death if convicted of any of the 12 murder charges that are part of the current case.
Wilks, a soft-spoken 43-year-old dressed in jeans and a dark hoodie, was the first of at least a half dozen former drug dealers and alleged Savage associates expected to take the stand. Much of what he said was a repeat of his testimony in a 2005 trial in which Savage was convicted of drug trafficking, Savage is currently serving a 30-year sentence for his conviction in that case.
But for the 18-member jury panel (six are alternates), Wilks' testimony was brand new. What Wilks provided was a street-level account of the business of drug dealing.
Wilks, who served nearly six years after pleading guilty in 2004, acknowledged that he lived well when he was dealing drugs. After his guilty plea he was forced to forfeit a home and two cars, a BMW and a Acura, that authorities alleged were purchased with drug profits.
He described how he had a carpenter build "a hidden compartment" in one of the steps of his home. Using a remote control device, he said he could raise the step, located on stairs leading from the basement to the first floor, to gain access to the compartment where he would stash drugs while awaiting a sale.
He talked prices and marketing, explained the stove-top cooking process used to convert powdered cocaine to crack, and descibed the adavantage of "compressing" cocaine -- diluting the purer drug with a common, white powder solution and then using a press to turn the expanded product into kilogram size blocks for resale.
That recompressing, he told the jury, could turn a normal $500 profit on a sale of a kilo of coke into a profit of $2,500 to $3,000 by creating more product to sell.
Wilks told the jury he came up in the drug world under Gerald "Bubbie" Thomas, a major drug dealer who was indicted along with Savage, Wilks and more than a dozen others back in 2004. Thomas, whose voice has been heard repeatedly on wiretap conversations played for the jury thus far, died of cancer shortly after he was indicted and never stood trial.
He said he knew Savage from the neighborhood, but was introduced to him as a drug dealer through Thomas and Thomas's son, Paul Daniels. Daniels is also expected to testified later in the trail.
Savage, he said, sold him drugs on at least three occasions in quantities ranging from a half kilo to two kilos. The most he ever paid Savage, he said, "was between $40,000 and $50,000."
During cross-examination, Wilks' credibility was challenged repeatedly by defense attorneys. He admitted that while he was facing a sentence of from 12 to 15 years when he agreed to cooperate, he ended up being sentenced to just 41 months. That sentence, coupled with time he was already serving for an unrelated drug conviction, turned into a six-year stint in prison.
While he did not say where he currently lives, he said he is now holding two jobs, one as a medical assistant and the other as a "security officer."
When asked how he got the nickname "Miami," Wilks said, "I made it up."
Defense attorneys implied that he made up much more in order to cut a deal with the government, including testimony linking Savage to the Gerald Thomas drug underworld.
George Anastasia can be contacted at email@example.com.
By George Anastasia
Jailed mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi wants to go home
What's more, his lawyer says there is a job at a "respected Philadelphia-based corporation" waiting for the 73-year-old mob leader if he is freed to await retrial on a racketeering conspiracy charge.
A motion for bail was filed by Ligambi's lawyer this week. He has requested a Feb. 25 hearing.
Ligambi has been in the Federal Detention Center since his indictment and arrest in May 2011. But attorney Edwin Jacobs Jr. argued that his client's situation has changed substantially since prosecutors successfully argued to deny him bail after his arrest.
Jacobs argued at the time, and now contends that this month's jury verdict confirms, that Ligambi is not the violent organized crime leader that prosecutors say he is. Jacobs said a jury rejected the bulk of the government's case against his client and six co-defendants when it delivered a split verdict in the racketeering conspiracy case earlier this month.
Ligambi was found not guilty of five charges. The jury was undecided -- hung -- on four others. More important, Jacobs argued, the not guilty verdicts applied to two counts of extortion, the only alleged violent crimes for which Ligambi faced trial.
"The jury rejected more than ninety percent of the allegations constituting a `pattern of racketeering' alleged by the government," Jacobs wrote in a 13-page bail motion, adding that despite the government's claim that the evidence against (Ligambi) was `strong,' the jury failed to convicted him on any of the nine counts for which he was charged."
Among other things, Jacobs contended the jury verdicts raised questions about the government's claim that Ligambi was, in fact, the boss of the Philadelphia Cosa Nostra family.
In asking for bail, Jacobs also restated arguments he had made after Ligambi's arrest, including the fact that Ligambi has a minimal criminal record with only a gambling conviction from 1988.
Ligambi was convicted of a mob murder in 1987, but that conviction was overturned on appeal and he was acquitted at a retrial.
Jacobs wrote that the "CEO of a respected Philadelphia-based corporation" has offered Ligambi a job. He did not identify the company. That, coupled with Ligambi's "advanced age" undermines the government claim that if released Ligambi would be a danger to the community, he said.
Judge Eduardo Robreno has already denied bail requests from three other defendants in the case, including George Borgesi who like Ligambi was found not guilty of most of the charges he faced. The jury hung on the racketeering conspiracy charge against Borgesi, 49, but found him not guilty of 13 other charges.
Paul Hetznecker, Borgesi's court-appointed attorney, has filed notice that he intends to appeal the bail denial to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.
In all, after 21 days of deliberation following a 10-week trial, the jury delivered 46 not guilty verdicts, hung on 11 others and issued guilty verdicts on just five charges.
Robreno has tentatively set a retrial date for April 16. Federal prosecutors, however, have not yet announced whether they intend to retry the 11 counts on which the jury hung.
George Anastasia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By George Anastasia
Kaboni Savage worked holidays.
The North Philadelphia drug kingpin made major cocaine purchases on Thanksgiving and Christmas, according to a big-time coke dealer who testified for the prosecution this afternoon at Savage's drug trafficking/murder trial.
The fact that Savage was under house arrest and wearing a court-ordered electronic ankle bracelet at the time didn't slow him down, said Juan Rosado as he described holiday deliveries that he made to Savage's home on Darien Street in North Philadelphia in November and December 2000.
Rosado, a self-described "multi-million dollar cocaine trafficker," was the second supplier to testify for the government in the Savage trial, which is now in its third week. The trial, which is expected to last from three to four months, stems from a 12-year FBI investigation into the Savage organization.
The case includes allegations of drug dealing, money-laundering and 12 murders. Authorities allege that Savage, 38, a former boxer, used fear, intimidatiion and violence to control a drug network that pumped hundreds of kilograms of cocaine onto the streets of Philadelphia.
Rosado, a stocky, soft-spoken former New Yorker who began cooperating after being arrested in a heroin deal that went bad in January 2001, said Savage was "one of my best customers." He estimated that betwen the summer of 2000 and January 2001, he sold Savage between 125 and 150 kilos of cocaine.
The price per kilo, he said, ranged from $24,000 to $30,000.
His dealings included, he said, the delivery of nine kilograms on Thanksgiving Day and five more on Christmas Day. Each time, he said, Savage called him and said "he needed work."
"Work," Rosado said, was code for drugs. Rosado testified that while his wife was upset that he was being asked to make deliveries on the holidays, he said he did so because Savage was an important customer and because it was the chance to make more money.
On Christmas Day, he said, he delivered the cocaine to Savage and also gave Savage two gift certificates (for from $100 to $200) for Red Lobster. The restaurant gifts, he said, "were in appreciation" for all of Savage's business.
Rosado, who told the same stories when he testified against Savage in a 2005 drug trial, did quibble over a part of that earlier testimony. In 2005 Rosado told a jury that he moved about 1,000 kilograms of cocaine in Philadelphia in the year leading up to his arrest in January 2001, according to a transcript of his testimony cited by a defense attorney. He also said he sold smaller quantities of heroin.
But this afternoon, Rosado said the 1,000 kilogram estimate might have been high.
"That's a lot of cocaine," he said.
In fact, the defense pointed out, it's about 2,200 pounds or "more than a ton" of cocaine. Rosado also testified that he made a profit of between $500 and $1,500 on each kilo of coke that he sold which would have placed his drug earnings at between $500,000 and $1.5 million on the estimated 1,000 kilograms.
Rosado said he lived well as a drug dealer with a nice home and two cars, a Jaguar and a Lincoln Navigator. The home, the cars and his money were lost after he pleaded guilty and began cooperating.
In exchange for his cooperation, he was sentenced to five years in prison. He was released in 2006.
Rosado's testimony offered the jury yet another look at the lucrative but highly volatile world of drug dealing, He said he was arrested in January 2001 after being shot and robbed by men to whom he thought he was going to sell 390 grams of heroin.,
Rosado said he realized there was a problem when he arrived at the pre-arranged meeting spot "and saw a big gentleman with a gun in his hand."
That, he said, was the "tipoff that things weren't right."
Rosado also testified that Savage threatened him and his family after suspecting that he had begun cooperating. Both he and Savage were in the Federal Dention Center in Philadelphia at the time. Inmates, he said, communicated through toilet bowls from one floor of the prison to another.
"They take the water out of the bowl and talk into it," said Rosado, who said inmates call it "the phone."
He said he received two "phone calls" from Savage. In the first, he said, Savage told him, "I heard you ain't right," meaning he suspected Rosado was cooperating.
Rosado said he denied that he had become a government informant, even though he had.
In a second call, he said, Savage went on a rant, angrily threatening him and his family, including his infant son.
"He called me a fuckin' rat and said he was going to kill my whole family," Rosado said.
The homicides charged in the current case include the deaths of six people -- two women and four children ranging in age from 15-months to 15 years -- in a firebombing the government alleges Savage ordered from prison in 2004.
The victims were members of Eugene Coleman's family, including his mother and infant son. Coleman, like Rosado, was a former drug dealing associate of Savage's who began cooperating against him.
Both Coleman and Rosado were government witnesses in the 2005 drug dealing trial that ended with Savage conviction. He is currently serving a 30-year sentence in that case. He and two co-defendants face potential death sentences if convicted of the homicides that are part of the current trial.
Both Coleman and Lamont Lewis, one of the individuals who allegedly firebombed the house, are expected to testify in the ongoing case.
Co-defendant Robert Merritt, 31, is charged with the firebombing. He and Lewis allegedly threw bottles of gasoline into the rowhome on North 6th Street where Coleman's mother, Marcella and other family members lived. The explosion and subsequent fire engulfed the first floor, trapping the victims in second floor bedrooms where they died.
The early morning arson, in October 2004, is considered one of the worst examples of witness intimidation in a Philadelphia drug underworld where witness intimidation is rampant.
Savage's sister, Kidada, 30, another co-defendant, is charged with setting up the firebombing.
A fourth co-defendant, Steven Northington, 40, is not charged with the firebombing, but has been linked to several other murders in the case. He has been described by authorities as an "enforcer" for Savage. Northington and Merritt, like Kaboni Savage, face possible death sentences. Kidada Savage could be sentenced to life.
Rosado spent nearly three hours on the witness stand. Other than disputing the 1,000 kilogram statement, he basically stuck to the same story he had told at the earlier trial. When challenged about this on cross-examination, he calmly replied, "The truth never changes, sir."
George Anastasia can be contacted at email@example.com.
By George Anastasia
Jurors got to hear more of Kaboni Savage in his own words today, but some of it came through a filter of defense attorney objections that apparently were aimed at blocking some of the more inflammatory comments uttered by the North Philadelphia drug kingpin.
Most of the afternoon session at Savage's racketeering-murder trial focused on things he had said either from the witness stand at his 2005 drug trafficking trial or in conversations secretly recorded by the FBI from phone taps or electronic listening devices planted in his prison cell.
"You a rat," Savage said on one tape in which he was describing a verbal confrontation he had had with Juan Rosado, a former associate who he suspected was cooperating with authorities. "Fuck you nigga. It's gonna cost you your life."
Rosado, who testified yesterday, was a major cocaine supplier for Savage from early in 2000 through January 2001. He called Savage one of his best customers and estimated that during that time period he had sold Savage between 125 and 150 kilograms of coke.
Savage learned that Rosado was cooperating while they were both inmates in the Federal Detention Center in Philadelphia in 2004. On tapes played this afternoon, he described to other inmates what he said to Rosado when confronting him about his cooperation.
"I'm gonna kill your motherfuckin' ass," Savage, 38, boasted. "Tell the prosecutor I threatened you."
In the same conversation, he said he told Rosado that Rosado's decision to turn on him was going to cost "your life and your mom life."
While those tapes were played for the jury, several others were apparently blocked by defense motions argued at sidebar -- non-public -- conferences with the judge and prosecution.
The prosecution has listed dozens of conversations in which Savage has threatened witnesses and the families of witnesses. It was all part of a pattern of fear and intimidation that authorities say Savage used to control his drug network.
"No witness, no crime," was a comment on another tape that law enforcement says epitomizes Savage's underworld philosophy.
The indictment charging Savage and three co-defendants is replete with snippetes of Savage commentary on law, order and "rats." Some of those tapes have already been played for the jury during the trial which is now in its third week. Others are expected to be played as the case continues to unfold. Some will apparently be blocked by defense objections.
Savage's defense attorney, Christian Hoey, has used his cross-examination to try to fashion a defense aimed at blunting the impact of some of his client's comments. Hoey is not disputing what is heard on the tapes, but has argued directly and indirectly that much of what Savage said was out of frustration and anger fueled in large part by the fact that he spent most of his time at the Federal Detention Center in the Special Housing Unit (SHU).
Known by inmates as "the hole," the eighth floor unit of cells is largely solitary confinement with 23 hours of each day spent in a 10-by-8 foot cell.
Many of the tapes cited in the indictment and some of those played thus far for the jury came from bugs planted in Savage's cell in the SHU.
His comments, belligerent, volatile and full of invective, are aimed largely at former associates who were cooperating against him and at their families.
Some samples from the indictment:
"Gonna get their motherfucking ass and their kids. Everybody gonna pay."
"By the time the trial, everybody be dead...And we just getting started."
"The fight don't stop til the casket drop."
"Those fuckin' rats...Their kids gotta pay for making my kids cry. I want to smack one of their four-year-old sons in the had with a bat...Straight up. I have dreams about killing their kids...Killing their kids. Cutting their kids' heads off."
"Listen, don't think my kids...gonna be the only kids crying...It's gonna be some tears from blood behind mine...I'm just tellin' ya you've been warned."
Savage is on trial with three co-defendants, including his sister, Kidada, 30.
The original indictment in the case included 12 murders. Savage has been charged with 11, including ordering the firebombing of a North Sixth Street home in which six family members of a cooperating witness were killed, including four children.
He is charged with ordering that firebombing while awaiting trial on federal drug trafficking charges. In 2005, he was convicted and is currently serving 30 years.
Another murder listed in the indictment was the slaying of Tybius Flowers who was killed in March 2004 just days before he was to testify for the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office in a murder case against Savage in Common Pleas Court. Authorities allege Savage ordered the Flowers' hit from a city prison where he was being held awaiting trial.
Without Flowers' testimony, the prosecution case fell apart. Savage was acquitted of that murder, a graphic example, authorities now say, of the "no witness no crime" approach to criminal justice.
Co-defendant Steven Northington, 40, is charged with carrying out the Flowers murder. Robert Merritt, 31, another co-defendant, is charged with taking part in the firebombing in which six members of Eugene Coleman's family were killed. Kidada Savage is charged with setting up the arson on her brother's orders.
Coleman and Lamont Lewis, another Savage associate who has admitted to taking part in the arson, are both scheduled to testify later in the trial which in its first three weeks has already provided the jury with an urban saga of guns, murder and drugs.
The 18-member jury panel (there are six alternates) heard testimony earlier today from Myron Wilson, a drug dealer who said that he bought at least 30 kilograms of cocaine from Savage between 1998 and 2002. Wilson was indicted along with Savage, Coleman and a dozen others in the drug trafficking case.
Like other witnesses, he testified that he also felt threatened. He told the jury how a Savage associate, Dawud Bey, confronted him when their paths crossed in a holding cell in 2004. Bey and Savage, he said, knew he had begun cooperating and had been relocated.
"Are they gonna move your mother too?" he said Bey asked him.
Asked if he considered that a threat, Wilson paused.
"It might have been coming as a threat," he said. "But my mother was dead."
Weapons seized during the 12-year FBI investigation into the Savage organization have also played a part in the trial. Several have been displayed to the jury.
This afternoon, with FBI Special Agent Kevin Lewis, the lead investigator in the case, again on the stand, Assistant U.S. Attorney David Troyer asked about a Mac-11 handgun found in an apartment in North Philadelphia linked to the Savage organization.
Lewis described it as a "submachine gun" and said authorities also found two clips -- each holding 30 rounds of ammunition -- with the weapon. He testified that while the gun was a semiautomatic, meaning that only one shot could be fired at a time, it could be converted to an automatic, rapid fire weapon by shaving down the firing pin.
Seconds later, Troyer played another Savage tape for the jury.On this one Savage boasted about a Mac-11 and how he and his associates had modified it for rapid fire "by shaving a pin."
Savage said the gun was so powerful that it could "chop a tree down."
George Anastasia can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Uncle Joe" Ligambi will remain a "guest" of the federal government while awaiting a retrial on racketeering conspiracy, gambling and obstruction of justice charges.
U.S. District Court Judge Eduardo Robreno, in a ruling that drew sarcastic comments from several friends and family members who packed the courtroom for today's bail hearing, turned down Ligambi's request for bail, accepting the government's argument that the mob boss was a "danger to the community."
"I'm shocked," one members of the Ligambi entourage said at the end of the 90-minute court session.
Robreno had earlier turned down a similar bail request by George Borgesi, Ligambi's nephew and co-defendant. His his ruling today was not unexpected.
Lawyers for both Ligambi, 73, and Borgesi, 49, have indicated they will appeal the bail denials to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. Meanwhile, both defendants remain in the Federal Detention Center.
At today's hearing, Ligambi's lawyer, Edwin Jacobs Jr., argued that the jury verdicts in the trial that ended on Feb. 5 had substantially changed the circumstances under which Ligambi had originally been denied bail. But the prosecution contended that the verdicts -- even those verdicts of not guilty -- should not have any impact.
Jacobs again cited the fact that the jury delivered not guilty verdicts on 46 counts, hung on 11 and only delivered guilty verdicts on five counts. Ligambi, he said, was acquitted of five counts and the jury hung on four others which the government intends to retry.
Contending that the government had a weak case to begin with, the jury verdicts, Jacobs aruged, had further undermined the "legs" on which the conspiracy count rests. The pending case against Ligambi, Jacobs said, "pales in comparison to what we were facing" in the original trial.
But prosecutors offered an entirely different take built around the same set of facts
"If our case is so weak, why were (three other defendants) convicted of racketeering conspiracy?" said Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Labor, one of the prosecutors in the case.
Labor also pointed out that of 15 defendants originally charged, 10 have either been convicted or pleaded guilty. Only mob capo Joseph "Scoops" Licata, 71, was found not guilty.
Licata, who authorities said headed the Philadelphia crime family's North Jersey operations, was acquitted of racketeering conspiracy, the only count he faced. He was released after the jury verdict was announced.
Three other defendants. Damion Canalichio, Joseph "Mousie" Massimino, and Gary Battaglini, were convicted of racketeering conspiracy and are to be sentenced on May 21. A fourth defendant, Anthony Staino, was convicted of two extortion counts and is to be retried on racketeering conspiracy along with Ligambi and Borgesi.
In other developments today, Robreno sentenced mob soldier Louis "Big Lou" Fazzini to 55 months in prison. Fazzini, 46, of Caldwell, NJ, had pleaded guilty to a racketeering conspiracy charge prior to the start of the trial.
A top associate of Licata's, Fazzini faced virtually the same charges as the mob capo, leading many courtroom observers believe he, too, would have been acquitted at trial.
A retrial for Ligambi, Borgesi and Anthony Staino has tentatively been set by Robreno for April 16, but in all probability will be postponed to a later date. Lawyers for both Ligambi and Borgesi have indicated that they have other trial commitments that could tie them up for the next four to six months.
Labor told Robreno the prosecution would be ready to start a retrial in April. He said the trial would be shorter than the 10-week presentation in the first case. Most observers believe the retrial will probably go off in September and last four to five weeks.
The government is expected to streamline its case, perhaps using fewer witnesses and playing fewer tapes. The most puzzling aspect to the case thus far is the racketeering conspiracy charge that remains against Borgesi.
The jury acquitted him of 13 other counts in the case, but hung on the conspiracy charge. That charge centers on allegations that the defendants played a knowing role in the ongoing criminal enterprise that is the Philadelphia Cosa Nostra. The case focused on events between 1999 and 2011 when the first Ligambi indictment was handed up.
For most of that time Borgesi was in jail. He was arrested in March 2000 and convicted in July 2001 of racketeering charges. He was completing a 14-year sentence when he was indicted along with Ligambi and the others in the current case.
The charges against him revolved primarily around the testimony of his one-time top associate, Louis "Bent Finger Lou" Monacello. But the jury verdicts -- the 13 not guilties -- would seem to indicate that the panel was not buying what Monacello was selling from the witness stand.
A new trial with a new jury could also include a new look -- less arrogant, more focused -- Monacello. And ironically, many of the allegations contained in the counts that the jury rejected in the first trial could again be used as evidence to support the racketeering conspiracy charge that Borgesi faces.
In other words, Monacello could get to tell the same story to a different jury that the prosecution hopes will come back with a different verdcit.
By Ralph Cipriano
Paul Daniels was a drug dealer in prison when he decided to become a cooperating witness. That's when the death threats to his family began.
Daniels told the jury at the Kaboni Savage trial about back in 2004, imprisoned drug dealer Dawud Bey took him aside and asked if he "was cooperating."
Bey warned Daniels that he only needed one phone call "to make magic happen." To Daniels, that meant his family member was in grave danger.
The next inmate to deliver the message was Kaboni Savage himself, Daniels told the jury. Daniels said other inmates told him that Savage was going to use the prison toilets to talk to him.
"Kaboni's on the bowl," one inmate told him.
At the Federal Detention Center in Philadelphia, inmates would talk to each other on the "toilet phone." There are numerous ways to do this, former inmates say. You can drain the toilet and yell through it; talk through the toilet trap, or run a hose through and talk through that.
Whichever method was employed at FDC was not disclosed.
Daniels did say when he stuck his head near the toilet, he couldn't make out what Savage was saying. Another inmate stepped in and relayed Savage's message: "He's making like he can't hear me. Tell him I'll kill his son."
The death threat from the toilet phone was today's court highlight as Daniels testified against his former boss. Savage is facing the death penalty for a dozen murders, including a firebombing that killed two women and four children who were relatives of a man who was going to testify against him.
Daniels spoke in a soft, matter-of-fact voice about the ins and outs of the drug business. While he testified, Savage didn't even look at him. The former drug kingpin with the beard and shaved head was usually bent over, looking down and taking notes, or talking with his lawyers.
During breaks, Savage smiled and joked with his sister, Kidada, a co-defendant accused of setting up the firebombing that killed six family members of Eugene Coleman. Coleman, a former Savage associate, became a government witness, and is expected to be one of the key witnesses at the trial.
Daniels told the jury how his gang operated two lucrative drug corners at 10th and Brown and 10th and Parrish near the old Richard Allen projects. During the 1990s, Daniels employed 25 dealers who worked under him.
He was moving "weight," he said, two or three kilos of cocaine at a time, all of which was supplied by Savage. It was his father, the late drug dealer Gerald "Bubbie' Thomas, who introduced him to Savage, Daniels testified.
Between late 1998 and early 2001, Savage supplied him with between 25 and 50 kilos of cocaine, Daniels told the jury.
The prosecution played several taped phone calls of conversations between Daniels, Thomas and Savage.
"He's gonna meet me on 28th St.," Savage said on one phone call. That meant Thomas had agreed to pay $28,000 for a kilo of cocaine, Daniels told the jury.
On the tapes, the drug dealers were heard discussing how many ounces they were going to use to cut the cocaine. "It depends on the quality of the cocaine," Daniels told the jury. The usual formula called for adding between four to four and a half ounces to the coke.
"It passed the blood test," Savage was overhead saying on the tapes. Daniels translated for the jury. "He was talking about the quality of cocaine, how good it was," Daniels said. On the tapes, when a drug dealer talked about a pound, he was referring to five kilos; a deuce was two kilos.
Of course, if you were diluting the cocaine, that meant you got to grab some for yourself. "I took mine out off the top," Savage was heard saying on another tape.
When somebody owed Savage money for a coke buy, Savage yelled, "I need it man, I'm fucked up."
"He was talking about the money for the cocaine," Daniels told the jury.
Often, Savage would set a price, and then raise it $1,000 at a time, Daniels said. "Kaboni told me $28,000. He went up $1,000 on me."
"We were just haggling back and forth," Daniels explained after another tape was played. "I thought he was charging too much for the kilos."
Savage wasn't the only dealer trying to screw him, Daniels said. Often, his father also jacked up the price.
But Savage carried the best merchandise. "Man, that mother-fucker's top choice," Savage was heard yelling on another tape. Thomas agreed, saying, "It's grade A man."
By George Anastasia
Kenneth Lassiter was trying to park his car near the corner of 8th and Butler Streets one afternoon back in 1998 when he accidentially bumped a car already parked along the curb.
Bumped, in fact, probably isn't the right word. "Tapped" might be a better description. But this was 8th and Butler, a notorious drug corner, one of the meanest streets in North Philadelphia. And the other car was owned by Kaboni Savage, then an up-and-coming drug dealer.
Lassister, a barber from Lansdale in town to visit a friend, said he was sorry. Savage, according to witnesses, asked for money to cover the damages. Lassister was incredulous. There was hardly a scratch. Angry words were exchanged.
Then, according to one law enforcement report, Savage looked at the two men on the corner he had been talking to and asked, "Do you know this boy?" When they said they did not, Savage pulled out a gun and shot Lassiter in the stomach.
He died at Temple University Hospital a short time later.
The jury in the ongoing racketeering-murder trial of Savage, 38, and three co-defendants got a sketchy version of that homcide this afternoon by another corner boy who was there that day. Johnathon Baker, who said he was selling drugs at 8th and Butler, identified Savage as the "young guy" who got in an argument with the "old guy" (Lassiter) and pulled out a gun and shot him.
Baker said he was "too scared" to testify about the incident when Savage was tried in Common Pleas Court in 2001 for the Lassiter homicide. But Baker's drug boss, the man he said "owned" the corner, was an all too willing witness.
Tybius "Tib" Flowers was one of the two men Savage was talking to that afternoon. Flowers, like Savage, was a professional boxer who also dealt drugs. They had an uneasy alliance that was shattered that afternoon, according to law enforcment sources.
Flowers believed that Savage shot Lassister in part to attract law enforcement to the corner, thereby undermining Flowers' drug business. That may have been one of the reasons Flowers agreed, back in 1998, to testify against Savage and tell a jury what he had seen that day.
The account of the murder outlined in a case prepared by the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office is more detailed than the story Baker told the jury this afternoon. That jury will not hear from Flowers, however. He was gunned down on the same 8th and Butler Street corner in 2001 a week before he was to testify against Savage in the Lassiter homicide for the DA's Office.
Flowers was shot 15 times as he sat in his car. The Common Pleas Court case against Savage went forward the next week. Without the DA's key witness. Savage was found not guilty.
The murders of Lassister and Flowers are two of 12 listed in the pending case against Savage. Co-defendant Steven Northington is charged with being one of the men who murdered Flowers. Savage is charged with ordering the hit from prison.
Authorities say the Lassiter murder is an example of the wanton, homicidal nature of Savage. The Flowers killing, they add, is a prime example of his underworld philosophy captured in a secretly recorded conversation.
"No witness, no case," Savage once told an associate.
Witness intimidation was a key element in Savage's violent drug underworld, authorities allege. Seven of the murders in the current case, including a fire-bombing in which two women and four children were killed, are linked to witness intimidation, The firebombing victims were family members of another Savage associate who had begun cooperating against him.
Baker is expected back on the stand when the trial resumes tomorrow morning,. He will be cross-examined by Savage's lawyer.
He testified today that he identified Savage from an array of mug shots provided by Philadelphia Police several months after the Lassiter shooting. Baker said he did not know Savage at the time and identified him only as "the young guy" who was talking to Tib Flowers when Lassiter pulled up.
He said when Savage asked Lassiter for money to pay for the "damages" to his car, Lassiter said he didn't have any. Later in the heated conversation, he said, Lassiter offered to go around the corner (presumably to a friend's house) to get some cash. At that point, Baker said, "the young guy" told Lassiter to give him his car keys. Lassiter refused.
"The young guy pulled out a gun and shot him," Baker said.
Then, Baker said, the young guy "put the gun back in his waist" and he and an associate got in the car that had been bumped/tapped and drove off.
In discussing the incident several years ago and shortly after the Flowers' murder, a source in the District Attorney's Office quoted one of the other reluctant witnesses to the Lassister shooting.
"The man didn't deserve that," the witness said of the bullet Savage pumped into Lassiter's stomach.
File this one under politics and strange bedfellows ... VERY strange bedfellows.
Drugs, money and murder have been the primary focus of the prosecution's case in the racketeering trial of cocaine kingpin Kaboni Savage.
But the month-long trial also has offered a look at the dark side of Philadelphia politics, a fascinating back story that has been referred to repeatedly in testimony, on wiretaps and in statements by defense attorneys.
In fact, it was the FBI investigation of Savage and fellow drug kingpin Gerald "Bubby" Thomas in 2003 that spawned a major political corruption investigation and the bugging of then Mayor John Street's City Hall office.
That bug was discovered less than two weeks after it had been secreted into the mayor's inner sanctum and was removed before Street "could say anything that would get him in trouble," Savage's lawyer, Christian Hoey, said in his opening statement to the jury back on Feb. 4.
Hoey has come back to the political probe several times, most recently in his cross-examination earlier this week of Paul Daniels, Bubby Thomas' son. Daniels was a major player in the Savage-Thomas drug network. He is one of several who decided to plead guilty and cooperate.
Among other things, he told the jury this week that shortly before he, his father and Savage were charged in 2004, Thomas believed they had dodged a bullet and would not be indicted.
"He told me the feds were interested in Shamsud-din and the mayor," Daniels said.
Shamsud-din would be Shamsud-din Ali, a once powerful imam in the city's Muslim community and the man, authorities say, who was the nexus between the drug underworld and city politics. Ali had a foot in both camps. And his hand in everyone's pocket, according to both law enforcement and underworld sources.
It was while listening to a wiretapped conversation between Bubby Thomas and Ali that the FBI first heard any reference to City Hall corruption. Ali's comments, picked up during the drug investigation, were then used to support the launching of a separate probe into the Street administration.
Street was never charged with any wrongdoing and was never suspected of having any ties to the drug underworld. Authorities made it clear that there were two separate investigations -- one into drug dealing and the other into City Hall corruption. The only common element to the two probes was Ali, a former hitman for the Black Mafia who recreated himself as a religious leader with strong political ties.
Formerly known as Clarence Fowler, he was convicted of murder in the 1970s, but that conviction was overturned on appeal. When he emerged from prison he had taken the name Shamsud-din Ali and quickly established himself as the leader of the Philadelphia Masjid, a dominant mosque in Southwest Philadelphia.
Underworld and law enforcement sources -- and testimony at the current trial -- allude to allegations that Ali used the mosque as a clearing house for payoffs from drug dealers. Several sources have also said that contributions to the mosque would guarantee the safety of anyone entering the city prison system where Muslims often controlled cell blocks and common areas.
Ali consistently denied those allegations even as he insinuated himself into the inner circle of city politics. He was close to both Mayor Street and then Gov. Edward Rendell while running the mosque. He was also appointed to the city board of prisons, an ironic development for a suspected Black Mafia hitman.
Ali's ability to recreate himself and to gain credibility in political and government circles despite his criminal past was seen by many as a reflection of the tolerant nature of politics in the city's African-American community.
|Rev. Todd Wagner|
Yet Ali managed to do just that, setting up a mosque, a school and business enterprises that bid for and were awarded city contracts. Those companies received payments but did very little work, authoirities alleged.
While the jury hasn't heard all of those details, it has gotten repeated references to Ali in a case built around allegations that Savage used fear and intimidation to control his multi-million dollar cocaine distribution network. The case against Savage and three co-defendants includes 12 murders, seven of which have been tied to witness intimidation.
Stories and testimony about Ali take the case in an entirely different direction, which may be why the defense has tried to bring his name up whenever it has the chance.
How much of that back story resonates with the jury is impossible to determine. What impact it might have on a case that is focused primarily on cocaine trafficking, witness intimidation and murder is another question that can't be answered.
Christian's name has been mentioned a few times in testimony.
The corruption investigation that grew out of the drug probe resulted in the conviction of City Teasurer Corey Kemp, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison, and the indictment of lawyer Ron White, a key political operative for Mayor Street. White died of cancer before he could be tried.
But it is Ali, who was convicted in 2007 and sentenced to 87 months in prison on political corruption charges, who has dominated the discussions about politics and its links to the drug underworld in the ongoing trial.
One drug dealer, complaining about tribute payments he had to make to Ali, said it best in a phone call picked up on an FBI wiretap during the drug investigation.
"He's walking with kings while we're out here hustling," was the drug dealer's lament.
By Ralph Cipriano
On a 13-year-old FBI surveillance tape, a cocaine dealer named Bubby is overheard lamenting how he could have saved the life of a fellow drug dealer known as Shafiq.
If only he had brought Shafiq and his rival known as Bree to the Sister Clara Muhammad School, the late Gerald "Bubby" Thomas says on the tape, recorded in Oct. 6, 2000, it could have all been worked out. We could have saved Shafiq.
On Aug. 2, 200 Kareem Bluntlly, AKA "Bree," shot and killed Mansur Abdullah, AKA "Shafiq," while he was sitting in his Mercedes-Benz. In federal court today, former drug dealer and now cooperating witness Craig Oliver talked with regret about his best friend Shafiq didn't listen when Oliver warned him to stay away from Bree.
"Did you know that Shamsud-din Ali referred street disputes involving drug dealers?" defense attorney Christian Hoey asked Oliver.
"No," Oliver said; he wasn't into the Muslim thing.
But Bubby Thomas was, and so was Shafiq. They were both members of the Philadelphia Masjid mosque, where Shamsud-din Ali was the imam who also ran the Sister Clara Muhammad School. Ali, once known as Clarence Fowler, was a former Black Mafia hit man so well-respected that he could settle turf battles among drug dealers without violence.
Oliver, now 43, told the jury in the Kaboni Savage case about how he moved some 50 kilos of cocaine on behalf Savage between 1999 to 2003. Savage and three co-defendants are on trial for a dozen murders, including seven tied to witness intimidation.
Oliver told the jury how he got out of jail in 2007, after serving a four-year sentence for conspiracy to distribute cocaine, money laundering, and attempting to purchase more than five kilos of cocaine. For the past four years, he has been working in construction, Oliver said.
The prosecutor outlined the life Oliver formerly led, where the drug dealer owned or rented 10 houses, kept piles of cash and a fleet of cars that included Escalades, Mercedes and a Hummer.
Oliver's downfall came when he attempted to buy 50 kilos of cocaine in 2003 from a guy who turned out to be an undercover operative from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Before he was busted, Oliver put up $185,000 and $350,000 in assets to buy the coke, including a 2003 Hummer worth about $600,000, a custom-built Harley-Davidson motorcycle worth $100,000 and diamond bracelets, chains and a watch worth $180,000.
On the witness stand, Oliver described a falling-out with his boss, Kaboni Savage, after Oliver bought one kilo of cocaine from Savage for $27,000. When he got the cocaine home, Oliver discovered it had turned brown from moisture, and looked like it had been tampered with.
"The kilo was real wet and pasty," Oliver said. "If the cocaine's pretty," Oliver testified, it should look like "diamonds and pearls."
On another secretly-recorded tape, Oliver complained about Savage to Bubby Thomas: "Man, every time that mother-fucker gets 20 [kilos] I get one," he said.
The prosecutor entered into evidence letters that Kaboni Savage mailed to Oliver after he got busted for trying to buy coke from a DEA operative, and wound up in jail.
Savage wrote Oliver that he was sick about his arrest, and wanted to know who set him up. "I didn't forget I owe you," he wrote.
"I had loaned him $22,000 for a motorcycle," Oliver explained to the jury.
In his letters to Oliver, Savage asked him to "get my man for me; you know who." The guy Savage was referring to was "my little fat homey," another drug dealer known as Twin who might be talking to the feds.
Later, Savage became worried that Oliver was turning on him. One day, while he was in prison, Oliver testified, other inmates told him "Kaboni wanted to talk to me" by sending a message through the prison toilets.
There's been plenty of testimony during the Savage trial about inmates using toilets to send messages to each other. How this was done has not been explained, but inmates previously have turned their toilets into telephones by yelling through the toilet traps.
But when Oliver went into the bathroom, he found he was the victim of a bait and switch; it wasn't Kaboni on the bowl, it was Dawud Bey, another drug dealer.
"What's up," Bey wanted to know. "You cool?"
Bey told Oliver he heard a rumor that Oliver might be cooperating.
Then Bey warned Oliver, "My girlfriend knows where your people's at."
Oliver took that as a threat and teed off on Bey: "I know where your girlfriend's at," he told the jury he responded.
By Ralph Cipriano
Michael E. Wallace, criminal defense lawyer, has a cardinal rule: don't ever believe anything your client tells you.
Wallace's client in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia sex abuse case was Edward V. Avery, a defrocked priest with a history of sexually abusing young boys. So when Avery told Wallace he didn't touch "Billy Doe" -- the former altar boy who accused Avery of raping him -- Wallace was skeptical.
|Billy Doe -- Bigtrial photo by Jon Anderson|
Wallace had Avery stop by his law office on the 12th floor of 2 Logan Square. Every Sunday morning, the lawyer would serve the former priest a cup of tea, and then grill him about the details of the crime. "After 65 Sundays of cross-examination, I believed him," Wallace said. But that didn't mean Wallace was done checking out his client's story.
Wallace's next move was to send the "smiling padre" out "to be boxed," meaning a polygraph test. The man who administered the test was William L. Fleisher, a former FBI agent who did polygraphs for District Attorney Seth Williams and the U.S. Attorney's office. How'd Avery do? "He passed it with flying colors," Wallace said.
That brought Wallace to a firm conclusion about Billy Doe's allegations -- "It all added up to a big lie," Wallace said.
Mike Wallace is a tall, trim stand-up guy with a gruff, no-nonsense manner and a gravelly voice. He was Frank Rizzo's deputy mayor, and then a Common Pleas Court judge. For the past 30 years, Wallace has been the city's most active criminal defense lawyer, specializing in homicides.
Wallace has defended murderous drug dealers. He's defended one of the baseball bat-wielding goons who killed 16-year-old Eddie Polec in 1994 on the steps of a Catholic church. He defended Tanya Dacri, the mom who drowned and dismembered her 7-month old son.
Wallace is a former street guy who's seen it all. Above all, he has a finely-tuned bullshit detector.
Which brings us to Billy Doe.
"I think he's an unfortunate young man," Wallace said. "Like every other drug addict I ever knew, he'd do anything for a buck."
Billy Doe is the pseudonym for the 24-year-old Northeast Philadelphia man who claimed back when he was a 10-year-old altar boy, Father Avery raped him. The stories Billy Doe told on the witness stand are responsible for putting a monsignor, two priests and a former Catholic school teacher in jail after two historic Archdiocese of Philadelphia sex abuse trials.
But did Billy Doe make it all up?
Mike Wallace thinks so.
"I don't believe a word he said," Wallace said. "He obviously wasn't telling a consistent, logical story. It just wasn't there."
THE STORY BILLY DOE TOLD THE ARCHDIOCESE:
On January 30, 2009, Billy Doe told Louise Hagner, an archdiocese social worker, that Father Avery anally raped him on two occasions. Hagner wrote down Billy's account and read it to a grand jury on April 8, 2010.
The first rape took place inside St. Jerome's Church:
Father Avery punched him [Billy] in the back of the head and he fell down. When he woke, he was completely naked and his hands were tied with altar sashes. He started kicking at Father Avery and Father Avery bent his foot back until he felt like it was going to break. Father told him he would break every bone in his body. Father Avery pulled his pants down and anally raped him. When he was done, he smacked him [Billy] in the face with his penis and he made him suck all the blood off his penis. He said he was in the room for one hour."
Father Avery told him [Billy] if he ever told anyone, he would hang him from his balls and kill him slowly. He also told him that no one will ever believe a stupid kid over a highly decorated priest ...
Billy's second sex "session" with Father Avery took place in the rectory:
[Billy Doe] said that Father Avery pushed him back on the bed and performed oral sex on on him. Father Avery then made [Billy Doe] perform anal sex on him; however, [Billy] was not able to achieve an erection which made Father Avery angry. Father Avery slapped [Billy Doe] and turned him over and anally raped him so hard that he bled for a week. When they were done, Father Avery asked him, did you like it? I know you liked it you f'n fag. You will never forget me.
"He [Avery] would never do anything that stupid," Wallace said. "He wasn't violent, which is why I worry about him in prison."
One night in 1978, the victim, then 15, accompanied Father Ed to Smokey Joe's, a bar on the University of Pennsylvania campus in West Philadelphia where Father Avery worked as a disc jockey. The witness wound up getting smashed, throwing up, and passing out. He slept that night in the priest's bed.
"I really admired this guy, I really worshiped him," the victim told the jury. So they stayed friends. At 19, the victim went on a ski trip with Father Ed to Vermont. They wound up in the same bed again. And once again, Father Avery molested him. "He put his hand directly on my penis and started to massage it ... I became erect and ejaculated."
After the incident, the victim said he was upset, but conflicted. "Part of me still had affection for this person," he said. "He was a big figure in my life."
The doctor's story was all about grooming, seduction and betrayal by a patient predator, who waited years for the opportunity to molest his victim. It's in vivid contrast to Billy's story, where there's no grooming, only slam-bam action worthy of an x-rated comic book.
THE STORY BILLY DOE TOLD THE POLICE
On Jan. 28, 2010, Detective Andrew Snyder drove up to Graterford Prison to spring Billy Doe out of jail. Snyder drove Billy back to the district attorney's office, where Billy's parents were waiting, along with Assistant District Attorney Mariana Sorensen.
According to what the prosecution turned over in discovery, only Snyder took notes.
In contrast to what he told Louise Hagner, Billy told Detective Snyder a completely different story about his interaction with Father Avery. This time Billy described four encounters with Avery, all inside the church. There was no violence, no tying up of the victim, and no anal sex. This time, the story revolved around the boy performing stripteases for the priest, masturbation, oral sex, fingers inserted into anuses, and some brand new dialogue.
Here's the story Billy Doe told Detective Snyder, as recorded in the detective's notes:
In the Spring of 1999, Father Avery approached Danny after school during Bell Choir practice and said, "I heard about your sessions with Father Engelhardt." "I don't know what you're talking about," Billy said. "You know exactly what I'm talking about."
Three days later, Billy was serving a late Mass with Father Avery. Billy said the priest had him stick around after Mass to do some work. After the church is empty, Avery told Billy, "I heard you were real good at your sessions" and, "We'll be having our sessions real soon."
A third encounter with Father Engelhardt occurred after another Mass. Father Avery brought Billy into a storage room outside the church sacristy at St. Jerome's and said, "I know about your sessions with Father Engelhardt. This is your second phase."
Avery showed Billy some pornographic magazines, and then had the boy strip down to his undewear. "Father Avery seems to enjoy this," Detective Snyder wrote. Avery stripped down to his underwear, and then told Billy to take off his underwear:
Father Avery has [Billy] sit on is lap and he begins massaging and rubbing [Billy's] back. Father Avery has [Billy] turn around to face him and begins to masturbate [Billy] and is kissing his neck. Father Avery sucks [Billy's] penis and has [Billy] masturbate him. Father Avery then licks [Billy's] anus and inserts his finger into [Billy's] anus. [Billy] cries out in pain and Father Avery stops. Father Avery then has [Billy] suck his penis. Father Avery pushes [Billy's] head on his penis. [Billy] continues this until Father Avery ejaculates. When this is through Father Avery sits [Billy] on his lap and tells him how good he was and that he would be rewarded. The whole time this was occurring Father Avery had a creepy smile on his face.
The fourth encounter occurs around July. [Billy] is serving a funeral Mass with Father Avery. Father Avery sends the other altar servers home and told [Billy] that is is is time for their next session. Avery leads [Billy] back to the storage room and turns on music. Father Avery has [Billy] strip. Father Avery strips and starts to rub his body against [Billy's] body. [Billy] looks away, but Father Avery tells [Billy] "Look at me son, isn't what God created beautiful?"
Father Avery "forcibly pushes [Billy] on his knees and has [Billy] suck his penis. "[Billy] is visibly upset telling this story," the detective writes in his notes. Father Avery grabs [Billy's] hand and makes [Billy] forcibly insert his finger into Father Avery's anus. Avery ejaculates and tells [Billy] that is is his turn. Avery sucks [Billy's] penis and tells [Billy] to look at him while he is sucking [Billy's] penis. Father Avery says, "This is what God wants, this is what we were created for."
[Billly] avoided Father Avery, and when Father Avery finally approached [Billy], he said that the sessions were fulfilling and that is was time for [Billy] to experience sex on his own.
But he did remember several details from that day. Billy testified to the grand jury that on the day he talked to Hagner, he went to the methadone clinic and then came home and talked to his father, a Philadelphia police officer.
In the grand jury, under questioning from prosecutors, Billy recalled that Hagner called him on his cell phone, and that his father warned him not to talk to anybody from the archdiocese:
Q. After they called you on your cell phone and told you they wanted to meet, what happened after that?
A. I agreed. I told my father. He said he didn't want them coming over the house ...
Q. So what happened after that?
A. They ended up coming to the house and knocked on the door. He [his father] wouldn't let me answer. So I snuck out and went and talked to them in the car.
Q. Do you recall why you snuck out and went against your dad to go talk to them?
A. ... I was wasted. I was high out of my mind ...
Q. What drug were you on?
Q. So you were on heroin. Do you recall what happened after you went outside?
A. I went and I hopped in the car with this lady and she drove down the street a little bit and parked the car.
Q. Did she identify herself to you? Did she say where she was coming from?
A. I remember her saying she was from the Archdiocese, victim services.
Q. Was there anybody else in the car with her?
Q. OK. Do you recall what happened during your talk with her?
A. I know she was asking me questions, but I really don't remember at all.
Q. Do you recall whether she had a tape recorder or [was] taking notes?
A. I think she was taking notes.
Q. OK, without describing to us the circumstances of the interview, do you recall what you said to her?
... Q. If the notes indicated that Father Avery anally raped you, is that true? Is that what happened?
A. No ...
Q. Ok. Father Engelhardt and Father Avery, did they ever use any physical force on you?
A. They never physically harmed me. They never punched me or anything like that.
THE STORY BILLY TOLD HIS DRUG COUNSELOR
Billy told the grand jury he was high on heroin when he talked to Louise Hagner and that's why he can't remember anything he said. But Louise Hagner wasn't the only person that Billy told a fantastic story to.
On Feb. 3, 2012, Detectives David Fisher and Andrew Snyder met with Mark Besben, a drug counselor who had talked to Billy back in 2009, shortly before Billy talked to Louise Hagner.
And from what Besben told the detectives, Billy Doe told him a similar story with a new spin about other victims:
Q. Do you recall any specifics of [Billy's] details describing his abuse?
A. He said it was when he was in Catholic elementary school when he was really young. He said his hands was tied up and how helpless he felt ...
Q. Did [Billy] say or tell you how long his abuse sexual abuse took place?
A. For two years ... [Billy] mentioned that he was not the only one.
The drug counselor had previously told police he had doubts about Billy. On March 22, 2010, Detective Snyder wrote:
I talked to Besben on the phone. Although he won't say that he does not believe [Billy's] story, he finds it difficult to believe based on the amount of information that [Billy] told him. Besden stated that it is his experience that most victims of abuse do not open up that quickly.
BILLY'S ALIBIS TO EXPLAIN AWAY WHAT HE TOLD THE DRUG COUNSELOR AND LOUISE HAGNER
On April 25, 2012, Billy Doe testified at the trial of Msgr. William J. Lynn. The prosecutor in the case, Assistant District Attorney Mark Cipolletti, asked Billy about his conversations with Mark Besben, a counselor at a drug rehab called SOAR.
Q. Did you also tell Mark at SOAR some of the things that occurred with Fathers Avery and Engelhardt?
A. I don't remember like everything I told him 'cause I was pretty high.
Q. You were high when you talked to Mark?
Q. Is that -- you were getting methadone treatment at that time?
Cipolletti asked Billy Doe about his interview with Louise Hagner. Once again, Billy didn't remember much.
Q. Now at the time that you're going to SOAR, you said you were in treatment for heroin with the methadone?
Q. Were you also continuing to use drugs while you were in this outpatient treatment?
Q. What drugs were you using?
A. Umm, on top of my methadone, I was taking Xanax and smoking weed.
Q. What type of effect does the methadone, Xanax and marijuana have on someone? How would you describe for the jury who may have never seen anyone like that?
A. Basically in a comatose state. You're not lucid. You can't think. You're completely out there ...
Remember that Billy told the grand jury he didn't remember his interview with Louise Hagner because he was high on heroin. But at the Lynn trial, Billy changed the story to say when he talked to Hagner, he was high on methadone, Xanax and smoking marijuana.
At the trial of Father Charles Engelhardt and Bernard Shero, on Jan. 13, 2013, defense attorney Michael J. McGovern asked Louise Hagner if during her interview with Billy, did he appear "drunk or high?"
On March 19, 2010, Billy testified before the grand jury. He said that Father Avery pulled him aside when he was a fifth grader at St. Jerome's:
Q. Can you tell us what happened during this incident.
A. It was with Father Avery, At the end of bell choir, as I was putting the bells away, he [Avery] pulled me aside and told me that he heard about my sessions with Father [Charles] Engelhardt, and ours will begin soon.
Q. Do you remember what was going through your head when he told you about this?
A. I played it off like I didn't know what he was talking about, but in my mind I was kind of -- my stomach turned.
Q. How old were you?
A. Still 10 ...
Q. Now, was anybody in the church when the bell choir met?
A. There were students and the pianist.
Q. How many students approximately were in bell choir?
A. Maybe 20.
Q. Where they from all grades or where they just fifth grade bell choir? What they were composed of?
A. Mostly all grades.
Q. Okay. Were they both boys and girls?
A. Yes ...
Q. Okay. Would anybody stay after bell choir, the students or any of the teachers that were playing the piano?
A. It was mostly the maintenance. Like, myself and one or two other students that put the bells in the cases and put everything away
At the trial of Father Engelhardt and Bernard Shero, three teachers from St. Jerome's, including the church's longtime music director, testified that only eighth grade boys were allowed to be members of the bell choir maintenance crew because of the heavy equipment they had to move. Not only were fifth grade boys barred from serving on the maintenance crew, the teachers told the jury, but so were sixth and seventh grade boys.
As the church music director of 23 years, Margaret "Peggy" Long, told Detective Joseph Walsh on Dec. 20, 2011, "I read the grand jury report and the information concerning the bell choir could not have happened."
|Judge M. Teresa Sarmina|
If Mike Wallace was convinced that Billy Doe was a liar, why did he allow his client Ed Avery to plead guilty on March 22, 2012 to two crimes he didn't commit, namely involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with Billy Doe, and conspiracy [with Msgr. William J. Lynn and others at the archdiocese] to endanger the welfare of a child, namely Billy?
Well for starters, if the two sentences on the two felony charges Avery faced were served consecutively, Avery was looking at a maximum possible sentence of 13 1/2 to 27 years in prison.
And the prosecution, hot to win that "historic" conviction against Msgr. Lynn, had offered Avery a sweetheart deal: 2 1/2 to 5 years.
"It was probably the only deal I would have accepted," Wallace said. "My client's 69."
At the first archdiocese sex abuse trial, Avery was being tried along with co-defendants Msgr. Lynn and Father James J. Brennan. He was facing a pro-prosecution judge, M. Teresa Sarmina, who had allowed the district attorney to enter into evidence 21 past cases of horrific sexual abuse dating all the way back to 1948, two years before Lynn was born, just to show a pattern of conduct in the archdiocese.
So not only was Lynn on trial with Avery and Brennan, but so was the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, for all the crimes it had committed against innocent children for the past 64 years.
It didn't look good for the smiling padre.
In addition, that 49-year-old doctor that Avery had abused as a teenager was going to testify against him. Several other victims were also available to testify for the prosecution that Avery had abused them as boys. [Only Billy Doe's accusations fell within the statute of limitations].
If Avery was convicted, when he came before Judge Sarmina for sentencing, "She would have killed him," Wallace said.
So they took the plea.
At the hearing over Avery's guilty plea, neither the judge or the prosecutors ever asked Avery if he had committed the crimes he was pleading guilty to. Instead, they just made sure Avery knew what he was doing.
Blessington also charged that between 1992 and 2003, Avery had conspired with Lynn and other archdiocese employees and officials to "engage in a course of conduct" that endangered the welfare of children.
The goal of the alleged conspiracy, Blessington said, was to ensure that "Avery could remain in ministry without the knowledge of parishioners" so that more "children would be exposed to a man that Defendant Lynn and others in the Archdiocese knew presented a danger to children."
In other words, Lynn got up every day and said, what can I do to keep our bad boys in collars out there in active ministry so they can molest more kids? It's a story line prosecutors fell in love with, without presenting a shred of evidence to support it.
Jury foreman Isa Logan went on Fox 29's Good Day shortly after the verdict in the Lynn case to say that he didn't believe the prosecution's grand conspiracy theory, and neither did anyone else on the jury.
It's a terrible shame when the work product of the local district attorney's office finally gets exposed as a work of fiction.
During the trial of Father Engelhardt and Bernard Shero, Avery was hauled into court wearing a prison uniform. When he was finally asked whether he raped Billy Doe, Avery told the prosecutor he didn't do it.
By Ralph Cipriano
In July 2012, Michael J. McGovern was preparing for the upcoming trial of his client, Father Charles Engelhardt, on charges that he had raped a former 10-year-old altar boy.
The phone rang. A high-ranking official at the district attorney's office was on the line, wanting to know why McGovern was refusing to even discuss a plea deal on a case scheduled to go to trial in early September 2012.
|Father Charles Engelhardt|
McGovern himself is a former prosecutor; from 1980 to 1993, he was Assistant Chief of Homicide and Chief of Major Trials under former Philadelphia District Attorneys Ed Rendell and Lynne Abraham. So McGovern offered some free advice; he suggested to the high-ranking official in the D.A.'s office that the right thing to do on this case was to not prosecute.
|Michael J. McGovern|
"That was the jewel in the crown," McGovern said. "Everybody else is a pawn."
Including Father Charles Engelhardt.
McGovern told the high-ranking official in the district attorney's office that they were taking a risk if they went ahead and tried Father Engelhardt. If McGovern was able to shred Billy Doe's credibility on the witness stand, "and the jury comes out saying that guy's a lying sack of shit, that's going to throw into doubt the validity of the Avery plea and the Lynn conviction," McGovern said.
On the eve of the Lynn trial, co-defendant Edward V. Avery, a defrocked priest, pleaded guilty on March 22, 2012 to involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a minor, namely Billy Doe, and conspiracy with Msgr. Lynn and other archdiocese officials or employees to endanger the welfare of a child, once again Billy Doe.
McGovern offered to come over to the district attorney's office to talk about why they should not prosecute the case. But the high-ranking official in the district attorney's office warned McGovern that a reporter might see him there, so the district attorney would come to McGovern's office.
McGovern figured there was one last thing he could do to convince the district attorney his guy was telling the truth -- he could "box" his client, or send him out for a polygraph test. The tests are not admissible in Pennsylvania criminal courts, but the district attorney himself used polygraphs as an investigative tool.
So McGovern sent Father Engelhardt out to be polygraphed by William L. Fleisher, a former FBI agent, Philadelphia cop and forensic psychophysiologist used by the district attorney and the U.S. Attorney's office.
Boxing his client was a risky move, McGovern conceded, but he made a similar decision on Dec. 3, 2010, when he advised Father Engelhardt to waive his right to self-incrimination and appear before the grand jury.
But that's what you do when you know your guy is innocent, McGovern said.
WHAT FATHER ENGELHARDT TOLD THE GRAND JURY
When he testified before the grand jury, Father Engelhardt told Assistant District Attorney Mariana Sorensen how he was removed from active ministry on after Jan. 30, 2009, hours after Billy Doe told an archdiocese social worker that the priest had raped him.
Q. When did you first learn of that accusation?
A. Around 4:30 in the afternoon, I received a call from Father [James] Greenfield saying that the diocese had received a complaint and where I, at that point firmly denied [it] saying that there was no credibility to that accusation. It's nothing but a lie or a falsehood ...
Q. Tell us what was your understanding of who the person was that was making the accusation against you? Did you know the name of the person?
A. The name, but I have no knowledge of who the person is. If he's sitting in this room today, I can't pick him out.
A. I could never pick him out. So I have no idea exactly who he is ...
Q. [By Assistant District Attorney Evangelia Manos] Is there anything you want to add, Father?
A. Well, of course, you know, the accusation doesn't -- wasn't expected, you know, heart wrenching, you know and I found it to be a very humbling thing to be called on the phone by your provincial and say somebody's made an accusation against you, when you know, there was no truth or that was something unrealistic that was happening to you. So you try and figure out, you know, what could have brought it on ...
FATHER ENGELHARDT'S POLYGRAPH TEST
McGovern said he told the official he was confident he would win the case, but he cautioned, you never know what a jury will do. "You're making the wrong decision," McGovern told the official. "I'm really disappointed in you."
The trial, scheduled for Sept. 4, wound up being postponed. On Jan. 30, a jury found Father Engelhardt guilty on four 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 Avery to commit sexual assault on Billy Doe. The jury could not reach a verdict on a fifth count, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a child.
Let's take another look at "the credibility of the victim and the integrity of this conviction."
On January 30, 2009, Billy Doe told Louise Hagner, an archdiocese social worker, that Father Engelhardt orally anally raped him inside St. Jerome's Church during an attack that went on for five hours, after which the priest supposedly threatened to kill Billy if he told anybody. Hagner wrote down Billy's account and read it to a grand jury on April 8, 2010:
Father Engelhardt ... was the first one to abuse him. He [Billy Doe] said there was just one incident. He was in the fifth grade and the abuse happened in June after school ended. He had just become an altar server and was serving 6:30 a.m. After Mass, Father Engelhardt asked him to stay behind. Father knew he [Billy Doe] liked wine and he had a bottle of church wine and gave him a small amount to drink.
Father started talking to him about sex. [Billy Doe] told him that he had a girlfriend. Father Engelhardt said to him, "I'm into boys." The next thing he remembered was that his pants were down and Father Engelhardt was on top of him. Father Engelhardt started grabbing him. Father pushed down on his [Billy's] chest with one hand and [Billy] was having difficult breathing. With his other hand, Father Engelhardt "jerked him off," then Father Engelhardt pulled down his pants and sat on top of him and made him perform oral sex on him.
[Billy] said Father kept him there for hours and kept repeating the act. He added that Father Engelhardt flipped him over and kept ramming him. He explained that ramming meant raping him anally. [Billy] said he was there from 7 a.m. to 12 noon. He said he was in the little room next to the altar.
[Billy] said Father Engelhardt told him if you ever tell anyone, I will kill you. He also told him that no one would believe you.
Billy Doe subsequently told a grand jury he was high on heroin when he talked to Hagner, so he couldn't remember anything he said to her.
ROUND TWO; WHAT BILLY DOE TOLD THE POLICE
Q. Can you tell us about the first incident?
A... I was serving a 6:30 Mass before school. He [Father Engelhardt] asked me to stay after Mass to help him out with something. He caught me before drinking the church wine.
Q... What do you mean by that?
A. At the end of Masses, we always have to pour out the church wine into the sink, whatever was left over, and most of us always drank it instead of pouring it out.
Q. He caught you doing that in the past?
Q. Did he ever report you?
A. No ...
Q. OK. So it was after Mass?
Q. Can you tell us what happened?
A. he wanted me to stay. He poured me -- he asked me if I wanted some church wine. I said yes. he gave me some church wine. He pulled out some pornographic magazines. He started to ask me if I'd ever seen them before or if I ever had a girlfriend, stuff of that nature. He started asking me questions like [if] I liked boys, if I liked girls, how does it make me feel to look at this? Well during that day, he told me it was time for me to become a man, and our sessions were going to begin ...
Q. Now when he talked about sessions, did you know what he was talking about?
Q. Did you tell anybody about this conversation?
Q. Why didn't you tell anybody?
A. I was kind of scared, and at the time, I didn't know what was going on ...
Q. How long after this first incident did you serve in another Mass with Father Engelhardt?
A. About a week...
Q. What time of day was it?
A. 6:30 Mass ... I did the Mass. I finished up. He told me to stay, my sessions were going to begin. He had me sit down on this little -- like one of the chairs, and he had me, told me to strip. I really didn't know what was going on. I started to take off my clothes, he proceeded to take off his clothes ... He had me sit next to him and he started to caress me, caress my legs. He told me it was time to become a man.
Q. Was Father Engelhardt dressed or undressed?
Q... Was he wearing any items of clothing?
A. Socks ...
Q. Ok. When he called you over to him, did you sit next to him, did you sit next to him, or were you standing next to him?
A. I sat down next to him ... He told me to come closer ... he proceeded to jerk me off ...
Q. Ok. What happened after that?
A. He continued to jerk me off and then he discontinued that and proceed to give me oral sex ...
Q. Tell us what happened next.
A. He instructed me to give him a hand job ...
Q. Ok. What happened after that?
A. He kept telling me I was doing a good job. He kept on calling me son. He had me get down on my knees and perform oral sex on him ... After he climaxed, he basically told me that I did a good job and I was dismissed ...
Q. What did you do after this incident?
A. After we got finished, I went to school.
Q. Ok. Did you tell anybody about this incident?
Q. What did you think would happen if you told somebody?
A. I would get in trouble ...
Q. Ok. What happened when you saw him again?
A. He asked me if I was ready for another session.
Q. Did you say anything to him?
A. I told him no, and if he ever comes near me again I was going to kill him.
For those of you keeping score at home, Billy Doe told the archdiocese, the police and the grand jury three different stories.
He told the archdiocese Father Engelhardt orally and anally raped him during one session that lasted five hours inside the sacristy at St. Jerome's; afterwards the priest threatened to kill Billy if he told anybody.
Billy told the police he had two sexual encounters with Father Engelhardt inside the church, both involving masturbation; afterwards Billy threatened to kill Father Engelhardt.
Billy told the grand jury he had only one encounter with Father Engelhardt, where the boy was ordered to strip, and then engage in masturbation and oral sex. Afterwards, Billy threatened to kill Father Engelhardt.
Which story is it?
Is this what passes for a credible victim down at the district attorney's office? A drug addict who can't keep his story straight, a guy who's been kicked out of two high schools, been caught with 56 bags of heroin, and been in and out of 23 drug rehabs?
WHAT FATHER ENGELHARDT TOLD THE GRAND JURY, PART TWO
In contrast to what Billy told authorities, that Father Engelhardt locked all four doors of the sacristy during the alleged rape, Billy's older brother said the doors stayed open.
Here's what Billy's older brother told Detective Walsh:
Q. When you served the 6:15 a.m. Mass, who was present?
A. The sexton -- There were two older men who were sextons. One of them would unlock the church doors around 6 a.m. The alter servers were supposed to arrive at church about 15 minutes before Mass began -- So, sometimes I arrived at 6 a.m. when the sexton did. When I went in, I would help out setting up the altar for Mass.
The sexton would take care of the sacraments. We would go into the sacristy and put our robes on. The priest put on his vestments in a larger room in the sacristy and the altar servers room was separated by a doorway. The door was never closed -- it was blocked by a chair against it. Mass lasted about 20-30 minutes. After Mass, I would take off my robe and leave and meet my mom or dad ... [and they] drove me home. The sexton would remain and clean the altar and put the sacraments away in the sacristy.
THE COURTROOM SCENE
On the day of closing arguments in the Father Charles Engelhardt-Bernard Shero trial, it was obvious to many courtroom observers that with such a weak case and such an unstable accuser, the only thing the prosecution had going for it was emotion. That's why they plastered Billy Doe's fifth-grade picture from St. Jerome's on every courtroom TV, and left it up for every painful moment of the prosecutor's 82-minute closing statement.
A closing statement that attempted to paper over all the holes in the case by inventing a whole new story line about Billy supposedly being groomed by his predators, a story line nowhere in evidence during trial testimony. A closing statement that attempted to cover-up all the glaring contradictions in Billy's changing stories by attacking the credibility of the archdiocese's hapless social worker, and by suggesting that the detective in the case had screwed up his note-taking. A closing statement that left even Billy's partisans convinced that the prosecutor himself didn't believe what he was saying.
All the prosecution had going for it was a sob story, which if you chose to believe it, required the suspension of all rational thought.
As for Billy, there was the kid that his former grade school teachers testified loved being the center of attention. He was seated in the third row, crying and carrying on, leaning on his mother and his fiancee for support. In case anyone on the jury was missing it, the prosecutor pointed out Billy in the crowd. And then he turned the lack of other victims in the case into a plus, by saying that nobody else had had the courage to come forward like sobbing little Billy did.
It was like watching a bad remake of To Kill A Mockingbird, starring Billy Doe as Mayella Violet Ewell.
By Ralph Cipriano
It's a lingering mystery from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia sex abuse trials -- where did the term "sessions" come from?
In the 2011 grand jury report, "sessions" is the code name that two predator priests used for having sex with a 10-year-old altar boy known as "Billy Doe."
But the two priests in question -- Father Charles Engelhardt and former priest Edward V. Avery -- went off to their jail cells telling their lawyers that they had never used that word before and had no idea where it came from.
"He [Engelhardt] said that's a phrase that's been put in my mouth, it's been put in Avery's mouth," defense lawyer Michael J. McGovern remembered his client telling him. "That's a term I've never used,"the priest told his lawyer. Furthermore, "He [Engelhardt] has never heard a priest use that phrase,"McGovern said.
Avery was just as mystified, according to his lawyer, Michael E. Wallace. "I was with him 16 months and I never heard him use the term," Wallace said. "He didn't know what the hell he [Billy Doe] was talking about."
Even the district attorney, in the grand jury report issued Jan. 21, 2011, refers to the first time one of the priests mentioned "sessions" to Billy Doe as an "enigmatic statement." The answer to the mystery, however, may have been uncovered by the district attorney's own detectives a year after that grand jury report was issued.
But in the case of any mistakes in that grand jury report, the D.A.'s office doesn't seem to ever run corrections.
It's a small but significant detail, where the word sessions comes from. Some readers on this blog -- you know who you are -- will argue why should we listen to a couple of jailed priests, one of whom has already been convicted of indecent assault on a minor; the other of whom has already pleaded guilty to involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a minor.
But in the case of the word sessions, the district attorney's story line doesn't make sense, and may be undone by the D.A.'sown subsequent detective work. When you have only a victim's story to rely on, and there is no corroborating evidence, every detail in the victim's story matters.
Let's take a look at what the 2011 grand jury report said about sessions.
The first mention is on page 12. According to the grand jury report, Father Engelhardt "told Billy that it was time for him to become a man, and that 'sessions' with the priest would soon begin. With that enigmatic statement, Father Engelhardt let Billy go to school."
On page 14 and 15 of the grand jury report, it says that two weeks after Father Engelhardt initially raped him, the priest asked [Billy Doe] if he was ready for another session, but Billy emphatically refused ... Father Engelhardt left Billy alone after his unsuccessful attempt to arrange a repeat 'session,' but the boy's ordeal was far from over. A few months after the encounter with Father Engelhardt, Billy was putting the bells away after choir practice when Father Edward Avery pulled him aside to say that he had heard about Father Engelhardt's session with Billy, and that his sessions with the boy would soon begin. Billy pretended he did not know what Father Avery was talking about, but his stomach turned."
According to the grand jury report, after Father Avery had sex with Billy Doe, on page 15 it says, "The session ended when Father Avery ejaculated on Billy and told him to clean up. The priest told Billy that it had been a good session, and that they would have another again soon."
On page 17, the grand jury report said that Billy had physical problems after he was raped by the two priests: In the fifth grade, when Fathers Engelhardt and Avery were having their 'sessions' with him, Billy complained to his mother of pain in his testicles."
[During the Father Engelhardt-Bernard Shero trial, a doctor testified that Billy was examined, but nobody could find anything wrong with him].
This brings us to the district attorney's own detective work.
On Feb. 3, 2012, a year after the grand jury report, Detectives David Fisher and Andrew Snyder interviewed Mark Besben, a counselor at SOAR, a drug and alcohol treatment facility. Besben told the two detectives that Billy was in a group meeting when he introduced himself, saying he was a drug addict who had been sexually abused:
Q. Did [Billy] say in the group who sexually abused him?
A. I am not sure if it was then but the group leader brought [Billy] to me. I then began seeing [Billy] one-on-one instead of him being in group sessions.
Q. During your one-on-one sessions with [Billy], what did you and he discuss?
A. Spent a whole lot of time talking about his sexual abuse.
So "sessions" is a drug counselor's term. Billy was certainly familiar with the lingo; in his 24 years, he's been in and out of 23 different drug rehabs. Is it possible that Billy borrowed the term sessions from his drug rehab counselors and, when he told his story to the district attorney, he put that word in the mouths of two priests who never said it?
Even if drug-addled Billy was innocently blending terms, it still makes you wonder why the district attorney ran with it. The word sessions coming out of the mouth of a priest just doesn't sound right. It makes more sense that a psychiatrist or a mental health counselor would say something like that.
A spokesperson for the district attorney's office could not be reached.
If the D.A. got sessions wrong, it certainly wouldn't be the only mistake in that 2011 grand jury report. On page 37 under the heading "Father Brennan raped Mark Bukowski," the grand jury report says:
"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."
For those of you who may have forgotten, Mark Bukowski is the other young drug addict-criminal that District Attorney Seth Williams relied on to make his historic prosecution against the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Both Bukowski and Billy Doe have filed civil suits against the archdiocese. Bukowski outed himself publicly. Billy Doe, according to his civil lawyer, wants to remain Billy Doe.
When Father Brennan was tried last year, that rape charge against the priest was reduced to attempted rape, without any official explanation from the district attorney's office. On the witness stand, Buwkoski said that both he and Father Brennan wore t-shirts and boxer shorts the night they spent in Father Brennan's bed. During the night the priest spent with 14-year-old Bukowski, according to Brennan's lawyer, William J. Brennan, no relation, the priest may have committed a "savage spooning," but there was no anal rape.
The jury wound up hanging 11-1 for acquittal on the attempted rape charge because they didn't believe Mark Bukowski. Father Brennan is scheduled to be retried this week.
Besides the mystery of sessions, there's other lingering doubts about the veracity of Billy Doe's stories. Conspiracy theorists have noticed a similarity in Billy Doe's account about Father Avery raping him and an episode from a book that Billy's mother found under his bed.
"When he went to the Christian Academy," Billy's mother told the grand jury in 2010, "We found books under his bed that talked about sexual abuse, and they were from a library and I would be asking him, why do you have these and what are these from? And he would say they were from a girl at school and they needed them for a report, but they never went away. The books always stayed there."
"Although most men who are good companions to young boys have no plans to molest them sexually, Marvin was setting up a special relationship so he could persuade Kevin to provide him sexual favors. When he asked Kevin to undress and sit on his lap, he told him that this would be their special secret. He was never to tell anyone."
When Billy Doe testified before the grand jury, he said that Father Avery took off his clothes, and then "he had me come over and sit on his lap ... and he started to kiss my neck and my back ... He kept on saying, it's going to be OK. Everything is OK. God loves you."
OK, Billy's defenders will say that's a a stretch; except for the lap-sitting, the stories aren't that similar. But look at the spin the district attorney put on the books-under-the bed-story in that 2011 grand jury report:
"It was at an inpatient drug treatment facility that Billy first told someone about his abuse. Billy’s mother testified that she probably should have suspected something before then, because she found two books about sexual abuse hidden under Billy’s bed when he was in high school. She asked him about the books at the time, but he covered up for his abusers by telling her that he had them for a school assignment."
Billy, of course, had another explanation for why he kept the books under his bed. Like a lot of things involving Billy, it all comes back to drugs.
Billy told the district attorney's office a story that didn't make it into that 2011 grand jury report: he said he kept the two books under his bed because they both had hardback covers.
When Billy wanted to say, snort some Xanax, he would reach under his bed, grab a book and crush a few pills on the hard covers of either Child Abuse or Know About Abuse.
That Billy; always coming up with new stories to entertain his friends at the district attorney's office.
Both Billy Doe and Mark Bukowski were obviously unstable, drug-addicted criminals who told stories that were either, take your pick, highly suspect, or simply not credible. Sadly, the district attorney chose to base a grand jury report and the entire historic prosecution of a church on two such unreliable witnesses.
By Ralph Cipriano
Billy Doe's mother kept meticulous track of both of her sons' grade school events.
On monthly calendars, she noted dates and times for football and hockey games, doctor's appointments, and guitar lessons, flu shots and snow days. She wrote down dates for upcoming exams, school projects, home and school meetings, as well as the day that report cards came out.
She also kept track of the Masses that her sons were scheduled to serve at as altar boys at St. Jerome's Church.
Billy Doe's mother kept all those calendars, including the 1998 and 1999 calendars when Billy was a fifth grader at St. Jerome's. That's the school year when Billy claims he was raped by Father Charles Engelhardt after a 6:30 a.m. Mass.
The calendars kept by Billy's mother were turned over to the district attorney's office as evidence in the case. So the D.A. searched the calendars, seeking a 6:30 a.m. Mass that Billy served at to corroborate the rape victim's story.
But the search came up empty. And it wasn't the only time that Billy's story didn't check out.
On March 19, 2010, Billy told the grand jury that Father Engelhardt first approached him during the winter when he was in fifth grade. "I was serving a 6:30 Mass before school," Billy testified. Father Engelhardt "asked me to stay after Mass to help him out with something."
Billy Doe got the time wrong for when early weekday Mass was held at St. Jerome's. Mass is always said at 6:15 a.m. Mondays through Fridays at St. Jerome's, and not 6:30 a.m., according to priests and nuns at the church interviewed by police. There's also a published schedule of Masses that confirms those times. Early Sunday Mass is always held at 6:30 a.m.
Billy Doe told the grand jury that a week after this first meeting with Father Engelhardt, Billy was serving at another 6:30 Mass when Father Engelhardt raped him. So Billy's story to the grand jury was that he served at two 6:30 a.m. Masses with Father Engelhardt within a week of each other while he was a fifth-grade altar boy during the 1998-99 school year.
On April 25, 2012, when Billy Doe testified at the trial of Msgr. William J. Lynn, the prosecutor narrowed the date for that first 6:30 Mass with Father Engelhardt down to two possible months:
Q. Did there come a time when you served a Mass with Father Charles Engelhart in the winter of 1998 or 1999, depending, December, January?
When Billy was asked about the second Mass he served with Father Engelhardt, "about a week and a half, two weeks after that."
Q. Do you remember what time that Mass was or if it was a weekday or a weekend?
A. A weekend Mass.
This time, Billy said it was a weekend Mass, which starts at 6:30 a.m. on Sundays at St. Jerome's. But there were no 6:15 a.m. or 6:30 a.m. Masses marked down for Billy on his mother's calendars for either December 1998 or January 1999.
Billy Doe claimed that Father Edward Avery raped him after the priest said a funeral Mass at St. Jerome's. But Billy gave two different times for the rape by Avery.
On Jan. 28, 2010, Billy Doe told Detective Drew Snyder that during an encounter with Father Engelhardt in July 1999, [Billy] "is serving a funeral Mass with Father Avery. Father Avery sends the other altar servers home and told [Billy] it is time for their next session," after which Father Avery raped Billy.
On April 25, 2012, Billy Doe told the jury at the trial of Msgr. William J. Lynn that he was raped by Father Avery "prior to the spring, like coming into Spring:"
Q. You're still in fifth grade?
Q. So spring of '99
Q. You're still 10 years old.
St. Jerome's keeps a register of funerals, listing the priest who officiated at each Mass. Those records were turned over to the district attorney's office as evidence on March 5, 2010, by Father Joseph B. Graham, pastor of St. Jerome's. The pastor died on Dec. 28, 2010, seven months after he testified before the grand jury on May 11, 2010.
"He was never the same when he came back from that grand jury," said Father Joseph E. Howarth, a longtime friend of Father Graham's.
The hand-written records show more than 80 funerals during the 1998-1999 school year when Billy was in fifth grade. Father Avery only did one funeral Mass that year, according to the register.
It was on March 2, 1999. Not July, like Billy Doe told the police, and certainly not early spring, like he told the jury at the Lynn trial.
But the funeral Mass said by Father Avery was held at Nazareth Hospital, where Father Avery served as a chaplain, and not at St. Jerome's, according to the hand-written notes on the church register.
So Billy's story of serving at a funeral Mass officiated at St. Jerome's by Father Avery cannot possibly be true, unless the church records turned over by the pastor were doctored.
There are other holes in Billy's stories.
But on his mother's calendars, no switch dates for Masses are recorded for Billy during the entire 1998-1999 school year.
And it's not like Mom didn't put Mass switches on the calendar. On Feb. 26, 2000, when Billy was in sixth grade, his mother wrote on the calendar that Billy was serving the 5 p.m. Mass and then she wrote down on March 19th, the second sunday of Lent, a note that her son had "switched [March 19th] with Jason for Feb. 26."
Billy Doe's older brother was also an altar boy. Wouldn't he have been a logical candidate for Billy to switch Masses with?
On Jan. 9, 2012, Billy's older brother, then a 26-year-old lawyer, sat down in the district attorney's office to answer some questions. Back in 1998-99 when Billy was a fifth-grader at St. Jerome's, his brother was an eighth grader. Besides being an altar boy, Billy's brother was also a sexton at St. Jerome's.
There's a few more facts that contradict Billy Doe's stories.
Billy implied to the grand jury that altar boys knew weeks in advance which priest would celebrate which Mass. But that's not how the system worked, as priests from St. Jerome's have told the district attorney's office.
Father Joseph E. Howarth used to work as a substitute priest at St. Jerome's, saying Mass and hearing confessions. In an interview for this blog, Father Howarth, who was not interviewed by the district attorney's office, told the same story that other priests told the D.A., namely that St. Jerome's "did not publish the list of the celebrants," as Father Howarth put it.
Pastor Graham would compose the list of celebrants the week before, after consulting with the priests. And then he would hang the list of celebrants in the rectory, and sometimes also the sacristy, Father Howarth said. But the list of celebrants wasn't handed out to the altar boys. So when altar boys typically showed up for church, "They don't know who the celebrant is until he walks in," Father Howarth said.
Howarth has been the pastor of the Church Of The Resurrection Of Our Lord since 2007. He said the sacristy at St. Jerome's, where Billy Doe claimed Father Engelhardt had raped him, was "the size of like a walk-in closet."
"There was constant traffic going back and forth there," Father Howarth said. "There was very little privacy."
The sacristy, since remodeled, had four doors when Billy was a fifth grader. One door led to the only bathroom in the church and when it was used by parishioners, they had to cut through the sacristy. A second door opened into a storage room, a third door opened onto the side of the church, and a fourth door opened directly into the sanctuary.
The walls of the sacristy weren't soundproof.
"You could sneeze in that sacristy and somebody in the first pew would say," God bless you," Father Howarth said. The idea that any priest would attempt to rape an altar boy in the sacristy was beyond belief, Father Howarth said.
Especially if that priest was Father Engelhardt.
"I've known Charles Engelhardt since our days growing up in Kensington," Father Howarth said. "I brought him here" to be the assistant pastor back in the 1990s at the Church Of The Resurrection Of Our Lord.
By George Anastasia
Mobster Anthony Nicodemo has been indicted on first degree murder and conspiracy charges in the shooting death of a South Philadelphia drug dealer and suspected government informant.
The indictment was announced this afternoon at a status hearing for Nicodemo in Common Pleas Court. The 41-year-old mobster, who has been held without bail since his arrest in December, did not attend the session.
His lawyer, Brian McMonagle, declined to comment.
The indictment is expected to up the ante in the case against Nicodemo who now faces life in prison or a potential death sentence for the murder of Gino DiPietro. The case has also fueled speculation about whether Nicodemo, long a suspect in a second gangland murder, would agree to cooperate in order to get out from under his legal problems.
The conspiracy charge in the DiPietro case would seem to indicate that authorities believe Nicodemo did not act alone in carrying out the hit. In fact, several sources have said investigators believe he may have been the driver, rather than the shooter, in a slaying that one police source has called one of "the dumbest" mob hits in Philadelphia history.
During a brief hearing this afternoon before Common Pleas Court Judge Charles A. Ehrlich, authorities announced that Nicodemo had been indicted for murder, conspiracy to commit murder and weapons offenses.
He is scheduled to be arraigned on those charges on April 1.
The indictment had been expected after the District Attorney's Office disclosed three weeks ago that it was bypassing a prelminary hearing in the case. Under new procedures set up to thwart witness intimidation, a grand jury proceeding can be used in place of a prelminary hearing.
The secret grand jury session allows the District Attorney's Office to protect the identities of potential witnesses for a longer period to time. Ultimately the names of witnesses will be disclosed to the defense prior to the start of trial. With a prelminary hearing, witnesses or witness statements are made public early in the criminal proceeding process.
Authorities apparently relied on both witnesses and tape from private surveillance cameras to build the case that was presented to the grand jury.
DiPietro, 50, was gunned down near the corner of Johnston and Iseminger Streets around 3 p.m. on Dec. 13. A gunman wearing a ski mask walked up to him and opened fire as he was getting into his car.
The gunman then ran to a waiting SUV and fled the scene.
Witnesses got the license tag number of the vehicle, a black Honda Pilot that authorities quickly discovered was registered in Nicodemo's name. Less than 30 minutes after the shooting, police were at Nicodemo's door -- he lives about five blocks from the murder scene.
His Honda Pilot was parked in front of the house. Police found a ski mask and a .357 Smith&Wesson inside the vehicle. The gun is believed to be the murder weapon.
"He's buried," said one legal source familiar with the case.
Nicodemo has apparently told friends that he is willing to "sit forever" and has no intention of cutting a deal.
Forever could be what he is facing if convicted of the first degree murder charge.
With a wife and two young children at home, sources believe Nicodemo may eventually trade in his bravado for a deal that will allow him to some day rejoin his family.
The tough-talking wiseguy was tied to a mob-linked sports betting operation run out of the high stakes poker room of the Borgata casino back in 2007. He eventually pleaded guilty to a gambling conspiracy charge and was given a four-year suspended sentence.
A New Jersey State Police affidavit in that case identified Nicodemo as a "suspect" in the 2003 murder of mobster John "Johnny Gongs" Casasanto.
If Nicodemo is going to cut a deal with authorities, he would have to provide details about both the DiPietro and Casasanto murders and any other criminal activity he was involved in, according to law enforcement sources.
His own words established his status in the underworld during the Borgata investigation.
New Jersey State Police wiretaps included a conversation in which Nicodemo boasted about his role in the underworld and told one of the principal operators of the bookmaking ring not to worry about any other "sharks" trying to horn in on the business.
From the conversation it was clear that Nicodemo was referring to other mobsters who might want a piece of the action.
"You don't have to worry about no one," Nicodemo said in a conversation with Andrew Micali recorded in October 2007. "You won't have to do nothing for no one...John Gott's son could come up to ya. Anybody! I don't give a fuck...Ya ever have a problem, come and see me...I don't care if it's fuckin' Carlo Gambino's fuckin' son...Don't worry about none of that stuff."
Now it's Nicodemo who has a problem.
And the question is, who will he go see?
The indictment announced today comes just three days before a status conference in federal court for mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi and several co-defendants. Ligambi and two associates are scheduled to be retried on racketeering conspiracy charges later this year.
A jury hung on those charges at a trial that ended on Feb. 5.
The DiPietro shooting came during testimony at that trial and while defense lawyers were going on at length to the jury about how the case lacked violence and how Ligambi and his associates were not cut from the same murderous cloth as earlier mob bosses like Nicodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo and John Stanfa.
Both Scarfo and Stanfa were convicted of ordering murders.
Authorities have been trying without success to tie three unsolved mob murders to Ligambi who took over the top spot in the Philadelphia crime family in 1999. They include the Casasanto murder and the murders of Raymond "Long John" Martorano in 2002 and Ronald Turchi in 1999.
Damion Canalichio, 44, a co-defendant with Ligambi in the recent racketeering trial, has also been identified by authorities as a person of interest in the Casasanto hit. Canalichio was convicted of racketeering conspiracy and is to be sentenced in May.
A twice-convicted drug dealer, Canalichio could face from 10 to 12 years in jail on the racketeering charge.
Law enforcement sources are now watching and waiting to see if either Canalichio or Nicodemo makes a move toward cooperating.
It's just a matter of time, said one investigator. And, he added, authorities have all the time in the world.
Contact George Anastasia at George@bigtrial.net
By Ralph Cipriano
They are two troubled young men with criminal records, suicidal tendencies, and a history of drug abuse.
"Billy Doe" is the grand jury's psuedonym for a 24-year-old former ambulance driver from Northeast Philadelphia now working as a landscaper in Florida where he's enrolled in a drug rehab. Billy Doe is the victim who claims back when he was a fifth and sixth grader at St. Jerome's Church in Northeast Philadelphia, between 1998 and 2000, he was raped by two priests and a Catholic school teacher.
Billy's own mother on the witness stand described him as a "lost soul" who was kicked out of two high schools. Billy has six adult arrests for drugs and retail theft, and has been in and out of 23 drug rehabs.
Mark Bukowski is a 31-year-old former short-time Marine who went AWOL and was discharged under "other than honorable conditions." Mark's own mother has accused him of stealing from her and her husband, and she told police that she was "suspicious" of Mark's claim to police that he had been a victim of a violent home invasion. Mark Bukowski has been arrested three times, and has a criminal track record for attempting to deceive law enforcement officials.
Lots of caution flags here if you're going to run with anything these guys tell you.
But to District Attorney Seth Williams, Billy Doe and Mark Bukowski were star witnesses for the D.A.'s self-described "historic" prosecution of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Even though both men were unstable drug-addicted criminals.
Here's what the rap sheets have to say about the D.A.'s two star witnesses.
On Jan. 7, 2011, there was a preliminary hearing on the heroin case. At the request of Billy's attorney, Brian McLaughlin, a motion to suppress evidence, namely the 56 bags of heroin, was granted by Judge Adam Beloff. The defense's claim was that a police officer did not have probable cause to stop Billy Doe, and that the defendant did nothing to justify a pat-down by the officer.
The Commonwealth had 30 days to appeal the case to state Superior Court. The prosecution ultimately chose not to file an appeal, and the case against Billly was withdrawn on Feb. 7, 2011.
Brian McLaughlin, Billy's lawyer, could not be reached for comment.
Mark related after 0300 hours, while watching television on the first floor, he was confronted by two subjects who manage to gain entry to the residence. One of the subjects attacked him with an unknown sharp object resulting in cuts to his arm and chest area. Mark stated it was a violent struggle lasting about a minute. Mark said during the struggle the second subjected located in the adjacent room was going through his belongings.
Mark reported items including $675 in cash, prescription medicine, a DVD player and at least one wrist watch was stolen.
Your affiant processed the scene and examined Mark as well as his clothing for physical evidence. I noticed that mark had several small superficial cuts on his right arm and chest with no apparent additional sign of injuries to him. Your affiant further noticed that the t-shirt reportedly worn by Mark during the attack displayed no blood or tearing at the injury location.
Your affiant inquired with Mark as to the details of the stolen $675 in cash. Mark stated on Feb. 18, 2005 he contacted his co-owner, Mike Kirchhoefer of Zoom Auto, and arranged for his pay, [the cash] to be given to him on Feb. 18, 2005.
Your affiant personally spoke with the co-owner Mike Kirchhoefer on Feb. 23, 2005 and learned that not only was Mark Bukowski not a co-owner, he wasn't employed by Zoom Auto, much less given $675 in cash.
Your affiant also spoke with Mark's mother ... who was home during the reported incident and heard nothing. Mrs. Bukowski related that she was suspicious of Mark's story because on Friday Feb. 18, 2005, she learned that Mark had recently stolen her personal checks and issued them for goods and services.
Mrs. Bukowski told your affiant she threatened Mark, that if he didn't sell his wrist watches and repay her by Monday Feb. 21, 2005, she would report him to the police.
Your affiant had further discovered that Mark was a prescription drug abuser and had recently stolen power tools from his father which were sold to the Barracks Trading Post.
Your affiant requested on numerous occasions for Mark Bukowski to grand another interview and he had refused. It is requested that Mark Bukowski be brought before you to answer the said charges.
By Ralph Cipriano
On Jan. 28, 2010, Detective Andrew Snyder showed up at Graterford Prison to spring "Billy Doe" out of jail, and transport him to the district attorney's office for questioning.
When Detective Snyder and Billy Doe arrived at the D.A.'s office, Billy's parents were waiting for him. And, according to what Billy Doe subsequently told a grand jury, so was Assistant District Attorney Mariana Sorensen from the Special Investigations Unit. Detective Snyder recorded what happened next on four pages of typed notes. Here's the first two sentences that Snyder wrote:
Picked up [Billy Doe] from Graterford Prison. [Billy Doe's] parents ... were present during the interview.
On Jan. 28, 2010, Billy Doe was 21 years old. The man who claimed that back when he was 10 and 11 years old, he was raped by two priests and a school teacher at St. Jerome's Church, was not under 18 when he visited the district attorney's office, so there was no reason for his parents to sit in on the interview. The longstanding practice in the district attorney's office, and the Philadelphia Police Department, would have been for detectives to interview an adult complainant by himself, and then interview his parents separately.
Did the district attorney's office bend the rules to let Billy's father, a Philadelphia police sergeant, and his mother sit in on the D.A.'s interview with their son? It sure looks like it. Another longstanding practice in the D.A's office, and the Philadelphia Police Department, would have been for detectives to interview Billy in a Q. and A. format on an "Investigation Interview Record," also known as a "483" because of the number on the bottom of the form.
When a detective gets through asking questions, the subject of the interview is usually asked to read over the questions and answers on the "483," make corrections, and finally, sign the document. But that's not what happened on Jan. 28, 2010. Neither Billy nor his parents had to submit to a standard Q. and A. interview on a "483." Instead, the only version of the D.A.'s session with Billy Doe kept for posterity was what Detective Snyder chose to record in his notes.
In the parlance of defense lawyers, the D.A. was giving Billy Doe the "red carpet treatment."And the interview with Mom and Dad sitting in was just the start of it.
What followed was a nonsensical law enforcement crusade that would invert the natural order. A review of police records and formerly secret grand jury transcripts shows that District Attorney Seth Williams' self-described "historic" prosecution of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia was a classic back-asswards operation -- first came the indictments and arrests, followed by the investigation.
And what did the district attorney's investigation finally reveal? That just about everything Billy Doe told Detective Snyder and Assistant District Attorney Sorensen on Jan. 28, 2010 was contradicted -- by church records, by his mother's own calendars, by a Q. and A. done with Billy's older brother, and by Q. and A.'s done with at least 30 witnesses from St. Jerome's, including priests, nuns, teachers and the church music director.
A spokesperson for the district attorney's office did not return a request for comment.
Meanwhile, while they were rolling out the red carpet for Billy Doe, the district attorney's office helped their new star witness shop for a new drug rehab. And, according to what Billy Doe testified at the trial of Father Charles Engelhardt and Bernard Shero, the district attorney also found Billy a lawyer to file a civil lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Thanks to three convictions and a guilty plea at two archdiocese sex abuse trials, Billy Doe's civil case is probably worth millions of dollars. Does that mean the D.A. gets a referral fee?
But there was another more immediate payoff for Billy Doe while he was on the D.A.'s red carpet: most of Billy Doe's legal problems stemming from several previous arrests disappeared after he became the D.A.s' new star witness.
So did a new arrest.
On June 9, 2010 -- five months after the district attorney's red carpet interview with Billy Doe -- the D.A.'s new star witness got busted for possession with intent to distribute 56 bags of heroin. But those charges would subsequently be dropped after the evidence in the case, namely the 56 bags of heroin, was ruled inadmissible. The question is, was Billy Doe's lucky streak in the criminal courts just a coincidence? Or did it have anything to do with being on the D.A.'s red carpet?
The district attorney's investigation of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia was based on the dubious premise that Billy Doe was telling the truth. The D.A.'s office did not perform the most basic steps of any investigation. They didn't conduct a routine Q. and A. with Billy on a 483 form. They didn't do a Q. and A. with either of his parents. They didn't go out to interview other witnesses in an attempt to verify any of Billy's allegations. Instead, the D.A.'s office made the decision to take Billy Doe's story and run with it.
Meanwhile, in the criminal courts, Billy's past legal problems began to disappear. On March 8, 2010, charges against Billy Doe for an earlier arrest, on Nov. 11, 2009 for retail theft in Northeast Philadelphia, were withdrawn because a witness didn't show up.
But the district attorney's "investigation" was moving in a different direction. It would be nearly two years before anybody from the district attorney's office would go see Besben to find out what else he had to say.
Billy Doe told the grand jury that he underwent a personality change after he was raped in fifth grade by Father Charles Engelhardt and Father Edward Avery, and after he was raped in sixth grade by Bernard Shero:
Q. [Billy], did you continue going to St. Jerome's?
Q. Until what grade?
Q. Was there any difference that you noticed in yourself after these incidents?
A. I wasn't -- I basically turned into a loner. I didn't want to be around any people. The music I listened to changed. My whole personality changed.
On April 1, 2010, Detective Snyder stopped by Gaurdenzia House, Billy Doe's latest drug rehab, to see how the D.A.'s new star witness was doing:
[Billy] told me that he wasn't doing so good at Gaurdenzia. Last week he went to Roxborough Memorial Hospital because he threw his back out. Yesterday, there was a fire on the floor that [Billy] is assigned and they are trying to blame [Billy] for starting the fire. They said that [Billy] was the only one on the floor at the time of the fire. [Billy] contends that there were numerous staff members on the floor, besides, [Billy] does not have access to the kitchen where the fire started.
The prosecution of the church was well under way in secret grand jury proceedings. But it would be another 20 months before the district attorney would send detectives out to St. Jerome's to investigate Billy Doe's stories.
[Billy] told me he that he left Gaurdenzia because of his problems with the director, Mr. Kelly. [Billy] stated that he first was staying with a friend and then lived with a girl and her children in Glenside, PA. [Billy] did admit to using heroin for about a week after he first left Gaurdenzia but he assured me that he has been sober for the last couple of weeks. [Billy] is back home with his parents.
... [Billy] asked me if I could help get him into a rehab. I asked about Miramount and [Billy] replied that "they" are mad at him for leaving Guardenzia and then using. I told [Billy] to get me a list of some of the places that he would like to stay at and I would make some phone calls on his behalf.
Despite what he told Detective Snyder, Billy Doe's new attempt to stay sober would last only a week.
On June 9, 2010, Billy Doe was arrested on charges with possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute, namely 56 bags of heroin. However, when he was on the witness stand at the Engelhardt-Shero trial, Billy Doe told the jury he didn't plan to sell the drugs; he was going to use all that heroin himself.
Meanwhile, Billy's past legal problems continued to disappear.
On July 8, 2010, before Municipal Court Judge Jimmie Moore, charges against Billy Doe stemming from a Jan 14, 2010 arrest for retail theft and taking merchandise in Philadelphia were withdrawn because a witness didn't show up.
WHAT BILLY DOE'S PARENTS TOLD THE GRAND JURY
On November 9, 2010, Billy Doe's parents were sworn in as witnesses before the grand jury. The district attorney on that same day issued subpoenas for Edward Avery, Father Engelhardt, Bernard Shero and Father James J. Brennan. By this time, Billy's father had had a change of heart, and was clearly in his son's corner.
The prosecutor asked Billy's father about Jan. 30, 2009, the day two social workers from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia knocked on his door. They were seeking to interview Billy, who had phoned in a sex abuse complaint on a church hot line the day before:
Q. Why did you not want to let the archdiocese in?
A. At that time, I knew it was a serious problem and I figured he [Billy] would need legal representation before he made any statements to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia ...
Q. When did you actually hear [Billy] talk about what had happened to him?
A. There was times when we would confront him in reference to his drug abuse and he would blurt out that he was abused at the school and that's how I started to discover and then information was slowly but surely coming out of him.
Q. And do you believe your son?
A. Yes, I believe him.
Billy's mother testified before the grand jury on the same day her husband did, Nov. 9, 2010. She contradicted Billy's storyline about him undergoing a personality change while still in grade school:
Q. Did there come a time when you noticed a change in [Billy's] behavior?
A. Yes. At age 14, as he entered high school, freshman year at high school, he wasn't the same child. He was very troubling to us.
Q. Ok. Prior to that, what was his personality?
A. He was basically a very pleasant, active, happy person prior to that and he was defined by some people as either Dennis the Menace or the All-American boy up to that point.
Q. Ok. So he's leaving St. Jerome's and entering into high school?
Q. And at this time what's going on that's different?
A. Freshman year started in September and in February we were called and he was thrown out of Archbishop Ryan for having some marijuana and having brass knuckles. And he was arrested and because of the brass knuckles, he wasn't allowed back into a Catholic school for a year. So they sent him to CORA for treatment. It was an after-school program and that was his first contact with any type of mental health counselors, therapists or programs, and that was really difficult for us because we never had that before.
The prosecutor asked Billy's mother about suicidal tendencies:
Q. How were you aware of the suicidal ideations? Would he talk to you about them or how would he express this?
A. One day we came home and he was running around with his brother's decorative sword and we kind of cornered him ... And what we did was, when we went home, we like ripped apart his room ... We cleaned his room out, looking for any kind of drug paraphernalia, any notes. We found suicide notes and we found pictures of guns held at a head and [Billy] is -- can draw very well. They were very graphic and very scary ...
Q. Did he ever get any tattoos?
A. He has a bizarre one on his chest ... I think it's Mary holding Jesus and I often question him like where is that coming from and he doesn't have a clue ... On another arm he has one that says, Lost Soul ... Lost is a surfing company and he [Billy] was always into Lost products. His surfboard, his clothing would be from this company , Lost, and he had that put on there, but he added soul to it, like S-O-U-L, and that was -- that kind of defined, when I seen that, defined his life.
TWO FLAWED WITNESSES
To Billy's mother, Billy may have been a lost soul, but to the district attorney's office, Billy Doe was a savior. That's because the D.A. had been searching for a sex abuse case that fell within the statute of limitations so they could prosecute Msgr. William J. Lynn, former secretary for clergy at the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, for endangering the welfare of a child.
In pursuit of a historic conviction, the district attorney's office was grooming Billy Doe for the witness stand.
On Dec. 2, 2010, Detective Snyder called Billy Doe's father "and told him that I'll be picking up [Billy] at the prison on Thursday, Dec. 16, 2010. We want him to meet with our expert witness on clergy abuse. I need to confirm [Billy's] whereabouts."
On Dec. 14, 2010, Detective Snyder got the district attorney's star witness out of jail again:
Brought [Billy] in from DC [Detention Center] for one last meeting. [Billy] did not look too good, he told me that he hasn't ben sleeping well and that he was involved in a fight a couple of days ago.
On Jan. 21, 2011, Detective Snyder wrote:
The Grand Jury signed a presentment suggesting that Msgr. Lynn, Rev. Brennan, Rev. Engelhardt, Bernard Shero and Edward Avery should be arrested and Judge [Renee] Caldwell-Hughes signed off on the presentment.
On Jan. 21, 2011, the district attorney issued a 124-page grand jury report that called for the indictment of Msgr. Lynn for endangering the welfare of children. "These are sordid, shocking acts," District Attorney Williams proclaimed about the rapes allegedly perpetrated against Billy Doe and Mark Bukowski. It was clear from the report that the district attorney, and the grand jury, heavily relied on the stories told by Billy Doe:
This Grand Jury investigation began with the tearful testimony of "Billy." Billy was a 10-year-old student in Barbara Mosakowski's fifth grade class at St. Jerome School in Philadelphia when two priests molested and orally sodomized him during the 1998-99 school year. Billy had signed up to be an altar boy at St. Jerome Church because his brother, who was three years older, had been one. He also participated in the "maintenance department" of the school's bell choir, meaning that he took the bells out of their cases before choir practice and put them away at the end.
On Jan. 26, 2011, Detective Snyder wrote:
I prepared warrants on Lynn, Brennan, Avery, Engelhardt and Shero and had Judge Caldwell-Hughes sign the warrants.
Detective Snyder wrote down in his notes that he had left messages for the district attorney's other star witness in the case -- Mark Bukowski. Bukowski had accused Father James J. Brennan, Msgr. Lynn's co-defendant, of raping Bukowski when he was 14. But Bukowski didn't call back.
On Jan. 31, 2011, Detective Snyder called the Bukowski family and "left another message for Mark." On Feb. 3, 2011, Mark Bukowski's father called back.
Here's what Detective Snyder wrote in his notes:
I must have forgotten but Mark is in prison. That must be why he doesn't return my calls ... Mark would also like me to visit him in prison. I have to do a couple of interviews tomorrow, but if I get time, I'll ask Mark to sign a waiver or whatever it takes so that we can get his records.
In the criminal courts, Billy's lucky streak continued. On Feb. 7, 2011, the charges against Billy Doe for possession with intent to distribute 56 bags of heroin were dismissed after a motion to suppress evidence in the case - the heroin -- was granted by a judge who, as a private civil attorney, had previously consulted with Billy about whether he could sue the archdiocese. [See accompanying story].
On Feb. 16, 2011, Detective Snyder met with John St. Peter, a former classmate of Billy's at St. Jerome's. St. Peter's mother had contacted the detective to say that "her son John had some information in reference to" Billy Doe.
It was through John St. Peter that the prosecution introduced the storyline in the Engelhardt-Shero case that as an altar boy Billy frequently changed Masses to stay away from Fathers Engelhardt and Avery after they raped him. Billy's parents did not contribute to this storyline and calendars kept by Billy's mother refuted Billy's story about switching Masses. So did the priests at St. Jerome's, but the district attorney wouldn't get around to interviewing them for another 10 months.
Detective Palko came into the office today to discuss his involvement with the Bukowskis. Palko stated that the department is quite familiar with the Bukowskis. Usually when a new officer is being trained, they are usually driven by the Bukowski house and are told to expect "disturbance calls" from that location. Palko did go on to say that Mark was usually polite and apologetic when he would be arrested, except when he was high on drugs. Palko told me that the Bukowskis are having financial problems. [Mark's father] lost his job in New Jersey and his now delivering the newspaper as well as being a handyman. Palko said that Mark never once brought up the topic of him being a victim of abuse, but his mother would use it as an excuse whenever Mark was in trouble with the law.
Like Billy Doe, Mark Bukowski had filed a civil lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
On Nov. 10, 2011, Billy Doe got arrested again in Philadelphia, this time for possession of a controlled substance.
THE D.A. FINALLY GETS AROUND TO INVESTIGATING BILLY DOE
On Dec. 12, 2011, Detective Joseph Walsh interviewed Donna Clopp, Billy Doe's second-grade teacher at St. Jerome's. She described Billy as a "happy kid -- he liked attention." Clopp recalled that when Billy Doe was an eighth grader, he was a member of the bell choir maintenance crew. "He was one of the crew that would set up the tables and get the bells out and set things up,"she said.
Billy's story was that he was alone in the church and working as a member of the bell choir maintenance crew in fifth grade when Father Avery first hit on him. That's the story the D.A. ran with in that 2011 grand jury report.
But Clopp and several other teachers at the school, including the church music director, told detectives that only eighth grade boys were members of the bell choir maintenance crew because they were big and strong enough to carry the heavy bells, bell cases and tables. No fifth or sixth or seventh grade boys were allowed to be members of the bell choir maintenance crew, the teachers said.
On Dec. 13, 2011, Detective Walsh interviewed Sister Mary Fischetti, the parish director of services at St. Jerome's. The nun who had been employed at the school for 26 years told the detective that after Billy Doe graduated from St. Jerome's, "a woman would call the convent and ask whoever answered the phone to please pray for [Billy Doe] ... The woman never said what was wrong with [Billy Doe] -- just asked us at the convent to pray for him."
On Dec. 19, 2011, Detective Walsh went out to interview Sister Mary Fischetti again. Sister Mary told the detective that Billy had gotten the time of the early weekday Mass at St. Jerome's wrong -- the Mass was at 6:15, not 6:30. Billy told the grand jury he was raped by Father Engelhardt after a 6:30 weekday Mass but when he testified at the Msgr. Lynn trial, he said he was raped after a weekend Mass. The Sunday Mass at St. Jerome's is at 6:30.
Sister Mary told Detective Walsh that she doubted Billy Doe could be alone with a priest because there was usually a sexton, or sacristan, present during daily Masses, accompanied by two altar boys. The nun also told the detective that the sacristy where Billy Doe claimed that Father Engelhardt raped him had four doors.
Detective Walsh asked if the nun knew who the woman was that had frequently called the convent seeking prayers on behalf of Billy Doe. Sister Mary said the usual practice in the rectory was that if someone requested intercessory prayer, the nuns at the convent would post a note on the refrigerator so that all the nuns in the convent could pray for that individual.
"I remember some of the notes saying [Mrs. Doe] called asking for prayers for her son [Billy]," the nun told the detective.
THE BELL CHOIR
On Dec. 20, 2011, Detective Walsh interviewed Margaret [Peggy] Long, the church music director for the past 23 years. It was Long who started the children's bell choir in 1990 and within two years after that, she started the adult bell choir. Long told Detective Walsh that only eighth grade boys could be members of the bell choir maintenance crew, and that the maintenance crew set up the bells and then left. The bell choir would perform for an hour and then put away their own equipment; by then, the maintenance crew was gone.
Billy Doe had told the grand jury as a fifth-grader he had stayed late at church, putting away the bells by himself when Father Avery first hit on him.
"I read the grand jury report," Long told Detective Walsh, and "the information contained in the grand jury report concerning the bell choir could not have happened."
On Jan. 4, 2012, Detective Walsh interviewed Donna Clopp for a second time. The teacher at St. Jerome's told the detective she had been a member of the children's bell choir since its inception, and a member of the adult bell choir since its inception.
Q. In 1998-99 when [Billy Doe] was in fifth grade, would he have been a member of the bell crew?
A. I don't believe so because it was always eighth grade boys because of the weight of the table and bells.
BILLY'S OLDER BROTHER CONTRADICTS BILLY
On Jan. 9, 2012, Detective Walsh interviewed Billy Doe's older brother, then a 26-year-old lawyer. Billy's older brother was in eighth grade at St. Jerome's when Billy was in fifth grade. Billy's older brother is mentioned in the grand jury report of Jan. 21, 2011. However, it took a year for the district attorney to send a detective out to interview Billy's brother, and discover that he contradicted Billy's story on many key points.
Billy's brother had served as both an altar boy and a sexton at the church. Billy had claimed he was a 10-year-old altar boy putting away the wine after an early Mass when Father Engelhardt first hit on him. But Billy's older brother told the detective that it was the sextons and not the altar boys who took care of communion wine after church.
Billy's older brother also contradicted Billy's story that he had frequently switched Masses with other altar boys whenever he found out he was scheduled to serve Mass with either Father Engelhardt or Father Avery.
Billy's older brother told Detective Walsh that he never switched Masses with his brother, and that furthermore, a switch wasn't that easy to pull off. Billy's older brother said before he could switch Masses with another altar boy, he would need the approval of his parents and the pastor.
MORE WITNESSES CONTRADICT BILLY
It was Mahoney who, according to a library card, borrowed two books in 2004 -- Know About Abuse and Child Abuse, detectives wrote in their 483 report. The two books were found under Billy's bed by Billy's mother, who turned them over to the district attorney's office as evidence.
Two years earlier, Billy Doe had told Detective Snyder and a grand jury that "sessions" was the code word used by Fathers Engelhardt and Avery to describe their rapes of Billy. Both priests, however, told their lawyers that they had never used that word before and had no idea where it came from.
Besben was an important witness for another reason. Billy Doe had initially told Louise Hagner, an archdiocese social worker, that he had been punched in the head by Father Avery and when he woke up, he found himself naked and tied up with altar sashes. Billy also told Hagner that Bernard Shero punched him in the face and wrapped a seat belt around his neck before he raped him.
Billy subsequently claimed that he was high on drugs when he talked to Hagner. But when detectives talked to Besben, he recalled Billy in drug rehab telling him a version of the bondage story, as well as adding a new twist about other possible victims:
But it was too late. A district attorney and a grand jury had already made the mistake of believing a bunch of stories told by Eddie Haskell on heroin.
By Ralph Cipriano
On Sunday night at 7 p.m., 60 Minutes will air a segment on John Veasey, the former Philadelphia hit man, mob turncoat, and government witness whose riveting testimony brought down the Stanfa mob.
It's a crazy story.
In a clip from the 60 Minutes segment, correspondent Byron Pitts explains to a national audience how back in the 1990s, John Veasey was volunteering during the day as a Boy Scout leader, driving around a station wagon full of scouts. And at night, he'd be driving around South Philly in a rented Cadillac, trying to hunt down and kill "Skinny Joey" Merlino.
Here's a clip:
I wrote a November 2010 cover story about Veasey for Philadelphia magazine that I expanded into a Kindle book and a paperback. You can read it in one sitting. It ain't James Joyce, but as a reporter based in Philadelphia, I don't think I've ever come across a more entertaining story.
The 60 Minutes segment tells the story about how a poor South Philly kid wound up becoming a hit man for the mob, and then got shot in the head by his fellow mobsters. Veasey survived the hit and testified against the Stanfa mob, putting the city's former mob boss away, along with several associates, for long prison stretches.
Veasey's next reincarnation was a Midwest car salesman, where he showed an amazing ability to connect with people from all walks of life. Veasey became a born-again Christian, and much of the Minutes piece focuses on whether that's for real:
I have come to know John Veasey well, and I can tell you although there's been some rough patches, John is sincere about wanting to change his life around and follow God. I know John, I know his new wife, and I know the pastor who's been discipling John. In fact, that's another Philadelphia story that we may have to explore at a later date.
Here's what John's pastor has to say about him:
"I believe John to be one of the most truthful people I've ever run into," the pastor said. "I've known him for a year now and I've always found him to be consistent."
So if you get a chance, tune in Sunday night. You won't be bored.
By Ralph Cipriano
If the 2011 Grand Jury report on sex abuse in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia was a term paper, the district attorney would have gotten a failing grade for sloppy work habits and at least 20 factual errors.
The factual errors in the grand jury report are contradicted by grand jury testimony, trial testimony, and the results of the district attorney's own investigation.
It's a shameful work product. Somebody screwed up.
Let's take a look at what the grand jury report from Jan. 21, 2011 had to say. It's posted online, so readers can check it out for themselves.
Let's start with the biggest mistake. Eleven times in the grand jury report, the district attorney said that Father James J. Brennan raped 14-year-old Mark Bukowski back in 1996. 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.
Rape would seem to be an anatomical impossibility, right?
Father Brennan was tried last year as a co-defendant with Msgr. William J. 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.
- As a result of the rape, Mark developed significant psychological and substance abuse problems, and attempted suicide. [page 38].
-- At the time of the rape, Mark was a happy, well-adjusted boy who played several sports and had no problems in school. But the sexual assault by Father Brennan triggered significant psychological problems, including depression, which in turn led to a dramatic weight loss and left him so emotionally damaged that he was at times unable to even to leave his house. [page 38].
-- In addition, the rape led Mark to turn to drugs and alcohol for comfort, and contributed significantly to a substance abuse problem that would affect his performance in school, damage his relationship with his family, and cause a crisis of faith. Mark even went so far as to attempt to kill himself by overdosing on pills before undergoing counseling and beginning to turn his life around. [page 38].
-- Three years after the rape, Father Brennan exposed himself to Mark at a time when Mark’s life was already spiraling out of control. [page 40]
-- Mark’s private records would have been statutorily protected from disclosure during a criminal trial. By handing these over to Father Brennan, Archdiocese officials not only risked making the eventual prosecution of the priest more difficult, they needlessly exposed an already scarred victim to further trauma by making the most private details of his life available to the man who raped him. [page 106].
-- This Grand Jury’s responsibilities are not limited to suggesting criminal charges against those responsible for the rapes and molestations of Billy and Mark. [page 117].
The correct answer -- no -- is right in Mark Bukowski's own grand jury testimony. Did anyone at the district attorney's office proof-read this document, or fact-check anything?
-- Three years after the rape, Father Brennan exposed himself to Mark at a time when Mark’s life was already spiraling out of control. [page 40]
At the trial of Father Brennan, Msgr. Kevin Quirk showed up to read a 55-page transcript of a 2008 ecclesiastical inquest of Father Brennan into the record. Msgr. Quirk, a West Virginia priest with a doctorate in canon law, was the canonical judge at the inquest. In the transcript, Bukowski backed off the charge that Father Brennan had exposed himself to Bukowski.
"The accused had withdrawn that part of the allegation," Msgr. Quirk told the jury. Msgr. Quirk testified that Bukowski told him his mind was "scrambled" about the alleged exposure incident, adding, "I'm just saying I don't remember."
Was Billy Doe forced to talk to Louise Hagner? Was Billy Doe distraught when he talked to Louse Hagner? That's not what Billy Doe told the grand jury on March 19, 2010.
Billy Doe's story was that he snuck out of the house, against the wishes of his police officer father, and voluntarily "hopped" in the car with Louise Hagner and a colleague. Billy Doe also testified to the grand jury that far from feeling distraught when he talked to Louise Hagner, "I was high out of my mind" on heroin:
-- This Grand Jury investigation began with the tearful testimony of “Billy.” Billy was a 10-year-old student in Barbara Mosakowski’s fifth-grade class at St. Jerome School in Philadelphia when two priests molested and orally sodomized him during the 1998-99 school year. Billy had signed up to be an altar boy at St. Jerome Church because his brother, who was three years older, had been one. He also participated in the “maintenance department” of the school’s bell choir, meaning that he took the bells out of their cases before choir practice and put them away at the end. [page 13].
As reported previously on this blog, detectives interviewed the music director at St. Jerome's and another teacher who had performed in the bell choir since its inception. The two witnesses told the detectives the same story: only eighth grade boys were allowed to be members of the bell choir maintenance crew because the bells, bell cases and tables that the bells rested on were so heavy. Not 10-year-old fifth grade boys like undersized Billy, who, according to the district attorney, weighed only 63 pounds when he was 10. Meanwhile, Billy's former teachers testified at trial that the bell cases and tables weighed some 30 pounds each. Does anybody believe a 10-year-63-pound Billy could pick something up half his weight?
The teacher and the music director also told detectives that the maintenance crew set up the bells and then left. It was the members of the bell choir who were responsible for putting way the bells and equipment after the concert was over. The bell choir maintenance crew was long gone by this time, the teacher and music director told detectives.
Here's another couple of facts in the grand jury report that relied on Billy Doe's stories that were subsequently contradicted by the district attorney's own investigation:
-- Billy’s first uncomfortable encounter with a priest took place after he served an early morning weekday Mass with Rev. Charles Engelhardt. While Billy was cleaning up in the church sacristy, Father Engelhardt caught him drinking some of the leftover wine. The priest did not scold the 10-year-old altar boy. Instead, he poured him more of the sacramental wine and began asking him personal questions, such as whether he had a girlfriend. [page 13].
Billy's older brother, who was an altar boy and a sexton, told detectives that it was the job of the sextons to take care of the left-over communion wine after mass, and not the altar boys. Several priests from St. Jerome's told detectives the same story.
Billy's story about serving at an early morning weekday Mass was contradicted by extensive monthly calendars that his mother kept, which showed that Billy did not serve as an altar boy during an early morning Mass for the entire 1998-99 school year he was enrolled in fifth grade at St. Jerome's Church.
Here's some more sloppy work by the District Attorney:
As has been reported on this blog, Father Avery's history as a sexual offender proved just the opposite, that the story described by Billy Doe did not fit into Avery's well-established pattern as a molester.
As to whether Billy was a credible witness or not, that's a matter of opinion taken as fact by the district attorney in the grand jury report. Billy's drug counselor did not think Billy's story was credible. Again, as has been reported on this blog, Billy's story was contradicted by 30 witnesses interviewed by detectives. They included priests, nuns, teachers and the music director at St. Jerome's, and Billy's own older brother. In addition, calendars kept by his own mother contradicted Billy, as did church records.
Is that a credible witness?
Here's another misstatement of grand jury testimony:
--Billy’s mother also told us of a dramatic change in her son’s personality that coincided with the abuse. His friends and their parents also noticed this personality change. Billy’s mother watched as her friendly, happy, sociable son turned into a lonely, sullen boy. He no longer played sports or socialized with his friends. He separated himself, and began to smoke marijuana at age 11. By the time Billy was in high school, he was abusing prescription painkillers, and eventually he graduated to heroin. [page 17].
That's not what Billy's mother told the grand jury on Nov. 12, 2010. She testified that she noticed a dramatic change in her son when he was a 14-year-old freshman in high school, not when he was at St. Jerome's:
A. Yes. At age 14, as he entered high school, freshman year at high school, he wasn't the same child. He was very troubling to us.
Q. Ok. Prior to that, what was his personality?
A. He was basically a very pleasant, active, happy person prior to that and he was defined by some people as either Dennis the Menace or the All-American boy up to that point.
Q. Ok. So he's leaving St. Jerome's and entering into high school?
This is either incredibly sloppy work, or a willful and deceitful twisting of the facts to fit a preconceived story line.
Aside from the outright mistakes in the grand jury report, there are also some highly suspect stories trotted out as facts that came straight from the mouth of Billy Doe.
For example, the grand jury report ran with Billy Doe's story that Father Charles Engelhardt and Father Edward Avery used the code word "sessions" to describe their rapes of Billy Doe. Three times in the grand jury report, the district attorney asserts that two priests used the word "sessions" as a code word for child rape.
But when the district attorney sent detectives out to investigate Billy Doe's story, after a grand jury report had been issued and five defendants had been indicted and arrested, the detectives found a far more likely origin for the word "sessions" -- it was a term used by drug counselors at one of Billy Doe's 23 drug rehabs.
The district attorney's grand jury report on the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is inexcusably sloppy work. That's on top of a shoddy "historic" prosecution that put indictments and arrests ahead of investigation.
District Attorney Seth Williams should come out of hiding and explain to the public why his grand jury report on the Archdiocese of Philadelphia contained so many errors. He also should explain why his prosecution of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia perverted the normal logical order of an investigation to advance an incredible story line told by a non-credible witness.
Is the mob out of money?
Lawyers for two high ranking members of the Philadelphia crime family said this afternoon that they are waiting to hear from their clients and their clients' families before committing to represent them in a racketeering retrial tentatively set for October.
Edwin Jacobs Jr. told Judge Eduardo Robreno that members of mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi's family "are attempting to gather sufficient funds to pay me for the retrial."
Gregory Pagano, the lawyer for top Ligambi associate Anthony Staino, said he is in the same position.
Robreno asked the lawyers to let him know by the end of the month. But with or without them, Robreno said, the retrial will start in October. In the alternative, the judge could appoint lawyers should Ligambi and Staino declare that they are unable to afford representation.
A third defendant in the pending retrial, George Borgesi, is apparently switching lawyers. Christopher Warren entered his appearance for Borgesi at a status hearing this afternoon. Warren would replace court-appointed attorney Paul Hetznecker who had a scheduling problem and would not have been able to retry the case until early in 2014.
Warren, who represented mob capo Joseph Licata at the earlier trial, said Hetznecker's inability to go to trial sooner was the only reason Borgesi opted to change attorneys. Robreno tentatively approved the switch but said Borgesi would have to appear before him and waive any potential conflict issues before Warren could officially take over.
Hetznecker's courtroom performance was hard to beat. Borgesi was found not guilty of 13 of the 14 counts he faced. The jury hung on a racketeering conspiracy charge against him, Ligambi and Staino. That is the principal charge in the retrial. Ligambi also faces gambling charges.
The new trial would begin a year after the first trial which began in mid-October 2012. The trial took 10 weeks and the jury deliberated for 21 more days before delivering a mixed verdict on Feb. 5. Prosecutors said they did not anticipate a retrial taking as long.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Labor said the government case would take five or six weeks to present, slightly less time than the first trial.
There were seven defendants in that case.
The jury delivered not guilty verdicts on 46 charges, hung on 11 others and found four defendants -- Staino, Joseph "Mousie" Massimino, Damion Canalichio and Gary Battaglini -- guilty of a total of five charges.
Jacobs said the verdicts "gutted" the government's case, but the prosecution spun the outcome in the opposite direction, pointing to the convictions and earlier guilty pleas from other defendants. Nine defendants have either been convicted or pleaded guilty. Only Warren's original client, Licata, has been acquitted.
Massimino, Canalichio and Battaglini were all convicted of racketeering conspiracy, the principal charge in the case. They are to be sentenced in May. Staino was convicted of two extortion charges, but his sentencing will be delayed pending the outcome of the retrial or, according to some sources, a possible plea deal involving the still unresolved racketeering charge.
Ligambi will be retried on racketeering conspiracy and gambling charges on which the jury hung. Borgesi will be retried on the one racketeering conspiracy count. Two others defendants who were severed from the first case, Eric Esposito and Robert Ranieri, are also to be tried. Esposito faces gambling charges while Ranieri is charged with loansharking.
As the retrial moves forward, Philadelphia homicide detectives continue to work on a murder case pending against Anthony Nicodemo, a mob soldier arrested in December for the gangland-style shooting of Gino DiPietro in South Philadelphia.
Nicodemo, 41, was indicted earlier this week on first degree murder, conspiracy and weapons charges. The conspiracy count would seem to imply that authorities believe the shooting involved more than one defendant.
"Stayed tuned," said one investigative source.
Federal authorities, meanwhile, continue to monitor that investigation. Nicodemo has been identified in a New Jersey State Police affidavit as a suspect in the unsolved mob murder of John "Johnny Gongs" Casasanto in 2003. That is one of three unsolved murders authorities would like to link to the Ligambi organization.
Contact George Anastasia at George@bigtrial.net.