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

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    By George Anastasia

    Will Kaboni Savage be the first defendant sentenced to death in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania since the federal death sentence was reinstituted in 1988?

    That's the question the anonymously chosen jury that convicted Savage of racketeering and murder two weeks ago will begin wrestling with today. The nine women and three men are expected to start their life or death deliberations later this morning after being instructed by Judge R. Barclay Surrick on the legal issues that apply in the capital murder case.

    The only two options for the panel are death or life without parole. The jury, which heard arguments and testimony for five days during the penalty phase of the trial, must first unanimously decide that the death penalty is warranted. The panel must then vote unanimously to impose it.

    One juror's reticence would automatically result in a life without parole sentence, a point that Savage's defense attorney William Purpura emphasized during his closing arguments yesterday. Purpura asked the panel to end the violence by choosing a life sentence for the convicted drug kingpin.

    Federal prosecutor Steven Mellin, on the other hand, argued that a death sentence was the only way to insure that Savage would not try to reach out from prison to murder witnesses or their families.

    Savage was convicted of 12 counts of murder-in-aid-of-racketeering during the 13-week trial. Eight of the 12 murders were linked to witness intimidation, including the 2004 firebombing of a row house in North Philadelphia in which two women and four children -- family members of a cooperating witness -- were killed.

    Savage ordered the firebombing while in prison awaiting trial on drug trafficking charges. He also ordered the murder of another witness while awaiting trial on a separate homicide case, according to trial testimony.

    Assistant U.S. Attorney John Gallagher, another federal prosecutor in the case, had compared Savage to a "mass murderer" during the penalty phase of the trial. In fact, the 12 murders place Savage in the upper echelon of underworld gangsters in terms of murder convictions.

    Mob boss Nicodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo, for example, was convicted in a federal racketeering case in 1988 that included nine murders and four attempted murders. He was sentenced to 55 years in prison. In 1995, mob boss John Stanfa was sentenced to five consecutive life terms after being convicted of racketeering charges that included five murders.

    Neither Scarfo nor Stanfa faced a potential death sentence, but in recent years several drug kingpins have been tried in capital murder cases in the Eastern District (which includes Philadelphia and its surrounding counties).

    In those cases, however, the juries opted to impose life without parole.

    In 2010, Maurice Phillips,  a major cocaine trafficker who generated millions of dollars in a drug network that stretched from Texas to New York, was convicted of ordering the murder of a woman witness who had begun cooperating with authorities. Phillips was sentenced to life without parole.

    In another capital murder case, three members of the notorious Boyle Street Boys, a Chester drug gang, were convicted in a 2006 case that included four murders. One of the victims was a woman, the mother of two young children, who had made straw gun purchases for the gang but had then begun cooperating.

    All three gang members were sentenced to life.

    In all, according to statistics gathered by the Death Penalty Information Center, a non-profit organization that tracks federal capital cases, there have been 69 defendants sentenced to death in  since 1988. Three have been executed. The other defendants are either still appealing those sentences or have had those sentences overturned on appeal.

    The only federal case in Pennsylvania came from the Middle District where David Paul Hammer was convicted of strangling to death his cellmate in the federal penitentiary at Allenwood. Hammer, a career offender from Oklahoma, serving a sentence of more than 100 years on an assortment of charges. He was sentenced to death, but has won an appeal overturning that sentence. The appeal has not yet been finalized.

    George Anastasia can be contacted at

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    By George Anastasia

    The jury voted for death.

    Thirteen times.

    After deliberating for about eight hours over two days, the anonymously chosen panel in the murder-racketeering trial of North Philadelphia drug kingpin Kaboni Savage announced late this afternoon its decision to sentence Savage, 38, to death by lethal injection.

    The panel chose death again and again, imposing the death sentence once for each of the 12 murder counts in the case and a final time for a count of murder as an act of retaliation against a witness. Six of the murders and the retaliation count were related to the October 2004 firebombing of a home in North Philadelphia in which two women and four children were killed.

    The victims were family members of Eugene Coleman, a Savage associate who had begun cooperating against him. The arson was considered one of the most horrendous examples of witness intimidation in a Philadelphia underworld where witnesses and their families have been described as moving targets by law enforcement and underworld sources.

    Tapes played during the trial included a conversation in which Savage underscored that situation. "No fuckin' witness, no crime," he said.

    Christian Hoey, one of Savage's two court-appointed lawyers, said last night that he was "disappointed" in the jury's decision, but respected the panel's work. He said both the conviction and the death sentences would be appealed, a process that could take years.

    Hoey said his client had no reaction when the jury decision was read in open court. Savage, a former boxer who is already serving a 30-year sentence for drug trafficking, is the first defendant in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to be sentenced to death since the federal death sentence was reinstituted in 1988.

    Judge R. Barclay Surrick is to formally impose the sentence on Monday. The jury will then begin hearing testimony and evidence in the death penalty phase of the trial for a second defendant, convicted underworld hitman Steven Northington, 41. Northington is charged with two murders unrelated to the firebombing.

    Savage, his sister Kidada, 30, Northington and Robert Merritt, 32, were convicted following a 13-week trial. Both Kidada Savage and Merritt could be sentenced to life in prison.

    Lawyers for Savage had argued for a life sentence, the only other option the jury panel had once it had convicted Savage of the capital murder offenses earlier this month.

    Among the aggravating factors the jury weighed in arriving at the death sentence were the heinous and brutal nature of firebombing murders in which Coleman's mother, his step-sister, his 15-month old son, two nephews aged 12 and 15, and a niece, 10, were killed.

    The trial included testimony from Eugene Coleman and from Lamont Lewis who admitted that he had thrown a gasoline can into the Coleman home on North Sixth Street, turning the house into an inferno. Lewis said he was acting on orders from Kaboni Savage that were relayed to him through Kidada Savage.

    The victims, prosecutors said and autopsy reports showed, had been "cooked" in a raging inferno that quickly engulfed the house shortly before 6 a.m. on Oct. 9, 2004. The murders of children and helpless victims were aggravating factors cited by the prosecution in seeking the death sentence.

    Lewis testified that Merritt was with him and helped set the fire. The jury found Merritt not guilty of the six murder-in-aid-of-racketeering charges, but guilty of the racketeering conspiracy that was part of the arson. He could be sentenced to life as a result, but avoided a death sentence hearing.

    In voting for the death sentence, the jurors rejected the impassioned plea of defense attorney William Purpura who in his closing arguments on Wednesday asked the panel to end the violence by choosing a life sentence for the convicted drug kingpin. He also asked the panel not to impose a harsher sentence on his client than the sentence that will be imposed on Lamont Lewis.

    Lewis, under the terms of his plea agreement, faces 40 years to life.

    Federal prosecutor Steven Mellin, on the other hand, argued that a death sentence was the only way to insure that Savage would not try to reach out from prison to murder witnesses or their families.

    Eight of the 12 murders listed in the case were linked to witness intimidation, including the 2004 firebombing. The jury also heard hundreds of secretly recorded conversation in which Savage ranted and raged against cooperators, threatening to kill them and their families.

    There were also devastating tapes in which he laughed and cackled about the firebombing and about killing the children of other witness. (Six of those Savage tapes can be heard on On one he joked that Coleman should have been given "barbecue sauce" to take to the funerals of his family members and that the sauce should have been poured "on those burnt bitches."

    Savage ordered the firebombing while in prison awaiting trial on drug trafficking charges. He also ordered the murder of another witness while awaiting trial on a separate homicide case, according to trial testimony.

    Assistant U.S. Attorney John Gallagher, another federal prosecutor in the case, had compared Savage to a "mass murderer" during the penalty phase of the trial. In fact, the 12 murders place Savage in the upper echelon of underworld gangsters in terms of murder convictions.

    Mob boss Nicodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo, for example, was convicted in a federal racketeering case in 1988 that included nine murders and four attempted murders. He was sentenced to 55 years in prison. In 1995, mob boss John Stanfa was sentenced to five consecutive life terms after being convicted of racketeering charges that included five murders.

    Neither Scarfo nor Stanfa faced a potential death sentence, but in recent years several drug kingpins have been tried in capital murder cases in the Eastern District (which includes Philadelphia and its surrounding counties).

    In those cases, however, the juries opted to impose life without parole.

    In 2010, Maurice Phillips,  a major cocaine trafficker who generated millions of dollars in a drug network that stretched from Texas to New York, was convicted of ordering the murder of a woman witness who had begun cooperating with authorities. Phillips was sentenced to life without parole.

    In another capital murder case, three members of the notorious Boyle Street Boys, a Chester drug gang, were convicted in a 2006 case that included four murders. One of the victims was a woman, the mother of two young children, who had made straw gun purchases for the gang but had then begun cooperating.

    All three gang members were sentenced to life.

    In all, according to statistics gathered by the Death Penalty Information Center, a non-profit organization that tracks federal capital cases, there have been 69 defendants sentenced to death  since 1988. Three have been executed. The other defendants are either still appealing those sentences or have had those sentences overturned on appeal.

    The only other federal death sentence in Pennsylvania came from the Middle District where David Paul Hammer was convicted of strangling to death his cellmate in the federal penitentiary at Allenwood. Hammer, a career offender from Oklahoma, was serving a sentence of more than 100 years on an assortment of charges. He was sentenced to death, but has won an appeal overturning that sentence. The appellate court ruling has not yet been finalized.

    George Anastasia can be contacted at

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    By Ralph Cipriano

    In the last four years, Father Charles Engelhardt has lost 50 pounds.

    But as his boss, Father James J. Greenfield, will tell you, "This is a weight loss program I wouldn't wish on anyone."

    It began in 2009, when a man subsequently identified in a grand jury report as "Billy Doe" accused Father Engelhardt of raping him back when the alleged victim was a 10-year old altar boy.

    Four years ago, the 5-foot-11 priest weighed 220 pounds. He had a double chin and a pot belly. But last week, according to his family, when they visited him in jail, Father Engelhardt looked frail and barely weighed 170. His arms, sticking out of a bright-yellow jumpsuit, were skinnier than his baby sister's.

    The priest wore a bandage from a recent blood test, his family said. A prison doctor told the family he ordered an EKG. The 66-year-old priest suffers from hypertension and acid reflex. When his family visits him in jail, he is often moved to tears.

    It's stress, his family said, the cumulative toll of being unjustly accused of rape by somebody the priest can't even remember.

    Father Engelhardt is an Oblate of St. Francis DeSales. As a member of that religious order, he's taken vows of poverty, chastity and obedience to Father Greenfield, the provincial who leads the Wilmington-Philadelphia province of the Oblates.

    On Jan. 30, a jury convicted Father Engelhardt on four counts of sexual abuse of a child. On June 12th, the priest will be sentenced by Judge Ellen Ceisler. He faces a maximum jail term of 37 years.

    Father Engelhardt's family is braced for the worst. And yet from his cell at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Northeast Philadelphia, the priest remains hopeful.

    "His faith is so strong that he truly believes that the truth will win out," says Elaine, his older sister.

    His family, however, has doubts.

    "I think God's taken a vacation on this one," Elaine said.

    Jennifer, who married one of Father Engelhardt's nephews, tried to explain "Uncle Charlie's" role in his large extended Irish-Catholic family in Northeast Philadelphia.

    "Picture in your mind the most respected person in your family, the one who's the hero in your life, the one that you would look up to for support and advice," she said. Now imagine that hero's been locked up in jail for a terrible crime he didn't commit.

    That's what Father Engelhardt's family is going through. They describe the priest as the spiritual leader of the family.

    Uncle Charlie baptized almost all of his three nieces and four nephews, as well as a dozen great-nieces and nephews. He presided over every family communion, confirmation and graduation; he presided over the weddings of three nieces and three nephews.

    "He was central to our family," Tracey said. "Every one of us went to college and graduated because that's what he did."

    A dozen members of the Engelhardt clan gathered Monday night in a Northeast Philadelphia rowhome to talk about Uncle Charlie, or as they pronounce it, Uncle Chollie. The family has one request; please don't print their last names because they are worried about protecting a dozen grand-nieces and nephews from "the crazies out there who believe he actually did this,"as his sister Elaine put it.

    To somebody who's been calling the victim in this case Billy Doe for two years, it seems like a reasonable request.

    When they stripped Father Engelhardt of the right to say Mass publicly, the priest said Mass at 10:30 a.m. every Sunday at his mother's house for four years. Family members also attended.

    Father Engelhardt's 88-year-old mother, Elaine, who has Parkinson's disease, isn't doing well lately. She used to visit her son in jail every Tuesday.

    "We would sit with Uncle Charlie as long as they would let us," his niece Tracey said. Then on April 16th, the priest's mother fell as she was leaving the prison. She suffered only bruises. A week later, however, she fell again at home and this time she broke her hip. She had a partial hip replacement, and is now bed-ridden. She hasn't seen her son since April 16th.

    The priest calls his mother every day. but she doesn't always recognize the number in time to answer. The family believes the stress of Father Engelhardt's situation has caused the onset of dementia in his mother. Tracey, a nurse, talked about the "sadness in her grandmother's eyes" for the past four years.

    "We think the only thing that keeps her living is she's holding out for the day he's found innocent," Elaine said.

    Father Engelhardt's family wants the world to know who the real Charles Engelhardt is.

    In the past four years, his family has never heard him utter the words, "Why me?"

    They have never heard him say a single negative thing about his accuser.

    They have never heard him raise his voice, or curse.

    "We get frustrated with the fact that he never gets angry like us," said his nephew Kevin.

    "I would love to hear him curse once about it," his sister Elaine said.

    "He feels this is what God's will is for him," Tracey said, of her uncle's life in prison. "That's how he gets through the day."

    When the family goes to see him in jail, Father Engelhardt wants to talk about what's going on in their lives. He wants to know what the twins are up to, and how's Gram doing. Then he'll answer questions about himself and his situation.

    "He's always tries to protect us and he's the one who's suffering," said Kathleen, his younger sister. "He's putting up a front for us. He's a broken man."

    Father Engelhardt's ordeal began on Jan. 30, 2009, when Billy Doe told an archdiocese social worker that the priest had raped him in the sacristy at St. Jerome's Church in Northeast Philadelphia.

    On December 3, 2010, Father Engelhardt testified before a grand jury, voluntarily waiving his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. The priest thought the grand jury proceedings would be a solemn occasion. 

    Instead, he told his family, he noticed several jurors eating hoagies. Another juror was reading the Philadelphia Daily News. The priest wondered if the jurors could hear when he spoke in his usual quiet voice.

    Assistant District Attorney Mariana Sorensen asked Father Engelhardt about the day he was removed from active ministry, hours after Billy Doe made his complaint:

    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 ... 

    The provincial agreed that they didn't see anything credible in that accusation from my record and from what they knew and could see in the accusation. And they asked me to leave Resurrection Parish and move to where I'm presently residing up in Wynnewood ... 

    That is the procedure which is followed especially by the oblates. Any kind of accusation, credible or non-credible, they ask you to leave until things can be thoroughly checked out ...

    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.

    Q. Ok.

    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 ...

    He still hasn't figured it out; neither has his family.

    Father Engelhardt's pre-trial advice to his lawyer, Michael J. McGovern, was, "Mike, you do the best you can do and God will take care of the rest."

    However, the trial, which began on Jan. 14, took a wrong turn right at the beginning. The court crier asked Father Engelhardt to stand so the jury could hear how he would plead to the charges against him. To the shock of the priest's family, and his lawyers, the first charge that the court crier read against Father Engelhardt, rape of a child, was an offense that the priest had not been charged with.

    The court crier made a similar mistake with Bernard Shero, Engelhardt's co-defendant. When Shero stood to plead not guilty, the court crier read an extra count, conspiracy, that Shero hadn't been charged with.

    The family felt the judge should have declared a mistrial right then and there. But Judge Ceisler  did not appear concerned.

    "It was an error," the judge told the lawyers in the case. "He should not have been arraigned on that. It was never listed as a charge against Father Engelhardt."

    McGovern, Engelhardt's lawyer, asked the judge to instruct the jury that the rape charge was never filed against his client.

    "It was an error," the judge repeated. "What will happen, we will get through the trial and then as we go through the trial, and in the end when we discuss what the charges are and the elements, [and] you will have a greater understanding. For now, we will keep moving forward."

    But at the end of the trial, when the judge instructed the jury, once again she read an extra count against Shero, aggravated indecent assault, that the defendant was not charged with. Again, the judge apologized, saying, "Sorry about that."

    When Billy Doe testified on Jan. 15th, he was asked by the prosecutor about Father Engelhardt's demeanor.

    "When I would see him, he was pretty nice," Doe told the jury. "He would come talk to us, ask us how our day was going, tell us a couple jokes; a pretty easy-going guy."

    Right away, the Engelhardt family knew that Billy Doe didn't really know their uncle.

    "I've never heard my uncle crack a joke in the 38 years I've been alive," Tracey said.

    "He's a man of few words," Father Greenfield agreed. "Not a jokester at all."

    On the witness stand moments later, Billy Doe described a black bag that Father Engelhardt was carrying that Doe claimed was stuffed with pornographic magazines:

    Q. You mention his bag. What did his bag look like?

    A. It was like a little black briefcase almost. It was like a black briefcase, not a hard one, a bag though.

    When Billy Doe tells a story, it's usually the details that give him away.

    Remember when he claimed to a member of the bell choir maintenance crew back in fifth grade?

    Father Engelhardt, who has taken a vow of poverty, has carried the same briefcase since the 1970s. It's a gift from his parents, a large, gray heavy, hardback American Tourister briefcase.

    It was the kind of detail that would elude lawyers and jurors. But to the Engelhardt family it was more proof that Billy Doe was making it up as he went along.

    The jury, however, didn't see it that way.

    On Jan. 30, the jury reached no verdict on a count against Father Engelhardt of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a child. But the jury convicted Engelhardt on four remaining counts -- endangering the welfare of a child, corruption of a minor, indecent assault on a person less than 13 years old, and conspiring with another priest, Father Edward V. Avery, to commit sexual assault on Billy Doe.

    The family was stunned; no one could speak. Several women broke down in tears. One of Uncle Charlie's nephews ran down the hall vomiting.

    The count alleging a conspiracy between Engelhardt and Avery was really ludicrous, family members said. The prosecution had alleged that after Father Engelhardt raped Billy Doe, he told Avery about it, and Avery went out and also raped the boy.

    It's an incredible allegation on several levels.

    Avery was merely an "acquaintance," Engelhardt told the grand jury. In their entire lives, Father Greenfield estimated, Fathers Avery and Engelhardt spent maybe a grand total of five minutes talking to each other. "They were two ships passing in the night," Father Greenfield said.

    The prosecution claimed that Doe was the victim of a conspiracy as he was passed from one abuser priest to another. It's an unprecedented claim in the archdiocese.

    During the trial of Msgr. William J. Lynn last year, the prosecution entered as evidence some 250 files from past archdiocese cases of sex abuse, dating back to 1948. Not once during the 13-week trial was there a mention in all  those files of a single incident where a priest passed a victim of sex abuse on to another priest.

    The family believes the entire prosecution case defies common sense. Take the notion of a priest closing four doors to the sacristy after the 6:30 a.m. Sunday Mass so he can take off his clothes and rape a 10-year-old altar boy.

    The doors lead to the only bathroom in the church, as well as the sanctuary. According to Billy Doe's initial accusations, the priest kept those doors locked for five hours while he pounded away at the victim, from 7 a.m. to noon.

    Father Engelhardt's niece asks a logical question.

    "What happened to the 8 o'clock Mass?" she said. "Did they cancel it?"

    How about the 9:30 Mass, and the 11 a.m. Mass as well?

    "There was so much reasonable doubt,"Tracey said. The jury verdict sent the family into a tailspin. "For a whole month, nobody could even speak without crying," Tracey said.

    "I did nothing but sob and cry," his sister Elaine said.

    She thought the verdict was against the Catholic Church. "God himself could have been on that stand and he would have been guilty," said Michael, Elaine's husband, and brother-in-law to Father Engelhardt.

    Before the deputies led him away to prison, Father Engelhardt's last words to his sister Kathleen was, "I'm innocent," and, "Take care of Mom."

    When Father Engelhardt's niece, Lauren, got married in April, two Oblates had to pinch-hit for Father Engelhardt.

    "It was so sad that we had to fill in for their uncle," Father Greenfield said. "There is no reason in the world why he [Engelhardt] shouldn't have been the one doing it. He's a priest sitting in prison and he's not guilty of a crime. That's how I see it."

    As far as Father Greenfield is concerned, Engelhardt and Shero got caught up in "the war on the Roman Catholic priesthood" waged by an "overzealous" prosecution. The two defendants wound up as "collateral damage."

    "In my opinion, there is something not right inside the D.A's office," Father Greenfield said.  "I do not believe my man is guilty of anything."

    As far as Engelhardt is concerned, "I think he's a deeply-centered human being," Greenfield said.
    "He believes that he is innocent and trusts that he will be vindicated. That speaks to his religious spiritual core. He really believes that when you have the truth on your side, the truth will win out. That has been his greatest witness. This is the moment, ironically, where he is shining."

    Kathleen, Father Engelhardt's younger sister, sees her brother as a martyr.

    "He's a martyr for the Catholic Church," Kathleen says. "He's not even an archdiocese priest and he's taking the blame for what the archdiocese [of Philadelphia] has done."

    Father Greenfield agrees, to a point.

    "I think Charlie is suffering for the sins of others," he said. "But it goes beyond the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. We're all flawed. I don't want to just blame the archdiocese. They have their problems but we all do. Everyone in the church, all religious orders."

    But that doesn't mean that the Oblates plan to passively accept Engelhardt's conviction and imprisonment.

    "We cannot just roll over in the face of being falsely accused," Father Greenfield said. "That is wrong. We need to stand up for what's right."

    Members of the Engelhardt family are writing letters to the judge, asking for mercy.

    "I was drafted into the Army in 196t9, served as a combat sergeant in Vietnam," wrote Michael, Father Engelhardt's brother-in-law. "After the Army, I worked 30 years, traveling the world, with a secret clearance for the Department of Defense. I would say I thought I have seen it all, but I have never witnessed a man have his SOUL ripped out of him, which is what happened to Charlie ... I can't imagine if I were in his shoes, being falsely accused by someone you don't even know and then somehow being convicted."

    The Engelhardt family is angry. They're angry that a false accusation made its way to court. They're angry that the district attorney called a press conference on Feb. 11, 2011, and declared that Father Engelhardt and the rest of the Catholic defendants facing upcoming trials were "bad men doing bad things." The Engelhardt family is angry at the media. They're angry that Billy Doe is a free man and that Father Engelhardt is sitting in  jail.

    After Father Engelhardt was indicted, he couldn't drive over the Ben Franklin Bridge to attend his great nephew's baptism. Then, after the trial was over, Father Engelhardt went off to jail. And on Facebook, Billy Doe posted pictures of himself surfing in Florida and vacationing in Puerto Rico.

    But the family still has hope. In a written statement, the Engelhardt clan elaborates by saying they "hope that someone who knows the truth [relatives and friends of Billy Doe who know this is based on a lie] will come forward and tell the truth. Hope that they can no longer live with their guilt and will want to make things right."

    While Father Engelhardt never says a bad word about his accuser, his family members have plenty to say.

    "Here's this lowlife liar, dope-addict drug-dealer who can just accuse someone who has done nothing but good in his life and has done nothing but dedicate himself to God and his family," his sister Elaine said.

    She has a point. How could twelve jurors believe this guy?

    The accuser

    0 0 reporter George Anastasia will be interviewed on WHYY's Radio Times (FM 90.9) from 11 to noon today about the Kaboni Savage trial and the broader topic of the Philadelphia drug underworld, its connections to government and what this case says about the city. has provided extensive coverage of the Savage case and also has had exclusive access to audio tapes used as evidence during the trial. Six different tapes are available on the website as well as more than two dozen stories about the case.

    George Anastasia can be contacted at

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    In this tape, Kaboni Savage is speaking to inmate Dawud Bey about his desire to light a prison guard captain on fire.

    About these tapes:

    In 2004 the FBI secreted a listening device in the prison cell of Kaboni Savage at the Federal Detention Center.

    Savage was awaiting trial on drug trafficking charges and was a suspect in several homicides. The North Philly cocaine kingpin was being held in the prison's Special Housing Unit (SHU) with limited access to other prisoners.

    Dozens of conversations were recorded in which Savage ranted about former associates who were cooperating. Savage said he would kill the cooperators and their families.

    The tapes were originally played at Savage's drug trial in 2005. He was convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison. Many of these tapes have also been played at Savage's ongoing murder-racketeering trial in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia.

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  • 06/08/13--09:19: "An Easy Target"
  • By Ralph Cipriano

    Bernard Shero can be alone in a room with somebody, but he doesn't know who's there until he hears a voice.

    "He can't distinguish faces," his mother Bonnie says. "He's done that all his life. He doesn't know it's them until they start talking."

    "He has to get this close," his father, Bob, says. He's leaning on his wife's shoulder, peering over her at a menu she's holding inside a Bucks County diner. If Bernard was walking into the diner today, Bob says, he would have had to tell him, "Watch out, Bern, there's a step coming."

    Bernard Shero was born with congenital cataracts. Between the ages of six months and seven years, he had 23 eye operations. He's worn glasses since he was 18 months old. He's legally blind in his right eye, and can't drive at night.

    Bernard Shero has spent a lifetime peering at the world through thick lenses, and getting too close to people. That's why, Bonnie Shero is convinced, Billy Doe accused her son of rape.

    "I think he was an easy target because of his handicap," his mother says of her son. After five years of legal drama, Bonnie Shero is worn out.

    "It's been hell, it's been a nightmare," she says. "You wake up in the morning thinking about it. You go to sleep thinking about it. It's on your mind constantly."

    And it's about to get worse. On Wednesday, June 12th, the 49-year-old Shero will be sentenced after being convicted Jan. 30 on five sex abuse charges. He's facing up to 57 years in jail.

    Bonnie Shero says when Bernard was seven years old, she considered sending him to the Overbrook School for the Blind, but decided instead to mainstream him. Her thinking was, "he has to live in a sighted world."

    "Now, I think I made the wrong decision," she says. Her son had a hard time as a kid in public school.

    "Kids were cruel to him," his mother says. "They would take his coat. They would take his glasses. They would put thumbtacks on his seat. Lots of times he wouldn't tell us what was going on in school. I had no idea everything that was going on with him."

    Bernie wanted to be a special ed teacher, to help kids like himself, but he couldn't find a job. He finally got hired as an elementary school teacher at St. Jerome School, in Northeast Philadelphia.

    In 2009, when Billy Doe first made his accusation of sex abuse, Bernard Shero was speechless.

    "He was shocked, he was dumbfounded," says his sister Robin. He had to dig out an old yearbook to remember who Billy Doe was, an 11-year-old kid in his sixth grade homeroom class during the 1999-2000 school year. "He didn't remember him off the top of his head," his sister says.

    "When the charges hit, our world fell apart," his mother says. "Bernard's world fell apart."

    His mom kept telling him, "We know you're innocent. We'll be there for you as long as you need it. We'll always be there for you no matter what."

    On the night of Feb. 10, 2011, Detectives Drew Snyder and "Gibby" Brook drove out to the borough of Bristol to arrest Bernard Shero. They knocked on the door of Shero's second-story apartment, but nobody answered. The detectives heard a loud thump inside, so they called the fire department.

    The fire department arrived at 10:35 p.m. Using a fire department ladder, Detective Brook climbed up on the roof and entered the building through an unlocked window. The detective handcuffed a groggy Bernard Shero and led him downstairs to unlock the door. 

    The cops said Shero had "overdosed' on two sleeping pills he took at 11 a.m. The detectives searched the apartment but could not find any more sleeping pills. They did find a suicide note addressed to "Mom and Dad." An ambulance brought Shero to Lower Bucks Hospital.

    From the hospital, the detectives called Robin Shero, and the family raced to the hospital. Bonnie Shero remembers one of the detectives telling her, I didn't want to arrest your son, I wanted to arrest [Cardinal] Bevilacqua.

    Robin is an EMT. A nurse let her see her brother's charts. "There was nothing in his blood stream," she says, "there was nothing in his system to say he overdosed."

    The family does not believe that Bernard Shero was attempting to kill himself that night; they maintain he took two sleeping pills simply to get some rest.

    The police say Bernard Shero was trying to kill himself. His lawyer, Burton A. Rose, agrees.

    His family still doesn't believe it.

    Five days after the arrest, Bernard's parents moved their son out of his apartment, and in with them.

    "It's a small town," his mother says. "When word got out around, everybody thinks you're guilty until proven innocent. He just couldn't live there any more."

    Bonnie Shero was traumatized when her sensitive, handicapped son became a villain in the local media.

    "Seeing the headlines all that time, seeing his picture in the paper," his mother recalls. "Seeing him accused of doing all those terrible things, that was terrible. I couldn't even put the TV on."

    When the trial started, the family was confident Bernard would be acquitted. The victim told a fantastic story, with a bunch of holes in it.

    Billy Doe gave authorities three different locations for the alleged rape: in the classroom; in a parked car behind an apartment building and a dumpster; in a parked car on a well-known lover's lane in Pennypack Park.

    Billy Doe initially claimed that Shero punched him in the face, wrapped a seatbelt around his neck, and ripped his shirt off. He also claimed that shortly after he was raped, he became violently ill and missed a lot of school. But Billy Doe's report card for that marking period showed zero absences.

    "That's why we were so hopeful during the trial," his mother says. "Nothing made sense. We just thought there was no way that people could not see that."

    The trial was grueling.

    "It was so difficult for me to listen to the testimony against my son," his mother says. "To have him have to sit there and listen to all the lies that he's accused of doing."

    Bernard's sister, Robin, works two EMT jobs at night on 12-hour shifts, for a total of 72 hours a week. Yet every day of the trial, she was there in the courtroom, after only a few hours of sleep.

    Her brother cried a lot during the trial. Some jurors noticed.

    When Billy Doe testified, "He seemed so rehearsed," Bonnie Shero says. "I think he is still a drug addict and he'll always be a drug addict. He is just a lying drug addict."

    "He would never make eye contact with anybody," Robin says.

    On the witness stand, the prosecutor asked Billy Doe about Shero's demeanor.

    "Very inappropriate in how he interacted with students," Billy Doe testified. "He would always come up to students and put his arm around them, hold them close. When he would talk to them, he would almost whisper and would be whispering in their ear, always touchy-feely."

    According to Billy Doe's testimony, Shero drove him to Pennypack Park. The boy was riding in the front seat. Shero parked the car and exposed himself in the front seat, before ordering the boy to get in the back seat. Billy Doe's testimony is that he got out of the front door, opened the back door of the car and obediently got in the back seat, where the rape took place.

    According to Billy Doe's own cockamamie story, he's a double rape victim about to become a triple rape victim. The predator stalking him is a slow-moving partially blind man. Billy is a nimble, lightweight, 11-year-old sixth-grader. It's broad daylight in a popular park. Billy can run circles around Shero. Why doesn't he make a break for it?

    That's what Bernard Shero's lawyer, Burton A. Rose, wanted to know on cross-examination:

    Q. You made no attempt to flee?

    A. No.

    Q. You said that you had already been assaulted twice by Father Avery the previous year and you had been assaulted once by Father Engelhardt, correct?

    A. Yes.

    Q. This man, this grown adult has exposed himself in the front seat in front of you. You can see what the heck is about to happen. You are 11 years old. You already told the priest [Father Engelhardt] I will kill you if you come near me and you let this situation continue? You don't bolt right then and there?

    A. No.

    Q. Why not?

    A. Because I was scared.

    Rose attacked the other inconsistencies in Billy Doe's story:

    Q. You told [archdiocese social worker] Louise Hagner on January 30, 2009 that the Defendant ripped your shirt. Do you remember telling her that?

    A. No.

    Q. Did he rip your shirt?

    A. No ...

    Q. You told Louise Hagner that after the assault happened, you had to go home on your own and throw the shirt in the sewer. Do you remember saying that?

    A. Like I said before, I do not remember what I said to Louise Hagner.

    Q. Did you throw a ripped shirt into the sewer?

    A. No ... 

    Q. You told Louise Hagner that Shero punched you in the face ... Did that happen?

    A. No.

    Q. You told Louise Hagner that when you were in the back seat, Shero took the seat belt and wrapped it around your neck. Mr. [Doe] did you tell her that?

    A. Like I said, I do not remember my conversation with Louise Hagner.

    Q. Did that happen?

    A. No.

    When the jury announced it had reached a partial verdict on nine of ten charges, the Shero family tried to comfort Bernard. "We just kept saying to him, it's alright. They're gonna see the truth, and you're gonna be OK."

    Her son wasn't so sure. "I never win," he told his mother.

    The judge sent the jury back to see if they could reach a verdict on the final charge.

    The jury came back within the hour. Bernard Shero was right; it wasn't OK. The jury convicted Shero on five counts: rape of a child, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a child, endangering the welfare of a child, corruption of a minor, and indecent assault.

    "My heart dropped," his mother remembers. "We sat in a pew and just cried and cried."

    She's crying again at the diner. Bonnie Shero dabs her eyes with a tissue while her husband pats her arm. Bob and Robin Shero are crying, too.

    When she can speak again, Robin says, "It was like somebody punched you in the stomach."

    "And then," his mother says, "they took him away."

    Bonnie Shero's last memory of her son that day was a conversation they had through a glass partition.

    She was crying and telling her son she was sorry.

    And her son said, "I told you Mom, I never win."

    Robin Shero found it hard to keep herself composed in the courtroom, when the verdicts were read. She hopes she doesn't run into Billy Doe some night when she's out on an OD call.

    "I'd like to call him a scumbag and punch him in the face," she says.

    Bernard Shero spends his days in a 5-foot by 9-foot prison cell at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Northeast Philadelphia. The cell is furnished with a couple of bunk beds, a commode, a chair and a table.

    His cellmate for the past four months has been his co-defendant, Father Charles Engelhardt. Both men are in protective custody. Once a week, one of Father Engelhardt's priest friends shows up to say Mass and serve Communion.

    Shero sports a buzz cut from the prison barber. Twice a week, he is handed a disposable razor, so he can shave. At 5-foot-8 and 160 pounds, Shero is 30 pounds lighter than he was four years ago, when his legal troubles began.

    "He has his good days and bad days," Robin says.

    "We try to be optimistic with him," his mother says. "We do everything we can. He is optimistic that he will be coming home on June 12th, and be granted a new trial."

    His mother doesn't share his optimism.

    "I do not have faith in the justice system anymore," she says.

    And even if some miracle occurs on June 12th, or he wins an appeal, Bonnie Shero still sees a bleak future ahead for her son.

    "Bernard's life is gone," she says. "He'll never be able to get his job back. He won't be a teacher any more. He won't be able to get a job anywhere. Nobody's gonna hire him."

    Bernard Shero has spent every dollar he had on his legal defense. His family plans to sell off his last remaining possession, a 1996 Suburu, to raise money for his appeal.

    "Bernard has lost everything and he'll never be able to gain it back," his mother says.

    Meanwhile, Billy Doe is a free man looking forward to a big pay day once his civil suit against the Archdiocese of Philadelphia gets settled. A civil suit that, according to Billy Doe's sworn trial testimony, was filed by a lawyer that the D.A.'s office hooked him up with.

    With Seth Williams as our district attorney, this is what passes for justice in Philadelphia. Bernard Shero  will probably spend the rest of his life in jail. And Billy Doe will probably be a multi-millionaire.

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    By Ralph Cipriano

    Assistant District Attorney Evangelia Manos

    Judge Ellen Ceisler today gave onetime Catholic school teacher Bernard Shero a jail sentence of 8 to 16 years for raping a former altar boy dubbed "Billy Doe." The judge threw out one charge against Father Charles Engelhardt, a bogus conspiracy rap, as unproven, but still hit the priest with 6 to 12 years in jail for sexually abusing the former altar boy.

    The judged handed out the sentences even though a mandatory Commonwealth psychological exam had determined that neither defendant was a sexually violent predator. The judge tacked on five years of probation to each defendant's jail sentence.

    It was a bizarre day in court. The proceedings featured defendant Shero rising in an unsuccessful attempt to debate Assistant District Attorney Enangelia Manos. Billy Doe didn't show, but his brother finally did, via a letter to the judge read aloud by the prosecutor. [During the trial, the jury had sent a note to the judge inquiring about the whereabouts of Billy's older brother].

    But the low light of the day came when prosecutor Manos began testifying about a decades-old unproven allegation against Father Engelhardt that never made it before the jury, and was not in evidence in the case. That didn't deter prosecutor Manos from using the sentencing hearing to charge Father Engelhardt with a new crime. The prosecutor shouted out what she claimed the priest had allegedly said decades ago to a male relative, namely, "I want to fuck you up the ass!"

    Classy. No wonder the proceedings left several female relatives of both defendants sobbing in court. That came to the attention the court crier, who ordered the sobbing relatives to leave, thereby calling even more attention to the situation.

    The sobbing relatives weren't the only spectators to leave the courtroom in disgust. One veteran lawyer left muttering he didn't know how the prosecutor could sleep at night. Father James J. Greenfield, head of the religious order that employs Father Engelhardt, described the proceedings as "a punch in the gut."

    D.A. Manos appeared to be aiming even lower. But to District Attorney Seth Williams, this was justice.

    "This prison sentence sends a clear message to sexual assault victims in Philadelphia," Williams said in a prepared statement. "If you come forward, you will be heard. I would also like to compliment the jury for its hard work in carefully sifting through the evidence and coming up with a just verdict."

    Judge Ellen Ceisler
    In order to get up to the 9th floor of the Criminal Justice Center, where Judge Ceisler was holding court, spectators had their choice of riding in suffocating, overcrowded elevators that left people fanning themselves. Or hiking up nine flights of stairwells past prominent no-smoking signs, clouds of nicotine, and smokers puffing away with impunity.

    Courtroom 905 was packed. Sitting prominently in the front row were the parents of the victim, and their lawyer for Billy Doe's civil suit against the archdiocese. All three were wearing green ribbons in support of abuse victims. Billy Doe was conspicuous by his absence.

    Burton A. Rose was the first lawyer to address Judge Ceisler. Rose, who represented Shero, and Michael J. McGovern, who represented Engelhardt, had notified the judge in advance that they were going to make oral motions for extraordinary relief.

    Rose told the judge the verdict was not justified by the weight of the evidence. He cited an abundance of reasonable doubt in the case, and said the guilty verdicts constituted a "serious miscarriage of justice."

    The victim's story "makes no sense," Rose lamented. Billy Doe told conflicting stories and there were no corroborating witnesses or evidence, Rose said.

    The judge quickly notified Rose that his plea was falling on deaf ears.

    "I don't want to relive the whole trial," she said.

    Rose continued talking about the unreliable testimony of Billy Doe, and his 23 drug rehabs in the past 10 years.

    "The jury for whatever reason ignored evidence of reasonable doubt," Rose said.

    The defense lawyer brought up Father Ed Avery, and the guilty plea that the former priest testified during the trial was bogus. This case should be retried, Rose concluded.

    Next it was McGovern's turn. He talked about the discrepancies between Billy Doe's various accounts of the rape by Father Engelhardt. How Billy Doe first told an archdiocese social worker that Father Engelhardt anally raped him for four or five hours in the sacristy at St. Jerome's Church.

    And then how Billy Doe, in subsequent versions of his story, kept changing the details. It wasn't anal sex, it was oral sex,  then it was mutual masturbation. It wasn't one incident, it was four incidents. The discrepancies in Billy Doe's various versions of the alleged assault should "shock the conscience," McGovern told the judge.

    The judge clearly wasn't buying it. But she did say that one of the charges against Father Engelhardt, that he conspired with Father Avery to rape Billy Doe, didn't appear to have any evidence behind it.

    Manos got up to dispute that. "They worked together, they lived together," she said of the two priests who lived at St. Jerome's rectory. Manos brought up the code word "sessions," saying that only the two priests used that word to describe sex with Billy Doe.

    It didn't matter to the prosecutor that the "sessions" story line was suspect from day one. Or that the district attorney's own detectives found a far more likely origin for the word sessions, a word that both priests claimed they never used.

    The use of the code word sessions was direct proof of a conspiracy, Manos argued. The defendants had a fair trial, they got to cross-examine the victim, and they lost, Manos said.

    "They just don't like the verdict."

    It was the judge's turn to rule.

    The judge said the jury took their job "extremely seriously" and "they believed the victim." There were discrepancies in the victim's stories, the judge agreed, but "that alone does not require reasonable doubt." Especially, she said, because the victim's initial account to the archdiocese social worker came when Billy Doe was "ambushed and under the influence of heroin."

    The looks on the faces of Shero and Engelhardt's family members spoke of stunned disbelief.

    The discrepancies in Billy Doe's accounts, the judge continued, "does not shock my conscience."

    But regarding the conspiracy charge, the judge ruled that the jury had made an "error of law" by finding Father Engelhardt guilty of conspiring with Father Avery. There was no evidence to back the conspiracy charge, the judge said.

    So the judge announced she was dropping the conspiracy charge as unproven. That gave the Engelhardt camp some false hope. But then the judge said she would not grant the defense motion calling for a new trial.

    The 66-year-old Engelhardt was left with three charges against him; endangering the welfare of a child, indecent assault against a minor, and corrupting the morals of a minor. Before the judge dropped the conspiracy charge, the priest was looking at a minimum of 6 to 12 years.

    The 50-year-old Shero had five charges against him, including rape of a child, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a child, endangering the welfare of a child, corruption of a minor, and indecent assault.  He was facing a minimum of 5 to 10 years.

    Manos stood to read two victim impact statements. The first was from Billy Doe, who asked the judge to impose maximum sentences against these "these horrendous men.

    Billy Doe claimed that after he was raped, for 14 years, he "tried to numb the pain" with drugs. 

    "It never seemed to go away," he wrote. Then, he told the judge, he made the choice to publicly confront his assailants, and come clean to his parents about the reason for his drug addiction.

    "It finally feels good to make my family proud of me,"Billy Doe wrote.

    The relatives of the defendants looked like they were ready to vomit.

    The next letter Manos read was from Billy's older brother.

    The brother had given a statement to police, disputing many of the facts that Billy had claimed in his account of being raped by the two priests. During trial, the defense had implied they were going to call the older brother, a lawyer, to impeach Billy Doe. But the prosecution told the judge that the witness had not been properly served with a subpoena, and the judge agreed.

    In his letter to the judge, Billy's older brother said that he never realized that the reason for his brother's bad behavior and drug addiction was that he had been raped as a youth by three predators.

    "No one knew the root cause of his suffering," the brother wrote to the judge. The brother talked about how he had a "tenuous and grief-filled relationship for eight years" with Billy because of the drugs. But since Billy Doe came forward to accuse the defendants, the brother wrote, "I've seen a brand new individual."

    Billy has a fiancee, and he's "working a steady job," the brother wrote. He told the judge how happy he was "to see my brother begin to flourish as a human being."

    It was time for Manos to sum up the prosecution case for maximum sentences.

    Manos accused the two defendants of "masquerading" as men of God. "They fooled everyone," she said. While Father Engelhardt was saying Mass and pretending to be a godly person, "he was taking a little innocent boy and ruining him," Manos said.

    Shero, she said, was always complaining about his eye defects, "always playing the victim." Meanwhile, he was secretly fondling and violating Billy Doe, the prosecutor said. "How can these acts ever be justified?"

    The two defendants were always "hiding the rotten evil inside," she said. "Their crimes are horrible." She talked about Shero grooming Billy, evidence that was in short supply during the trial, except when the prosecutor was making his closing statement.

    Manos then brought up Brian Lyman, a cousin of Engelhardt's who was a character witness in the case.  The judge turned down a prosecution request to have Lyman testify about a supposed incident where the priest allegedly attempted to have sex with him.

    Although the judge had not allowed the cousin's allegation to be made in front of the jury, Manos began testifying about all the alleged facts of the allegation like it had been presented as evidence. Perhaps she felt she had to refute Engelhardt's clean record, and psych report, so that's why she made a big deal out of the Lyman allegation.

    Defense attorney McGovern got angry. The incident stemmed from 1983, McGovern said, and Lyman came forward decades later.

    "This is so desperate," McGovern told the judge. "Every family has a nut."

    But Judge Ceisler let Manos continue with her oratory.

    That's when the prosecutor yelled, "I want to fuck you up the ass."

    After that outburst, Manos talked about Billy Doe's decision to come forward.

    "[Billy Doe] was forced to testify," she said. "He was forced to look evil in the face."

    Manos asked for the maximum possible sentence.

    Father James J. Greenfield is the provincial who leads the Wilmington-Philadelphia province of the Oblates of St. Francis De Sales, of which Engelhardt is a member.

    As head of the province, Greenfield said, he has settled some 39 cases of past abuse.

    "I've seen up close" the toll of sex abuse, plus "subsequent cover-ups," the priest told the judge. But this wasn't one of them.

    Greenfield said he's known Father Engelhardt since 1979. "He is a generous and loving priest," he said. "I believe that he is innocent."

    Regarding Billy Doe, "the jury believed him," Greenfield said. "I don't."

    Father Greenfield tried to talk Judge Ceisler into giving Father Engelhardt probation. The priest could work in an oblates' facility in Maryland that treats "infirm, aged and demented" priests, Greenfield said.

    It was the defendants' turn to address the judge.

    Father Engelhardt stood and said that he had served as a priest for "close to 40 years" when he was falsely accused in 2009 by Billy Doe. The priest said he couldn't even remember who Billy Doe was when the accusation was made.

    "I have no recollection" of the victim, he told the judge.

    The priest talked about how he had taught hundreds of students every year at several high schools, and how he had served as a "moderator" or a link between Catholic school coaches and student athletes on soccer, baseball, basketball and wrestling teams.

    "I'm very proud of my life's work," he said, holding back tears. "I have accepted this injustice," he said, believing that eventually "it would be righted."

    There's a lot of pain and suffering in the world, the priest said, but he still holds on to his faith. And he still believes that pain and suffering "was not created by our God."

    The priest, who looked fragile and haggard, sat down without ever raising his voice. McGovern asked for a cup of water for Father Engelhardt, who gulped it with a trembling hand.

    The priest, McGovern said, did not pose a threat to the community. Father Engelhardt had already served four and a half months in jail since his conviction on Jan. 30.

    "This is a man who should not spend another day in prison,"McGovern concluded.

    When Bernard Shero stood to address the judge, he was clearly incensed at the way he had been characterized by prosecutor Manos.

    "You wouldn't have been able to go through what I've gone through," he told the prosecutor. "That's really not fair," he said of the prosecutor's remarks that he was always hiding behind his handicap.

    He accused her of "twisting the facts," and challenged her to respond.

    "Go ahead," he told the prosecutor. "I know you want to say something."

    The judge told Shero he was out of line.

    "I'm frustrated," the defendant responded.

    Shero reiterated his innocence. There was "absolutely no way I could do that," he said of the crimes he was convicted of.

    Shero said before trial, he was offered several plea bargains to lesser charges, but "I couldn't do that," he said. He couldn't plead guilty to something he didn't do.

    He then attempted to answer a question he's been wrestling with since 2009, when he was first accused by Billy Doe.

    "Why me?" he said. "I'm a target," because of his bad vision.

    The judge interrupted Shero, asking if he had a driver's license.

    He said he did.

    Then the judge read her sentences.

    The courtroom erupted in tears. McGovern embraced Father Engelhardt one more time before the deputies took him away.

    The families of the defendants were left with grief and anger.

    Engelhardt's family was particularly puzzled by the judge's mixed decision on "Uncle Charlie."

    "Judge Ceisler just showed her lack of intelligence and common sense by stating she believed [Billy Doe] said Tracey Boyle, Father Engelhardt's niece.

    "Ultimately, she [the judge] proved she is a puppet for the D.A.," Boyle said. "First she stated she agreed with the jury's decision, yet disagreed moments later with the conspiracy charge given by the jury! So after removing the conspiracy charge, she went above the guidelines for her sentence. Unbelievable!"

    Outside, on the steps of the CJC, Assistant District Attorney Manos was talking about how courageous Billy Doe had been when he testified against the defendants.

    This reporter asked Manos if Billy Doe was telling the truth when he told the jury that it was the district attorney's office that hooked him up with his civil attorney, so he could sue the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for damages. The question was, was somebody in the district attorney's office getting a referral fee?

    A smiling Manos gave a long rambling speech about the sanctity of the jury system, and how a jury of 12 men and women had believed Billy Doe and rendered a just verdict. A long rambling answer that had nothing to do with the question.

    Tasha Jamerson, a spokesman for the district attorney's office, then announced she had no intention of replaying the trial, and that the time for taking questions from reporters was over.

    As she walked away, I asked Jamerson a question that the district attorney has refused to answer for months, namely whether any prosecutor had a financial interest in the criminal convictions of Engelhardt and Shero.

    "Absolutely not," she said.

    0 0

    By George Anastasia

    Mobsters Joseph "Mousie" Massimino and Damion Canalichio have to wait at least another month before finding out their fate, but the convicted wiseguys are going to go down swinging.

    Lawyers for both Philadelphia crime figures have filed motions challenging pre-sentence reports that suggest each should be sentenced to from 17 to 21 years in prison for their February convictions on racketeering conspiracy charges. Their lawyers argue the guidelines should be in the four- to six-year range.

    Their sentencings, postponed for a second time, are now scheduled for July.

    Two other defendants in that case, mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi and his nephew George Borgesi, who are to be retried on those same conspiracy charges -- the jury hung on those counts against Ligambi and Borgesi -- are also in pitched legal battles that could set the tone for their retrial in October.

    Ligambi's lawyer wants to insure that the criminal charges for which the jury found Uncle Joe not guilty in February can't be used to support the conspiracy charge central to the retrial that is to begin Oct. 15. Borgesi's lawyer, meanwhile, is trying to have the conspiracy count -- the only remaining charge against his client -- thrown out, arguing that since Borgesi was acquitted of 13 specific criminal charges in the first trial, there is nothing left to support the conspiracy count.
    Georgie Borgesi and Damion Canalichio

    Prosecutors this week asked for a second extension of the deadline to file a response. They now have until June 17 to reply.

    In arguing that the case against Borgesi, 50, should be dropped, Christopher Warren wrote that the racketeering conspiracy charge is based on the same criminal allegations detailed in the 13 counts for which Borgesi was found not guilty.

    To convict Borgesi in the pending trial,. Warren argued, the government would have to prove that "he conspired or commit the same substantive racketeering offenses that the jury had already decided he did not conspire to commit."

    Both Warren and Ligambi's attorney, Edwin Jacobs Jr., cite the legal argument known as collateral estoppel and a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on that issue that, according to Jacobs, "protects a defendant who has been acquitted from having to run the gauntlet a second time."

    Jacobs argued that the racketeering conspiracy charge against Ligambi, 73, cannot be presented to the jury in the retrial based on any of the extortion or gambling charges for which the jury found him not guilty. In Ligambi's case, the jury was hung -- or was undecided -- on the racketeering conspiracy charge, on two counts tied to the operations of an illegal video poker machine business and on one count of witness tampering. He was found not guilty of extortion, bookmaking and fraud charges.

    The counts on which the jury hung are the only crimes that the prosecution should be permitted to present in support of the conspiracy charge, wrote Jacobs, who once again cited the overall jury verdict as a vindication for the defense, even though several defendants are facing serious jail time.   

    In his analysis, Jacobs wrote:

    "After an almost four-month trial, including 21 days of deliberation, the jury rejected more than ninety-percent of the allegations constituting the `pattern of racketeering' alleged by the government. Of the 61counts alleged in the government’s Third Superseding Indictment, only five resulted in convictions. Of the remaining counts, 45 resulted in acquittals and 11resulted in a hung jury. The jury failed to convict (Ligambi) on any of the nine counts for which he was charged, acquitting him of five counts and failing to reach a decision on the remaining four counts."

    Borgesi's numbers are even more lopsided. As Warren noted, he was acquitted of 13 counts and the jury hung only on the racketeering conspiracy.

    What's more, Warren argued, the government's case against Borgesi was built primarily around the testimony of mob associate Louis "Bent Finger Lou" Monacello who testified that he ran a gambling and loansharking operation for Borgesi after Borgesi was convicted and jailed in an unrelated racketeering case in 2001.

    The prosecution contends that Borgesi primarily conspired from behind bars. He has been in jail since March 2000. His scheduled release on a 14-year prison sentence was delayed when he was indicted along with Ligambi and the others in the current case in May 2011.

    Whether Monacello, 44, is back on the stand at the retrial is an open question that continues to circulate in both law enforcement and underworld circles. Indicted with Ligambi, Borgesi and the others, the brash talking wannabe wiseguy left South Philadelphia after becoming a cooperating witness and pleading guilty to the same racketeering conspiracy charge that Ligambi and Borgesi are now fighting.

    From the witness stand, his animosity toward both men was palpable. He never missed an opportunity to chide or belittle either defendant and claimed that he was cooperating because he believed Ligambi planned to have him killed and Borgesi, once he had returned from prison, would have carried out the hit.

    He also alleged that Borgesi once boasted that he had been involved in 11 gangland murders.

    "I would have gone out one night and never come back," Moncello told the jury.

    The defense, both during the trial and in post-trial motions, has argued that Monacello's testimony was unbelievable and, more important, was rejected by the jury.

    Warren, in his motion, noted that Monacello's role in the bookmaking and loansharking operation was never in dispute. Monacello admitted it. But, the lawyer said, the jury's verdict clearly indicated that it did not believe his testimony linking Borgesi to those crimes. 

    The only conclusion that could be drawn from the jury's verdict, Warren argued, "is that no such conspiracy or agreement between Mr. Borgesi and Monacello to commit these offenses existed and that Monacello was acting on his own."

    Just what evidence the government intends to offer to support the conspiracy charges should be part of the prosecution's motion due next week.

    The sentencings of Massimino, Canalichio, Anthony Staino and Gary Battaglini, meanwhile, have been rescheduled for July. Massimino, the reputed underboss, goes first. His lawyer, Joseph Santaguida, filed a motion earlier this month challenging the sentencing guideline range and the argument that Massimino is a "career offender," a designation that enhances his guidelines. 
    As he had during the trial, Santaguida called the government's case "a cinematic fiction" built on the  the frustration of law enforcement for its failure to develop a more significant racketeering indictment despite a 10-year investigation.

    Santaguida said the indictment was "nothing more than a glorified gambling case" and that the government was "forced to blow these acts out of proportion because they wasted millions of tax dollars and resources" in the decade-long probe.

    Canalichio's lawyer, Margaret Grasso, offered many of the same arguments in contesting the high guideline range that her client faces. A twice-convicted drug dealer, Canalichio was tied to a low-level bookmaking operation, she argued, and at best played a minor role in the operation,

    Both lawyers cited the lack of specificity in the jury's verdict to argue against a government interpretation that the two defendants were major mob operatives and part of a broad conspiracy.

    Massimino, 62, is scheduled to be sentenced on July 11. Battaglini, 52, will be sentenced on July 12; Canalichio, 43, on July 16, and Staino, 55, on July 17. In the latest development in the case, Robert Ranieri, 37, entered a guilty plea today to an extortion charge and avoided trial. He is to be sentenced in September.

    Ranieri and Eric Espositio, charged with bookmaking, were severed from the original trial. Esposito is now scheduled to be tried with Ligambi and Borgesi in October, but several sources say he is likely to enter a plea.

    While defense attorneys continue to tout the case as overblown -- Jacobs has referred to it as "racketeering lite" -- prosecutors point to the results. Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Labor noted at the end of the trial in February that most of the defendants in the case had either pleaded guilty or been convicted.

    Of the 14 original defendants, six have pleaded guilty and four were found guilty at trial. Only Joseph "Scoops" Licata, 71, was found not guilty and is free. So while defense attorneys point to a jury verdict that they say "gutted" the prosecution's case, most of the defendants are in jail.

    And in the cases of Massimino and Canalichio, they could be there for a very long time. 

    George Anastasia can be contacted at

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    By Ralph Cipriano

    Former state Senator Vincent J. Fumo sued the federal government today, alleging that the U.S. Attorney's office colluded with the IRS to seek revenge on him.

    In the lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court's Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Fumo's lawyer, Mark E. Cedrone, charged that the IRS had no "plausible, legitimate justification supporting its decision to employ the draconian and infrequently used jeopardy assessment process" against Fumo.

    On March 21, the IRS formally notifying Fumo in prison that he was being hit with the extremely rare "notice of jeopardy assessment and levy," which, including tax, interest and penalties, amounted to a bill for a total of $2.9 million.

    Cedrone has previously termed the jeopardy assessment "a draconian infrequently-used weapon of mass destruction" employed by the IRS in only a fraction of cases. The jeopardy assessment is not just a bill. The IRS also levied fines on various financial institutions, freezing $2.7 million in assets belonging to Fumo, according to the suit.

    In an interview, Cedrone said Fumo had no choice but to sue.

    "All his assets are frozen," Cedrone said "Assuming he is ordered to pay more restitution, he won't be able to do it."

    "What the jeopardy assessment does is allow the IRS to act as though he already owes money to it, when it hasn't been determined yet that he owes any," Cedrone said. "It allows the IRS to collect money from him before the normal process of determining whether someone owes money has been exhausted."

    The feds say Fumo owes them nearly $3 million; Cedrone says Fumo owes the IRS zip.

    That issue hasn't be adjudicated, but the IRS is proceeding as though Fumo has already been found guilty, Cedrone said. That's why he's suing.

    "All his assets are frozen," Cedrone said. "He can't sell a piece of property. He's lost significant control over his finances."

    Fumo, according to the suit, "believes [the U.S. government] has singled him out in retaliation for exercising his constitutional right to proceed to trial." 

    Fumo was convicted on March 26, 2009 of 137 counts of fraud, conspiracy and obstruction of justice. He is currently serving a 61-month sentence at the federal prison in Ashland, Kentucky, where he was served with the IRS jeopardy assessment. 

    According to the lawsuit filed by Cedrone, Fumo believes that the feds are "dissatisfied with the term of imprisonment imposed by the district court in the criminal case," because prosecutors sought to put Fumo away for 20 years.

    Despite the feds' request for a longer sentence, on Nov. 10, 2011, U.S. District Court Judge Ronald L. Buckwalter re-sentenced Fumo to 61 months in prison. Ironically, the lawsuit filed by Cedrone was assigned to Judge Buckwalter.

    "Specifically, [Fumo] believes the Department of Justice officials who prosecuted [Fumo] may have inappropriately influenced, or at least attempted to influence, the IRS," the lawsuit says. Fumo is "aware that IRS and DOJ [Department of Justice] officials have communicated by e-mail in relation to the IRS's decision to invoke the jeopardy assessment process," the lawsuit alleges.

    Fumo is "in possession of some, but not all, e-mails between IRS and DOJ officials," the lawsuit says. Fumo "belief that the IRS has been inappropriately influenced is also supported by the absence of any legitimate factual basis underlying the jeopardy assessments."

    The lawsuit does not quote any of the alleged e-mails between the Department of Justice, and the IRS. Fumo has long engaged in an acrimonious relationship with the prosecutors who put him away, Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Zauzmer, and Assistant U.S. Attorney John Pease.

    It would be quite a reversal if Fumo is successful in his attempt to use federal e-mails as evidence of collusion between the prosecutors and the IRS. Fumo's e-mails were famously used against him in his fraud case. The feds also spied on Fumo in prison, using his angry e-mails as evidence against him when they sought a longer jail sentence.

    Before he filed the lawsuit in federal court today, Fumo exhausted his appeals to the IRS over the jeopardy assessment. Fumo is scheduled to be released this August.

    According to the lawsuit, the IRS issued notices of levy on six financial institutions, freezing $2.7 million of Fumo's assets, including a $2.5 million tax-deferred retirement account held at United Savings Bank in Philadelphia.

    After the IRS froze his assets, Fumo sought a "collection due process hearing," but was turned down by the IRS.

    According to the lawsuit, a jeopardy assessment is only to be used if the IRS feels that the taxpayer is planning "quickly to depart from the United States or to conceal himself or herself." A jeopardy assessment may also be used if the taxpayer is attempting to place property "beyond the reach of the Government" by removing it from the U.S., concealing it, or dissipating it, or transferring it to other persons, the lawsuit says. The only other condition for levying a jeopardy assessment according to U.S. Treasury regulations is when the taxpayer's "solvency is or appears to be imperiled," the suit states.

    "None of the three conditions precedent to a jeopardy assessment or jeopardy levy is present here," the suit says. Fumo remains in prison, and has no plans to leave the country. In the lawsuit, Cedrone describes the jeopardy assessments as "illegal and invalid."

    In addition, the suit attaches as an exhibit an affidavit from Michael F. Rogers, a Blue Bell tax lawyer who represented Fumo in recent property transfers that attracted the attention of the feds. In the affidavit, "Mr. Rogers confirms that [Fumo] transferred the real estate to 'take advantage of the expiring approximately $5 million exemption' " for existing estate tax credits.

    "Clearly, [Fumo] did not transfer any real estate as a part of any plan to design to place property beyond the reach of the government," the lawsuit says.

    In its jeopardy assessment, the IRS listed eight properties that Fumo had sold or transferred between June 12, 2008 and April 6, 2012, including:

    -- 1831 Passyunk Ave., Philadelphia, with a market value of $235,000, sold on June 12, 2008.

    -- 1936-38-40 S. 13th St., Philadelphia, with a market value of $130,000, transferred on Dec. 16, 2008 for $1.

    -- 6601 Mommouth Ave., Ventnor, N.J., valued at $525,000, transferred on Oct. 12, 2011 for $10.

    -- 108 Kenyon Ave., Margate, N.J., valued at $1.1 million, transferred on Oct. 12, 2011 for $10.

    -- 30 Fiesta Way, Ft. Lauderdale, Fl., no market value noted, transferred on Oct. 18, 2011 for $10.

    -- 2220 Green St., Fumo's mansion in the Art Museum section of Philadelphia, valued at $3 million, transferred on Feb. 2, 2012 for $10.

    -- 30 Fiesta Way, Fl., valued at $2.3 million, sold on April 6, 2012.

    The idea that the IRS is in jeopardy of not collecting any money it might be due is "nonsense," Cedrone said at the time of the assessment. "The IRS could still attach a lien to the properties. His [Fumo's] name continues to be on all of the properties except one."

    The property transfers took place "at a time when there was a lot of talk about the current estate tax exclusions expiring as a matter of law. A lot of people were transferring assets from their own names to their heirs jointly at that time," Cedrone said.

    In the jeopardy assessment, the IRS also dealt with Fumo's recent transfers of cash.

    "The Service received information that within a little over one month after sentencing, on or about the end of August 2009 through the end of January 2010, Fumo made a series of large dollar transfers into his son, Vincent E. Fumo II's bank account for no known purpose," the IRS wrote. "It was reported that Fumo and son were engaging in a suspicious movement of funds between banks in order to hide their original source in a manner that is indicative of layering. The total amount involved was $2,793,500. In addition, the son subsequently transferred some of this money (approximately $1,427,500) to another bank, solely in the son's name."

    "That's just malarkey," Cedrone told in an interview in April. While Fumo was in prison, Cedrone said, his son was acting as his conduit, to see that his father's bills were paid. Of the money originally transferred through Fumo's son, Cedrone said, nearly $2 million was paid to the government, to satisfy fines and restitution.

    This morning, Cedrone had even more to say about that topic.

    "The senator did the government a favor by transferring real estate because he has broadened the universe of people that the IRS can collect from" if Fumo loses in federal tax court, Cedrone said.

    "To the extent that the government relies on purported transfers of cash to Senator Fumo's son in support of the jeopardy assessments," Cedrone said, "doing so is preposterous in light of the sworn testimony of Senator Fumo's son, who makes it clear that he received no gifts from his father. Instead, he simply paid his father's bills."

    "At its core, the government case suggests that Senator Fumo placed assets beyond its reach by paying the government $2 million," Cedrone argued.

    A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office could not immediately be reached for comment on the lawsuit filed today by Fumo. Perhaps they were on the phone with Craig McCoy.

    Meanwhile, for the amusement of readers, here's the Inquirer's version of this story, which ran a day late and a few dollars short:

    The Inquirer had access to the same legal files that I did. Note no mention of Fumo's allegations against the U.S. Attorney's Office are contained in the story.

    Apparently, you can't bite the hand that feeds you.

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    By Ralph Cipriano

    The District Attorney's Star Witness

    Judge Ellen Ceisler just sent two innocent men to jail.

    Even people inside the district attorney's office know that Father Charles Engelhardt and Bernard Shero are innocent.

    It should have never gotten this far. Billy Doe told an unbelievable story about a former altar boy being passed around like a pinata among three rapists. It's an x-rated fractured fairy tale that makes no sense in any of its various versions. Billy Doe should have been laughed out of the D.A.'s office.

    Instead, when Billy told his improbable tale, the D.A. and a couple of gullible prosecutors bought it. Whether they were blinded by misguided empathy, political ambition, or hatred of the church, it doesn't really matter. It was as if they all got high on whatever Billy was peddling.

    It was a story with no corroborating witnesses or evidence, just the tales of a drug-addled goofball who had been in and out of 23 drug rehabs in the past 10 years and had once bragged to a drug counselor that he was a natural salesman. In court he proved his point; perhaps he'll switch from selling drugs to selling used cars.

    The end result is that two innocent men are sitting in jail today. When a travesty of this magnitude occurs, there's always plenty of blame to go around.

    In today's post-mortem, we're going to try not to miss anybody.


    There is circumstantial evidence that indicates the regime under former District Attorney Lynne Abraham took a look at Billy Doe's story, realized it was nonsense, and decided that the Billy Doe file should be thrown in the trash can where it belonged. But that never happened, and we don't know why.

    There is a puzzling year-long gap in the official record of the case between Jan. 30, 2009, the day Billy phoned in his report of abuse to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and Jan. 28, 2010, when Detective Drew Snyder drove out to Graterford prison to yank Billy out of jail, and bring him down to the district attorney's office for questioning.

    How can this gap be explained? The people who know this back story continue to remain silent. That's how this kind of travesty can happen. And how two innocent men can wind up in jail.

    Maybe somebody should put them all under oath, and ask what happened.


    Seth Williams is responsible for this travesty of justice. We have been trying to get some answers from him, but so far he's stonewalled. Three key questions remain unanswered.

    As chronicled on this blog, the district attorney's self-described "historic" prosecution of the church was flawed from day one. On Jan. 28, 2010, Detective Drew Snyder drove Billy Doe to the D.A.'s office for questioning. Assistant Mariana Sorenson was on hand, eager to begin her work.

    Billy Doe's parents, a Philadelphia police sergeant and a nurse, were allowed to sit in on that interview. The usual practice of the district attorney's office, and the Philadelphia police department, would have been to interview an adult complainant separately. Who knew, on day one of the investigation, if one of the parents may have been abusing the boy? People I trust in law enforcement say interviewing the victim in the presence of his parents, in violation of the usual procedures, is indefensible.

    For months, the district attorney has refused to discuss this breach of procedure. It can't be explained. That's why the D.A. remains silent on this topic. He hopes that people will stop asking the question.

    The "investigation" of the church was also a travesty. The suspects were rounded up, and the facts of a kangaroo court known as the grand jury were rewritten to fit an official story line. An intellectually dishonest and error-filled grand jury report was then trumpeted as gospel by the press.

    That grand jury report still sits online at the D.A.'s website, riddled with more than 20 factual errors. It's still the only official version of what happened.

    On Wednesday, when Engelhardt and Shero were sentenced, I asked a smiling Assistant District Attorney Manos how she could explain away all those errors in that grand jury report. Didn't the D.A. have a responsibility to tell the truth? Manos kept smiling and walking and saying nothing. Meanwhile, Tasha Jamerson, the D.A.s spokesperson, kept telling me  my time was up.

    At the district attorney's office, they can't answer that question about all those mistakes in the grand jury report. That's why they hope it all goes away.

    One other question remains: how could one district attorney, Lynne Abraham, and the 2005 grand jury look at the state's child endangerment law, and put in writing that Msgr. William Lynn, or any Catholic official at the archdiocese, could not be prosecuted for child endangerment because the law didn't apply to them.

    And how could another district attorney, Seth Williams, and that 2011 grand jury, look at that exact same child endangerment law and decide that Fathers Lynn, Avery, Brennan and Engelhardt, and former teacher Bernard Shero, could be prosecuted?

    I posed that question in National Catholic Reporter a few weeks ago. The district attorney refused to answer. What's amusing is that both contrary opinions issued by the D.A.'s office probably came from the same appeals lawyers adept at legal gymnastics.

    They need to explain how this flip-flop occurred and why.


    The early judicial proceedings in the investigation of the church were shrouded in secrecy. A grand jury did their work behind closed doors. Judges issued a series of gag orders trampling on the rights of the defendants and their lawyers to freedom of speech. The press corps employed a discriminatory self-censorship policy that allowed the accused to be hung out to dry and have their character assassinated on a daily basis, while the alleged "victims" were granted a cloak of anonymity, all in the name of fairness.

    It's a misguided policy that needs to be re-examined.

    The press didn't protest one gag order after another. The result was only one official version of the "historic" prosecution of the church, namely that stinking grand jury report that was dishonest, and riddled with factual errors.

    We in the press also didn't protest when the judge in this last case, Ellen Ceisler, ramped up the level of secrecy, by sealing all pre-trial motions and closing all pre-trial hearings. So we could have even more secrecy. That's how people get railroaded. Most of it takes place under the cover of darkness.


     As rightfully exposed by the 2005 grand jury report, the Catholic Church in this town has blood on its hands. The secret archive files of the archdiocese contained so many revolting deeds covered up by two corrupt archbishops, that people rightfully wanted to see some men in collars wind up in jail.

    Sadly, they got the wrong guys.

    During jury deliberations in the Lynn trial, one TV reporter amused the press corps by loudly proposing that a search party with shovels be sent down to the cemetery to dig up the body of Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, and drag His Eminence to court, so he could finally be brought to justice.

    As one detective told the mother of Bernie Shero the day he was arrested, I didn't want to arrest your son, I wanted to arrest Cardinal Bevilacqua.

    There are some conspiracy theorists who insist that District Attorney Seth Williams must have struck some kind of a deal with church leaders, that if they handed over Msgr. Lynn, the prosecution of the archdiocese would cease.

    It's an interesting theory that makes some sense. At one point, all the air did go out of the prosecutorial bandwagon, with no explanation. If men in collars were going to be prosecuted for boundary violations, no bishop was safe. They were all at risk.

    Then, the witch hunt suddenly ended. Maybe there was a deal. Sadly, we may never find out.


    It's time to deal with the victim's lobby. You know, the folks from SNAP, the guys and gals who show up at every abuse trial with ribbons pinned on their chests. The people who comment so often on this website.

    I am actually fond of some of them. They include men and women who have suffered real abuse, or have loved ones who have suffered. Nothing any of us can say or do can make it right. When I hear their stories, who cannot be moved?

    However, every "victim" who tells a tale of abuse is not necessarily sainted the minute he opens his mouth. Every new abuse trial is not a forum for victims to relive their ordeals, and root against the men in collars, like a roving lynch mob, so they can extract some misguided measure of revenge on somebody they don't even know.

    The cult of victimization is a mob mentality currently sanctioned in this country, and alive and well in Philadelphia. It's the reason the press won't print the names of sex abuse "victims" while they systematically destroy the reputations of the accused. It's a new sacred cow that will only produce more Billy Does.

    It's why innocent men wind up in jail.

    Father James J. Greenfield, a man who has settled 39 complaints of sex abuse, talked about that sacred cow  in court Wednesday. Greenfield is the head of the regional province of the Oblates of St. Francis De Sales, of which Father Engelhardt is a member.

    He talked in court about how in a country where we just elected an African-American president, a new prejudice has been born, against every man wearing a priestly collar. The presumption with priests is, guilty until proven innocent. Judge Ceisler, of course, instantly shut Greenfield down. She didn't want anybody talking truth on a day she was dispensing justice.

    So, to all you victims out there, you've won the war. The abusers will never again get away with it the way they used to, and neither will their employers. But the pendulum has swung so far the other way that now they're putting innocent men in jail when a junkie criminal poses as a victim.

    Enough already.


    There was an ugly edge to this trial. Prosecutors know how to destroy ordinary citizens who didn't go to law school. They know how to win every argument. They know how to make the rest of us look stupid.

    In this case, the lead prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Mark Cipolletti, used those tactics against a hapless archdiocese social worker, and a bunch of veteran Catholic elementary school teachers who had no reason to lie. He was a trained legal pugilist beating up a bunch of middle-aged women. It was sickening to watch.

    The prosecutors played a brutal game here. They know how to shred a witness. When the evidence is lacking, they know how to invent a story-line in a closing, like a grooming campaign by the defendants,  out of thin air. Prosecutors also know how, when you don't have the facts, to put a picture up there of a helpless 10-year-old altar boy, and then appeal to raw emotion.

    In this case, those tactics were misplaced. I saw a prosecutor playing games with people's lives.

    The lead prosecutor in this case, and the district attorney both expected to lose. It was a throwaway, so why not go for broke, push the edge and see what happens?

    What happened, to everyone's shock, was the jury bought it. And lives were destroyed, and innocent families devastated, while prosecutors played their law school games under the watchful eye of a judge overly concerned about breaking for lunch at the right time, and sending the jury home at a reasonable hour.



    The jury in this case was simply watching a different trial than the one I saw.

    I've got to say as a group they did not impress me. Many times, members of that panel seemed to be dozing or nodding off during the trial. The one time they did pay attention though was when Billy Doe took the stand. I saw grown men wipe away tears.

    I, however, had dry eyes; I did not believe Billy Doe. I felt the same way when I heard him at the Lynn trial. At that time, I had no reason to believe he was a stone-cold liar.

    At the Lynn trial, I heard real victims of abuse tell their stories. A doctor, a detective, and a nun stand out in my mind.

    As you listened to their stories, you felt the pain. When Billy Doe spoke, you felt nothing, and you saw an immature con man trying to pull off a hustle.

    At the Lynn trial, after Billy Doe left the stand, one of Billy's civil lawyers asked me what I thought of his boy.

    You want to know the truth, I said. I don't believe a f--ing word he just said.

    It was just a gut feeling from a guy whose heard stories all his life, and tried to figure out which ones were B.S.

    But whether you believed Billy Doe was telling the truth or not, you could not convict Engelhardt or Shero based solely on Billy Doe's story. It defied logic and common sense. There were far too many factual discrepancies in the various versions he told to send anybody to jail.

    There was no evidence or witnesses that supported any of Billy's stories. In fact, almost all of the evidence that I am aware of gathered by the district attorney's own detectives contradicted Billy and his stories. The defense case was based almost entirely on the findings of the district attorney's own detectives.

    The jury, however, bought it.

    To prove I didn't lose my mind, I will reprise the comments of an alternate grand juror, a young woman in her 30s, who saw exactly what I saw. And what other reporters saw. She also had some insight the rest of us missed.

    "I was like, 'Are you serious?' I couldn't believe it," the alternate juror told me when she heard the verdict. "I thought for sure they were going to vote not guilty because there was absolutely no proof that these men had done that." To the alternate juror, the guilty verdict was "incredible, "insane," and a "tragic miscarriage of justice."

    The alternate juror felt sympathy for Billy.

    "He's a terribly troubled young man," she said. But, she added, "Every answer seemed so convenient and so processed to me. It just didn’t feel genuine. It didn't feel like a young man trying to get right. It felt like a young kid trying to get out of trouble."

    "I have kids lying to me every day," said the woman, who teaches elementary school. "I felt like I was watching somebody trying to get out of trouble."

    But to the people on the jury, thanks to the media and that 2011 grand jury report, it was an existing story line that they all knew.  Innocent victims; predator priests. So they chose to buy into the prevailing wisdom. Who needs evidence? Guilty as charged.

    The one juror that I did get to talk offered a frightening look into the jury's mindset.

    "When you're on drugs, a drug addict will tell you a lot of stories," the juror told me. So she gave Billy Doe a pass when his story changed every time he told it. Because he was a consistent drug addict.

    When the Lynn jury announced its verdict, several jurors gave interviews. The jury foreman went on TV the next morning to field questions from the media.

    This jury, however, was not interested in talking to the press. "Not this group," the juror told me with a smile. "They were flying out of here"

    Their silence was unusual. I stopped by the home of the jury foreman last weekend to see if she could shed any light on what went down in that jury room. The foreman came to the door scowling. She muttered that I had no business being on her property. Then, looking away, she closed the door. I left wondering what her problem was.

    You were the foreman on a high-profile Philadelphia jury trial. Why can't you talk?


    Here's the scouting report on Billy Doe. When he is caught in a lie, he has a habit of lowering his head, and mumbling before he shuts down. That's the behavior Michael J. McGovern, Father Engelhardt's lawyer, saw on the witness stand on Jan. 16th when he confronted Billy Doe about his claim to have been a member of the bell choir maintenance crew back when he was a fifth grader at St. Jerome's.

    This matters. Billy Doe claimed Father Avery accosted him because he was the lone member of the bell choir maintenance crew left in church who was putting the away the bells after a concert. In this excerpt, we see Billy on the ropes before he is saved at the bell by a timely objection from the prosecutor:

    Q. I thought your testimony was that he [Avery] came up to you when no one else was around?

    A. Yeah. He pulled me over to the side. There were still people in there but no one around in earshot distance.

    Q. Mr. [Doe], would it surprise you that there were no fifth grade members of the bell maintenance crew, none, zero? There never was. Would that surprise you?

    A. A little bit.

    Q. Would it surprise you there was never a sixth grade member of the bell maintenance crew?

    A. Kind of.

    Q. Would it surprise you there were no seventh grade members of the bell maintenance crew?

    A. Somewhat.

    Q. You know, Mr. [Doe], don't you, that your testimony is completely false because there were only eighth grade boys who were members of the bell maintenance crew?

    A. No, my testimony isn't false.

    Q. Your version of what happened with that bell choir practice could not possibly have happened. Do you understand that?

    A. How couldn't it have ...

    Assistant District Attorney Mark Cipolletti: Objection, argumentative.

    Judge Ceisler: Objection sustained. It is argumentative.

    McGovern cut short his cross-examination that day, possibly because he didn't feel the jury was with him. Prosecutor Cipolletti was happy the cross from both defense lawyers only lasted two hours. "There was just so much more," he said with a big smile.

    When your opponent is that happy, you just made a mistake. McGovern and Shero's lawyer, Burton A. Rose, should have kept on punching. That cross should have gone on for days until they got what they needed. Who cares whether the jury was with your or not? They would have had to notice if Billy kept shutting down, after being caught in more lies.

    Hindsight being 20-20, the defense should also have fired every weapon they had in their arsenal that went unused.

    The meticulous monthly calendars kept by Billy's mother that didn't show any early Masses the entire fifth-grade year when Billy claimed he was raped by Father Engelhardt after serving as an altar boy at an early morning Mass at St. Jerome's. The church's register of funerals that showed Father Avery didn't say a funeral Mass at St. Jerome's during Billy's entire fifth grade year, when Billy claimed Father Avery assaulted him after a funeral Mass. The police statement Billy's older brother gave that contradicted Billy's testimony.

    The defense also should have called to the stand the drug counselor who told police that victims of abuse don't usually open up the way Billy Doe did, and that the word "sessions" was drug rehab lingo. It was not, as Billy claimed, a code word used by priests when they're talking about raping an altar boy.


    Ok, we're trying to leave no stone unturned here. After the trial, there was plenty of criticism that the defense lawyers made a mistake by not putting the defendants up on the witness stand to tell the jury they didn't do it.

    From what I saw on sentencing day, those defense lawyers made the right call. Both defendants were not-ready-for-prime-time players.

    Father Engelhardt, a priest who took a vow of poverty, lives in a different world than the rest of us. With his life on the line, he spoke in the quiet, unexcited tones of a former history teacher and priest. He talked about his career and his faith. Some of it was moving. It was a few points of light, when what was needed was a lighting bolt from the sky. But you can't be anybody but who you are.

    Bernard Shero made the mistake of trying to debate the prosecutor. Wow, did that not go over. The judge slapped him down. "I'm frustrated," he told the judge. In his defense, sending a guy to jail for a crime that never happened will probably do that to you.

    Shero wound up telling the judge about his post-teaching career as an Avon salesman, and about a note he got from a couple he befriended who still believe he's innocent.

    Very underwhelming.


    The trial went bad during the first few moments for the defendants when the court crier had them stand while she read an extra offense for each man that they weren't charged with.

    The judge's response: hey, no big deal, we'll get it right eventually. Let's keep it moving.

    Throughout the trial, the judge seemed far more preoccupied with keeping things on schedule, rather than worrying about whether a couple of notorious defendants who had already been tarred and feathered by a grand jury report and the media were getting railroaded or not. She wouldn't delay the trial to bring Billy's older brother in to testify. The jury wanted to hear from him, according to a note they sent the judge.

    The judge had to see the trial I watched. She had to see all of the reasonable doubt. It would have been a courageous call to say sorry, this conviction is just not supported by the evidence.

    What was needed was the wisdom of Solomon, not the prevailing wisdom.

    Instead, this judge said the discrepancies in Billy Doe's various accounts didn't shock her conscience. But she was shocked by the leniency of the sentencing guidelines that applied to Engelhardt and Shero.

    In this case, a politically correct judge bowed to the official story line, and to all those people with ribbons in the crowd. It was the easy way out.

    Judge Ceisler, the trial I witnessed in your courtroom shocked my conscience. Especially the final moments of the sentencing.

    The judge had just hammered the defendants with long jail terms. The families of both men, still convinced of their innocence, were sobbing in the courtroom.

    The court crier, previously noted for her inaccuracy in reading charges against the defendants, went over to the grieving relatives. She walked through the aisles, and one by one, she ordered every sobbing woman to leave.

    "We're not allowed to cry?" asked Tracey Boyle, Father Engelhardt's niece.

    No Tracey. In the courtroom of Judge Ellen Ceisler, when she sends your beloved uncle the priest off to jail for a crime he didn't commit, you're not even allowed to cry about it.

    Does that shock anybody else's conscience?


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  • 06/18/13--09:48: Deja Vu At Ligambi Retrial?
  • Uncle Joe
    By George Anastasia

    Federal prosecutors want to retry mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi and his nephew George Borgesi on racketeering conspiracy charges built around the same evidence that a jury largely rejected in the mobsters' first trial.

    In a motions filed late yesterday, prosecutors argued that the issues of collateral estoppel and double-jeopardy do not apply to the conspiracy charge that is at the heart of the case. A jury in February could not decide on that charge against Ligambi and Borgesi.

    Four other defendants were found guilty and one was acquitted.

    U.S. District Judge Eduardo Robreno is expected to hold a hearing on motions filed by lawyers for both defendants seeking to limit or eliminate charges that can be used in a retrial set for Oct. 15. In fact, Borgesi's lawyer, Christopher Warren, has argued that the conspiracy charge against his client -- the one remaining count for which he is to be retried -- should be dismissed.

    Borgesi, 50, was found not guilty of 13 counts related to gambling and loansharking. Warren argued that the jury verdict on those counts undermined the remaining conspiracy charge.

    But Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Labor, in briefs filed literally at the 11th hour -- yesterday was the deadline for the government to respond and the motions were filed close to midnight -- argued that both Warren and Ligambi's lawyer, Edwin Jocobs Jr., had misconstrued the legal issues in the case.

    The doctrine of collateral estoppel "does not bar the admission of evidence of other offenses, including acquitted conduct, to prove the manner and means of a RICO conspiracy," Labor wrote.

    The prosecution contends that it can use the same evidence that was presented in the first trial, including evidence tied to counts that resulted in not guilty verdicts. While layered in legal citations and Appellate Court decisions, the prosecution is arguing in essence that conspirators don't have to commit the crimes in order to be found guilty of conspiring to commit those crimes. 

    In asking that both Ligambi's and Borgesi's motions be denied, prosecutors said what the government has to prove is that both defendants played in a role in a racketeering conspiracy in which:

    (1) Two or more persons agreed to conduct or participate in the conduct of the affairs of the Philadelphia (La Cosa Nostra) Family through a pattern of racketeering activity or the collection of unlawful debt.

    (2) The defendants were party to the agreement.

    (3) They joined the agreement knowing of its objective of conducting the affairs of the Philadelphia LCN Family through a pattern of racketeering activity or collection of unlawful debt and with the intent of joining with one other conspirator to achieve that objective.

    A court ruling in the government's favor would allow prosecutors to use basically the same evidence and the same witnesses in the retrial that the government used in a three-month trial that began last October. Those witnesses would likely include Louis "Bent Finger Lou" Monacello, 43, a key Borgesi associate who testified at length about a gambling and loansharking operation he said he ran for Borgesi after Borgesi was jailed in 2000 in an unrelated racketeering case.

    Monacello also testified that Ligambi was the boss of the operation.
    Bent Finger Lou (R)

    In fact, Borgesi was behind bars serving a 14-year sentence during most of the period covered by the conspiracy charge. Warren had argued that the jury's not guilty verdicts on specific gambling and loansharking charges showed that the jury had rejected the prosecution argument that Borgesi had conspired with Monacello. 

    Labor argued that the verdict did not necessarily support that argument. He said that Borgesi also had conspired with Ligambi and Anthony Staino, another mob leader. 

    The prosecution contends that it should not be precluded "from introducing evidence relating to the offenses charged in the substantive counts as circumstantial proof of the manner and means, or overt acts, of the RICO conspiracy," even if a jury returned not guilty verdicts on those substantive counts.

    It appeared the jury at the first trial wrestled with the conspiracy charge. The panel deliberated for a staggering 21 days before bringing back a mixed and confusing verdict. Only five of the 61 counts in the case resulted in guilty verdicts. Three of the seven defendants were convicted of racketeering conspiracy. (A fourth subsequently pleaded guilty). 

    The jury found the defendants not guilty of 46 other counts and was undecided -- on hung -- on 11 charges. 

    Two of the charges on which the jury could not decide were the racketeering conspiracy counts against Ligambi, 73, and Borgesi. In addition, Ligambi faces two gambling counts and a tampering with a witness charge on which the jury also hung. He was acquitted of five other criminal counts.  

    Both Ligambi and Borgesi have been denied bail pending the retrial.

    Four other defendants in the case, Staino, mob underboss Joseph "Mousie" Massimino, mob soldier Damion Canalichio and mob associate Gary Battaglini are to be sentenced in July before Robreno.

    Joseph "Scoops" Licata, a North Jersey-based mob capo, was found not guilty and released after the trial. Six defendants in the case pleaded guilty prior to trial. 

    George Anastasia can be reached at 

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    Here is the victim impact statement submitted to Judge Ellen Ceisler by Billy Doe, as read in court by Assistant District Attorney Evangelia Manos:

    Dear Your Honor,

    My name is [Billy Doe]. I'm the victim of these horrendous men. My life and childhood have been destroyed by these men and the things they did to me. I went through something no child or anyone should go through. They have taken from me, and I will never get back, a lot of those things. For the past 14 years, I have tried to numb the pain and forget what they did to me.

    Constant depression, anxiety, flashbacks, and reminder of the hell that I was dragged through. I quickly found myself spiraling out of control and getting into trouble, desperately trying to stop the pain. I tried to commit suicide numerous times, and had years of suicidal ideation. I spent years going to sleep, hoping I did not wake up. And in the mornings, I would dread living through another day. By 11, I was smoking marijuana, trying to stop my suffering, but it never seemed to go away.

    I fell quickly into a life of addiction, and, as I got older, it got worse. It led me to a life of heroin addiction, jail, and many institutions. I tore my family apart and disappointed them for many years. Only after I got clean and brought this to light, we started to rebuilt our relationship, and it finally feels good to make my family proud of me. Even though I am a victim, I am now a survivor.

    I survived what I went through, and exposed these men and this cover-up, and this has been going on for years. I plead, please give these men the maximum sentence for the horrendous acts that they did to me. Let them feel a lifetime of pain, like what they brought upon me. And thank you for your consideration.

    Here is the victim impact statement of Billy Doe's older brother, as read in court by Assistant District Attorney Manos:

    I'm [Billy Doe's] brother. I am writing to respectfully request that the maximum sentence be imposed upon defendants Engelhardt and Shero. This request comes not only at the revelation of such heinous criminal conduct, but also upon the following background.

    Through the criminal conduct of the defendants, my brother has not lost not just a sense of peace and security and innocence as a direct result of the abuse he was subjected to, but also a whole host of indirect and long-lasting effects felt after the initial incidents until today. For his part, my brother may never fully recover. However, the effects of the sexual abuse he suffered that did present themselves, were severe and caused significant collateral damage.

    In his attempt to forget and numb himself from the atrocious acts committed by Shero and Engelhardt, my brother turned to narcotics. The use of those substances devastated my family and countless holidays were ruined. I watched patiently as my parents were pushed to their limit, again and again, without reluctance, to try and save their son. 

    My brother was in contact with law enforcement frequently during this period in his life, and attempted several times to rid himself of these narcotics in rehab facilities, only to fail in each instance. At the time, none of our family knew the underlying cause of his addiction and the root cause of all his suffering that [was] left to fester for so many years.

    For nearly five years of these tragic events, I could only listen and offer consolation to my parents while I was away at college. However, I continually saw the toll it was taking on the life of my parents, and my brother. I was told how he was, [and] on several occasions, [he] attempted, threatened to take his life.

    He has stolen from my parents on numerous occasions. More importantly, however, is what was stolen from all of them, a relationship with my brother, [Billy]. Due to Shero and Engelhardt's sexual abuse of my brother, my parents had, at best, a tenuous and grief-filled relationship with my brother for nearly eight years. After witnessing the low that my brother had reached, I had no relationship with [Billy] for almost the entire period of his diseased mental and physical state.

    Now that he has confronted the demons that haunted him for a decade, I see a brand new individual; some one I never knew before. We have been developing our relationship as brothers. My parents have a much stronger and loving bond with him. He has a fiancee, and [is] working a steady job. None of this would have been possible in the height of his misery. For nearly a decade, my parents did not have a son, and I did not have a brother.

    The heinous crimes committed by both of these men against [Billy] were the catalyst to the nightmare that was to follow. And I'm glad to see my brother beginning to flourish as a human being. But as to the defendants' abuse of my brother, he lost such a significant part of his life, and so many opportunities that the average teenager is, in this day and age, expected to experience.

    At first, I could not stop blaming myself with being so harsh with him, but now I recognize the true blame rests with these defendants, and I will never be able to forgive the disgusting acts that were committed against my brother. And I ask Your Honor to punish the perpetrators accordingly.

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    By Ralph Cipriano

    On June 20, defense lawyers for Father Charles Engelhardt and Bernard Shero filed motions to appeal Judge Ellen Ceisler's "excessive and unreasonable" sentences.

    On June 21, Judge Ceisler denied both motions. The defense can now appeal the judge's decisions to Superior Court.

    The court documents, however, lay out for the first time the details on how brutally the judge clobbered the defendants.

    Let's start with Engelhardt.

    The jury convicted Engelhardt on three charges: endangering the welfare of a child, indecent assault, and corrupting the morals of a minor. The jury convicted the priest of a fourth charge, conspiracy, but the judge said the jury made a mistake on that one, and she tossed the conspiracy charge as unproven.

    According to the defense motion, the applicable sentencing guideline range for a defendant with no criminal record for endangering the welfare of a child was 3 to 12 months plus or minus 6 months. The judge sentenced Engelhardt to 3 1/2 to 7 years.

    For indecent assault, the sentencing guideline range for Engelhardt was probation to 9 months, plus or minus three months. The judge sentenced Engelhardt to 2 1/2 to 5 years.

    For corrupting the morals of a minor, the sentencing guideline for the priest was probation to 9 months, plus or minus three months. The judge sentenced the defendant to 5 years probation.

    The sentences were to be served consecutively.

    Engelhardt could have walked out of Judge Ceisler's court with a sentence of probation on all three charges. Instead, the judge gave Engelhardt 6 to 12 years, plus five years probation. According to the motion filed by defense lawyer Michael J. McGovern, the judge's sentence "far exceeded the aggravated range of the applicable sentencing guidelines, and was, in fact, the maximum permissible sentence for those offenses."

    When she sentenced Engelhardt, Judge Ceisler said the sentencing guidelines applicable in the case "shocked her conscience." The judge disregarded the sentencing guidelines because of the circumstance of the case, which is why she considered sentences "in the aggravated range," according to the defense motion.

    The jury convicted Shero on five charges: rape of a child, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, endangering the welfare of a child, corruption of a minor, and indecent assault.

    The applicable sentencing guideline regarding rape of a child for a defendant with no criminal history was 48 to 66 months, plus or minus 12 months, according to the defense motion filed by Burton A. Rose.

    The "extreme upper level of the aggravated range would have been 78 months imprisonment," the defense motion says. Instead, the judge gave Shero 8 to 16 years, or a minimum sentence of 96 months, "which substantially exceeded the aggravated range of the applicable sentencing guideline for this offense," the defense motion said.

    "In announcing its reasons for sentencing, the Court stated that the standard range of the sentencing guideline for this offense was not adequate because of the circumstances of this case and that a sentence would have to be considered in the aggravated range," the defense motion said. "Nevertheless, the Court proceeded to impose a sentence outside the entire sentencing guideline range."

    After they were sentenced, Engelhardt and Shero spent a week in solitary confinement at Graterford prison. The two inmates were then shipped to the State Correctional Institute at Camp Hill, located in Lower Allen Township, Cumberland County. At Camp Hill, the prisoners will be classified and shipped to another prison to serve out their sentences.

    When she sentenced the defendants, the judge approved a defense request to have Engelhardt and Shero serve their time at SCI Laurel Highlands, in Somerset, PA.

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    By Ralph Cipriano


    Mariana Sorensen, author of two high-profile grand jury reports on the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, has resigned from the district attorney's office. Her last day of work was Friday, June 21.

    Sorensen, an assistant district attorney in the special investigations unit, declined to be interviewed. A polarizing figure, she was regarded by victims advocates as a champion crusader, and by church critics as a Catholic-hating zealot.

    The 2005 grand jury report on the archdiocese was a ground-breaking document nationally that exposed sexual abuse of minors by the local clergy. This reporter hailed it as a "literary masterpiece." To the local archdiocese's lawyers, however, it was "a vile, mean-spirited diatribe" that sought to convict the Catholic Church in the court of public opinion, based upon "an unfair and inaccurate portrayal of facts."

    Archdiocese lawyers may have argued over how the facts were portrayed, but they couldn't argue with the weight of the evidence. The 2005 grand jury report was based upon 45,000 documents subpoenaed from the archdiocese's own secret archive files. Those files, kept in a locked safe at archdiocese headquarters, catalogued the sins of priests over four decades.

    Sorensen's subsequent work did not measure up. A 2011 grand jury report on the archdiocese was found by this reporter to be intellectually dishonest, and riddled with more than 20 factual errors.

    A spokesperson for the district attorney's office, Tasha Jamerson, dismissed as "ridiculous" any speculation that the flawed 2011 grand jury report had anything to do with Sorensen's departure.

    "Mariana Sorensen is an excellent ADA whose work is respected all over the country," Jamerson wrote in an email. "After working almost non-stop on the Kermit Gosnell and [Msgr. William] Lynn, [Edward] Avery, [Bernard] Shero and [Father James J.] Brennan Grand Jury investigations and trials for the past three years, Mariana is taking some much needed time off," Jamerson said.

    "If Mariana decides to come back to the D.A.'s office she will always have a position waiting for her."

    Jeffrey R. Anderson, a St. Paul, Minn., lawyer who had filed more than 1,000 sex abuse cases nationally against the Catholic clergy, told this reporter he was "riveted" when he read the 2005 grand jury report for the first time. Anderson called the grand jury report "a watershed" that exposed the depth of corruption in the clerical culture.

    "This is the first time it has been comprehensively investigated and articulated," Anderson told National Catholic Reporter in 2005. "They did something here that nobody has really done before."

    That 2005 grand jury report was hailed by victims' advocates around the country. In 2007, Marci Hamilton, a Yeshiva University law professor, convened a conference in New York City, "Call To Action," to promote legislative efforts in states around the country to lift statute of limitations regarding victims of sex abuse.

    Hamilton introduced Sorensen at the conference by saying she was a member of "by far the best D.A.'s office in the country."

    Hamilton did not respond to a request for comment; neither did officials for SNAP.

    Dave Pierre writes The Media Report, which is dedicated to "separating fact from fiction" in the media's treatment of the Catholic sex abuse scandal. In his view, Mariana Sorensen is a bigot.

    "Mariana Sorensen's decade-long, bigoted attack against the Catholic Church has now resulted in innocent men being sent to prison for crimes they didn't commit," Pierre wrote in an email. "Her grotesque characterizations of the actions by Church officials and priests have now led to the false public perception in Philadelphia that a pedophiliac demon lurks behind every man in a Roman collar."

    Pierre also took a shot at the local media.

    "I doubt that the media will make much, if anything, of Sorensen's exit," he said, "as the Philly media has been fully complicit in the shocking fraud and corruption that has taken place under Sorensen's watchful eyes for many years."

    Pierre was right about one thing; Sorensen's departure from the D.A.'s office has gone unreported until today.

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    Hugh J. Burns Jr.
    By Ralph Cipriano

    It's one of the enduring mysteries of the current district attorney's self-described "historic" prosecution of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

    How could the former district attorney, Lynne Abraham, and one grand jury back in 2005 look at the state law for endangering the welfare of a child [EWOC], and decide it didn't apply to Msgr. William J. Lynn, Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua, or any other high-ranking official at the archdiocese?

    And how could the current district attorney, Seth Williams, and another grand jury in 2011 look at that same exact EWOC law and decide it did apply, not only to Msgr. Lynn, but also to Father James J. Brennan, Father Edward V. Avery, Father Charles Engelhardt, and Bernard Shero?

    In the appeals battle over the conviction of Msgr. Lynn, District Attorney Seth Williams finally had to answer the question that he had previously been dodging. The D.A.'s official explanation for the flip-flop was spelled out in a 63-page brief filed June 25th in Superior Court.

    In the brief, written by Hugh J. Burns Jr., chief of the D.A.'s Appeals Unit, the author conceded that one Philadelphia district attorney got it right and one Philadelphia district attorney got it wrong.

    The question is, did Burns prove that his current boss, Seth Williams, got it right?

    Or did Burns, in the opinion of Msgr. Lynn's defense lawyer, Thomas A. Bergstrom, write a fatal flaw into his argument that finally exposed Seth Williams's tortured logic?

    The decision may ultimately not only affect Msgr. Lynn, but also Engelhardt and Shero. All three men are now sitting in jail after being convicted of one count of EWOC each. The decision may also impact Father Brennan,  acquitted last year when a jury hung on two charges against him, one of which was EWOC. The priest is scheduled to be retried Oct. 21.

    In his brief, Burns noted that Msgr. Lynn "complains that a 2005 grand jury report written by counsel for the prosecution concluded that high-level Archdiocesan officials could not be successfully prosecuted, and at the time the Commonwealth did not charge him; but a later Grand Jury that heard additional evidence recommended charging ..."

    Burns wrote that Lynn "concludes ... these events establish that, in the opinion of the prosecutors (or at least those who wrote the 2005 report)" that the state EWOC law "does not apply to him."

    "This complaint is illegally incoherent," Burns wrote. "An exercise of prosecutorial discretion in declining to charge at one point in time has nothing to do with a purely legal issue of statutory construction, which is for this Court to determine and is not controlled by the opinions of counsel."

    In other words, the Superior Court can decide which D.A. got it right, and which D.A. got it wrong. In his brief, Burns conceded that one of the two D.A.s screwed up.

    "Further, that one of the Commonwealth's two charging decisions was arguably wrong (albeit the latter was based on additional evidence) does not mean that the one [decision] defendant dislikes is wrong," Burns wrote.

    It should be noted that the "additional evidence" that the 2011 grand jury heard, as mentioned by Burns, was the extremely suspect testimony of two drug-addicted criminals, Billy Doe and Mark Bukowski.

    The state's EWOC law, which went into effect in 1972, says:

    "A parent, guardian or other person supervising the welfare of a child under 18 years of age commits a misdemeanor of the second degree if he knowingly endangers the welfare of a child by violating a duty of care, protection or support."

    In previous legal filings, Msgr. Lynn's lawyers have argued that state appeals courts have interpreted those "supervising the welfare of a child" to be people in direct contact with children, such as parents, guardians and teachers. Since 1972, defense lawyers argued, the state EWOC law has been applied in nearly 300 cases. Until Lynn came along, that 1972 EWOC law had never been applied to a supervisor.

    Unfortunately, for Msgr. Lynn, it wasn't his only legal milestone.

    On June 22, 2012, Lynn became the first Catholic administrator in the country to be sent to jail in connection with the church's sex abuse scandals when he was convicted by a Philadelphia jury on one count of EWOC. Specifically, Lynn was charged with placing Father Avery, a known offender, back in ministry where he raped a 10-year-old altar boy identified in the 2011 grand jury report as Billy Doe.

    Lynn is now serving a 3 to 6 year jail sentence.

    The D.A., in his brief, would like to forget that after no archdiocese official was charged with EWOC in 2005, the district attorney's office began campaigning state-wide for the EWOC law to be amended to include supervisors.

    The D.A.'s office in its campaign admitted that even if the amended law was passed, nothing could be done retroactively under the amended law to charge any archdiocese official with a crime.

    When the amended law was introduced in the state legislature, proponents claimed new language was needed to include supervisors, because the old law didn't apply to supervisors. This legislative history, the D.A. argued in its most recent filing, is "useless" and "legally inadmissible."

    The amended EWOC law, which took effect in 2007, says, "A parent, guardian or other person supervising the welfare of a child under 18 years of age, or a person that employs or supervises such a person, commits an offense if he knowingly endangers the welfare of the child by violating a duty of care, protection or support."

    In the D.A.'s brief, Burns conceded that Lynn could not have been charged under the amended 2007 EWOC law, because his crime occurred before the law was amended.

    "Proceeding under the 2007 amendment would also have been impermissible as an ex post facto violation of the constitution," Burns stated on page 24 of the D.A.'s brief.

    But two pages later, on page 26, Burns stated, "As Defendant well knows, he endangered the welfare of [Billy Doe] by breaching his duty to prevent priests under his supervision, such as Avery, from sexually molesting children. The evidence is sufficient because defendant was Avery's supervisor, with a specific duty to prevent Avery from doing exactly what defendant instead facilitated."

    Thomas A. Bergstrom
    That argument put a smile on the face of defense attorney Bergstrom.

    "They've fallen into their own trap," Bergstrom said. "The old law requires that Lynn be the supervisor of the welfare of a child. That there be direct contact between Lynn and the child. The new statute doesn't make that connection. They [the D.A.] just ignore the fact that Lynn is not supervising a child."

    Instead, the D.A. argued in their brief that Lynn's duty was to supervise Avery.

    "That's the new statute," Bergstrom said. "That's absolutely fatal to them. Now if I can only get a judge to listen to me ..."

    Elsewhere in the D.A.'s brief, however, Burns argued that the meaning of the amended 2007 law in effect was there all along in the wording of the original 1972 statute. It's a clever argument about semantics. In order to succeed, it requires that the history of the law and how it was applied by prosecutors and the appeals courts, as well as the legislative history of the 2007 amendment, disappear.

    "While the defendant argues that the evidence failed to show that he was a 'supervisor of children' ... the plain language of the [original] statute applies to a 'person supervising the welfare of a child, not 'supervising a child,'" Burns wrote. "It is therefore not limited to supervision of a child but includes supervision of the welfare of children ..."

    "Under the unambiguous language of the statute, defendant was a person 'supervising the welfare' of children, with a clearly defined duty to protect them from priests under his supervision who were known to have already sexually abused children and who presented a threat of similar conduct in the future," Burns wrote. "By doing just the opposite and exposing children to danger, defendant violated his duty of care, and thus the statute."

    "In arguing to the contrary, defendant seizes upon anything and everything except the only thing that matters," Burns wrote, namely, "the plain language of the statute under which he was convicted."

    Not exactly, Mr. D.A. Here's where the D.A.'s argument finally crashes and burns. It's the inevitable result of what happens when public officials take the meaning of a law and twist it into a pretzel, to suit their own political purposes.

    If the D.A. is right, then he gets to wave a magic wand, and claim there never was a problem with interpreting the meaning of the original law.

    If the wording of that original EWOC law was as plain and unambiguous as the D.A. claims, then why did they have to amend that law to include supervisors?

    Why did two successive district attorneys -- and two grand juries -- take totally opposite positions based upon totally opposite interpretations of that same original law?

    In the world of Seth Williams, where the only governing principle is political expediency, anything is possible. But at the end of the day, maybe an appeals court will finally expose this district attorney for what he's been able to get away with since 2011, namely a cheap magic trick worthy of a charlatan.

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    Msgr. William J. Lynn
    By Ralph Cipriano

    It's the lawyer's version of yelling, "Gotcha."

    In a 12-page reply brief filed today in Superior Court, defense lawyers for Msgr. William J. Lynn argued that District Attorney Seth Williams blew the entire case against Lynn by making a "single breathtaking admission."

    The alleged admission: that the D.A. prosecuted Lynn "ex post facto," or after the fact, under the standards of an amended child endangerment law.

    The district attorney's "single breathtaking admission" was contained in a 63-page brief filed June 25 in Superior Court. In the brief, the D.A. stated that Lynn had "endangered the welfare of" Billy Doe by "breaching his duty to prevent priests under his supervision, such as [Father Edward V.] Avery, from sexually molesting children. The evidence is sufficient because [Lynn] was Avery's supervisor, with a specific duty to prevent Avery from doing exactly what [Lynn] instead facilitated."

    The D.A. was referring to Lynn's failure during the 1998-99 school year to prevent Avery from raping the 10-year-old altar boy known as Billy Doe. According to defense lawyers Thomas A. Bergstrom and Allison Khaskelis, the D.A.'s prosecution of Lynn for failing to supervise Avery was a "glaring ex post facto violation of the Constitutions of the United States and Pennsylvania."

    "This is unquestionably the standard set forth in the 2007 amendment, which the Commonwealth has plainly admitted would violate the ex post facto provision," the defense argued, namely that Lynn was responsible, not for supervising the welfare of a child, but for supervising Avery.

    The state's 1972 statute that makes it a crime to endanger the welfare of a child [EWOC] applies to "a parent, guardian or other person supervising the welfare of a child under 18 years of age."

    The amended EWOC law, which took effect in 2007, was changed specifically to include supervisors such as Lynn. The amended law applies not only to "a parent, guardian or other person supervising the welfare of a child under 18 years of age," but also to "a person that employs or supervises such a person."

    "By its own admission, it is evident that the Commonwealth did not even attempt to demonstrate that [Lynn] was a supervisor of a child," the defense lawyers argued in their brief.  The prosecution's "entire theory of the case and subsequent argument was geared to show that [Lynn] supervised Avery, who, in turn, allegedly supervised" Billy Doe, the defense lawyers wrote.

    "By its own admission, the Commonwealth committed an unconstitutional ex post facto violation that merits the reversal of [Lynn's] conviction," the defense brief stated. "It was the Commonwealth's burden to demonstrate that [Lynn] was a supervisor of the welfare of a child ... This it could not and did not do under the law or on the facts."

    Lynn is currently serving a 3 to 6 year prison term after his June 22, 2012 conviction by a jury on one count of EWOC.

    The defense brief also took exception to the district attorney's characterization of the original 1972 EWOC law as being written in "unambiguous language."

    The law is unambiguous "in that it did not cover individuals like [Lynn], the defense lawyers wrote. The defense lawyers pointed out that it was the district attorney's office that "unanimously spearheaded the effort to amend" the EWOC law, so that it would apply to "individuals like [Lynn]."

    The defense brief refers to the "unprecedented flip-flop" of the district attorney's office over the interpretation of the meaning of the original EWOC law. In 2005, then-District Attorney Lynne Abraham and a grand jury concluded that the old EWOC law did not apply to Msgr. Lynn, Cardinal Bevilacqua, or any other high-ranking official of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

    In 2011, District Attorney Seth Williams and a new grand jury concluded that the old EWOC law did apply to Lynn, as well as Fathers Avery, William J. Brennan, Charles Engelhardt, and a lay teacher, Bernard Shero.

    "As has been demonstrated before, the Commonwealth has been willing to change its theory of this case at every juncture to suit its thirst for a high-profile conviction," the defense lawyers wrote.

    The district attorney has the option of responding in writing to the defense brief. Or the district attorney can respond when oral arguments are made in Superior Court later this fall on Lynn's appeal.

    Meanwhile, Msgr. Lynn remains in jail at SCI Waymart, about 30 minutes north of Scranton.

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    By George Anastasia

    The party ended before it got started for mob underboss Joseph "Mousie" Massimino.

    The 63-year-old mobster, who joked continually about a victory celebration during a racketeering trial that ended in February, was sentenced to 188 months in prison today for his conviction on racketeering conspiracy charges.

    In a courtroom packed with friends and family members of the defendant, Judge Eduardo Robreno imposed the sentence of nearly 16 years after a two-hour hearing. The hearing included an impassioned and rambling statement by the defendant who denied he was a mob leader, questioned the draconian sentencing guideline system employed in federal cases and suggested that the country would be safer if the government focused on terrorists rather than La Cosa Nostra.

    "I'm no boss of nuthin'," the thin, goateed wiseguy said while denying government accusations that he had extorted and threatened gamblers and the operators of a video poker machine company.

    If the FBI used the money that the investigation in this case cost to track down and prosecute Al-Qaeda, he said, "The World Trade Center would still be there and those poor people in Boston would still have their arms and legs."

    He also questioned sentencing guidelines that sometimes add up to 100 years.

    "Those laws are for trees," Massimino said, his arms outstretched, his palms up in supplication. "Trees live a hundred years."

    But Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Labor, the lead prosecutor in the case, said Massimino was a "career offender" with an arrest and conviction record dating back more than 40 years. His prior convictions included racketeering and drug dealing on behalf of organized crime, Labor said.

    "Enough is enough," Labor said in urging Robreno to impose a 20-year sentence.

    "Every day in jail is one more day he is less likely to commit a crime," said Labor who quipped that "it was more likely that the Tooth Fairy would walk through the door" than Massimino would be rehabilitated.

    "He's not going to relent," Labor said.

    Massimino, dressed in a green prison jump suit and white sneakers, showed little emotion when Robreno finally imposed the sentence at the end of the hearing. The judge had set the sentencing guideline range at from 151 to 188 months and sentenced Massimino to the top end of that range.

    "Civilized society cannot tolerate" organized crime activities, the judge said, accepting the government's argument that Massimino was a leader of the mob family and a career criminal who would not change his ways.

    Robreno said watching Massimino interact with others during the trial showed that he was a "gregarious and pleasant individual." But he told Massimino that his extensive criminal record indicated that, "You don't get it. You never have gotten it. You've dedicated your life to crime."

    Several friends and family members privately praised Massimino after the hearing.

    "He's a great guy," said one. "They (the government) don't know him. He's helped more people than he's ever hurt...He's paid his debt for his earlier crimes."

    "He's a good man," said another friend as the crowd exited the 15th floor courtroom after the hearing. "He don't deserve this."

    Massimino has been held without bail since his arrest in May 2011. As a result, he already has two years and two months prison time accumulated. With a federal standard of no parole, inmates routinely serve 85 percent of their sentence (with credit for good time). Under that scenario, Massimino would have to spend about 11 more years in prison before he could be released.

    The wiry mob underwboss beat several gambling and extortion charges that were part of the case, but he was convicted of the overarching charge of racketeering conspiracy. In a 62-page memo filed yesterday, prosecutors say that conviction coupled with Massimino's "reprehensible criminal history" and status as a leader of organized crime warranted a 20-year prison sentence.

    Defense attorney Joseph Santaguida had argued that the government turned a "glorified gambling case" into a mob conspiracy and that his client should be facing a sentencing range of 51 to 63 months. In a memo filed earlier this month, Santaguida wrote that the "defense would have no objection to a 63-month sentence."

    During today's hearing, Santaguida challenged the government's positions on several issues, including the allegation that Massimino was the mob underboss. He said prosecutors had failed to establish that and, like several other issues in the case, had relied on news media reports to support their contention.

    After Robreno rejected most of Santaguida's arguments, the defense attorney asked that Massimino be sentenced to the low end of the 151-188 month guideline range that Robreno had established. The judge, however, went in the other direction.

    Massimino quietly nodded and told friends "don't worry" as he was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs. His mood was substantially subdued and unlike the jocular, quick-with-a-quip attitude he has displayed throughout the trial.

    Day after day as the trial dragged on over a three-month period that included three weeks of jury deliberation, he predicted his acquittal and the acquittals of his co-defendants, telling friends and family members who gathered in the courtroom to "keep those martini glasses on ice." He talked about a big victory party and joked with Assistant U.S. Attorney John Han, one of the prosecutors in the case, chiding him about the evidence and asking Han "for a ride home" after the trial ended.

    While friends and family members laughed at his antics (which occurred without the jury present), the government clearly did not see the humor.

    "Massimino's character, revealed by his courtroom demeanor in this case, reflects his view that the rule of law is a joke," Labor wrote in his sentencing memo. Today prosecutors got the last laugh.

    "Those glasses are going to be gathering dust before he gets out," said one law enforcement source.

    Labor also argued that even though Massimino was acquitted of specific counts of gambling and extortion, his conviction for conspiracy made him accountable for the underling crimes committed on behalf of the crime family. Those crimes were detailed in an indictment handed up against him, acting mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi and nearly a dozen others in May 2011.

    Massimino, Labor wrote in his memo, "made money ... by leveraging the participation of other members of the racketeering conspiracy and the mob's well earned reputation for violence."

    The memo detailed many of the charges from the case, including allegations that Massimino, Ligambi and Anthony Staino used implied threats to take over a video poker machine distribution network.

    The government said Massimino ran a gambling operation out of Lou's Crab House, a South Philadelphia bar-restaurant that he operated. 

    The memo also cited Massimino's attempt to collect a debt while serving a racketeering sentence in a New Jersey state prison in 2005. The memo quoted from a letter that Massimino wrote from prison asking a friend to help him collect the debt.

    Santaguida pointed to the letter as just one example of the prosecution taking facts and distorting the issue. He said the debt Massimino was complaining about and trying to collect was a legitimate loan that he had made and had nothing to do with gambling or organized crime.

    Nevertheless, the letter, which was introduced as evidence during the trial, was cited as an example of Massimino's threatening, violent manner.

    "I don't care if he has to rob a bank, he fuckin' better get my money," he wrote of an individual who owed him  $35,000. "That bald-headed motherfucker, I'm tired of the stories and bullshit. He won't be able to hide anywhere in the U.S."

    In the same letter, Massimino told his friend, "If you write me, watch what you say. They read everything that comes to me." Either Massimino believed only incoming mail was monitored or he didn't care about making threats in his own letter.

    Stupidity or arrogance, law enforcement sources said. Both were traits that have marked Massimino's criminal career which, Labor wrote, "spans five decades." 

    In his sentencing memo, Labor also addressed the ongoing defense argument in the case that the offenses charged were not crimes of violence and amounted to little more than petty gambling.

    "Illegal gambling," Labor wrote, "provides a ready market for loanshark victims: once a gambler becomes indebted to the Philadelphia LCN Family bookmaker, the enterprise is ready, willing and able to extend credit through a `street loan.' The losing bettor becomes the equivalent of an ATM machine, from which the Philadelphia LCN can withdraw cash `juice' payments every week.

    "Faced with the threat of violence if such payments are not made, the gambler must continue to generate cash from some source, such as looting family savings, the assets of legitimate business or from criminal activity.

    "Gambling set in motion the cycle of criminality which enabled the racketeering enterprise to continue profiteering from crime."

    Robreno's sentence was watched closely by several others in the case. Three other defendants are scheduled to be sentenced within the next week. In that light, what Robreno imposed on Massimino would likely be interpreted as the standard that will be applied to co-defendants Gary Battaglini, who is to be sentenced tomorrow, and Damion Canalichio and Anthony Staino, who have sentencing hearings next Tuesday and Wednesday.

    Two other defendants, Ligambi and his nephew George Borgesi, are to be retried on the same racketeering conspiracy charge that Massimino was sentenced for today. The jury hung on that count for both Ligambi and Borgesi. Their retrial before Robreno is set for October.
    George Anastasia can be contacted at

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    By Ralph Cipriano

    Dr. Anthony Repici was Vince Fumo's personal physician for 25 years. He's also taken care of Fumo's children.

    "I've treated all three of them over the years," the doctor testified today about the Fumo kids in Philadelphia Orphans Court.

    Dr. Repici seemed especially fond of Allie Fumo, the former state senator's youngest daughter, now 23.

    "Allison called me Dr. Barbie," Repici testified. "I used to bring her Barbie dolls" when he visited the Fumos. "She was an adorable child who would run up to me and say, 'Dr. Barbie, Dr. Barbie,'" Repici recalled.

    Donald Foster, a lawyer representing Allie Fumo, told the doctor that despite buying his client 26 Barbie dolls, Allie Fumo wasn't going along with her father's wishes that Dr. Repici serve as trustee of a $2.5 million trust fund that lists Allie Fumo as a beneficiary.

    "The beneficiary doesn't want you to serve as trustee," Foster told Repici.

    "I've never heard that; she never said that to me," Repici responded.

    "She does not want you to serve as her trustee," Foster repeated. Foster recalled that on the witness stand Tuesday, Allie Fumo told the court, "I don't trust my father, unfortunately."

    Allison Fumo feels the same way about her father's buddies, Foster told the startled doctor, who told the court he had been friends with Vince Fumo for more than 50 years.

    "She did not trust anybody who was as close to her father as you are," Foster said. "That was her testimony."

    Fumo set up the $2.5 million trust fund in 2006, for the benefit of Allie, and her brother, Vincent E. Fumo II. Left out of the trust fund was Nicole, Fumo's oldest daughter, whom he is estranged from. Nicole's husband, Christian Marrone, was a key prosecution witness against Fumo when he was convicted in 2009 on 137 counts of fraud, conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and filing a false tax return. 

    The latest Fumo family feud is now playing out in Philadelphia Orphans' Court, where Allie Fumo sued her father last year, seeking to dissolve the trust fund, and dump Samuel Bennett, a former trustee appointed by her father.

    Complicating the plot is Samuel Bennett's relationship to Vince Fumo's current fiancee, Carolyn Zinni. Bennett, a maintenance worker with the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission who doesn't have a college degree, is Zinni's brother-in-law.

    Once, Vincent E. Fumo II and Allie Fumo welcomed Carolyn Zinni to the Fumo family with open arms. Now, they are feuding. Carolyn Zinni, the owner of a dress shop, sat in Orphans Court silently watching the proceedings. She was prepared to testify, but was not called as a witness.

    Allie Fumo (left), Vince Fumo and Carolyn Zinni
    Walter Weir, Bennett's lawyer, spoke in court about how Bennett resigned more than a month ago as a trustee. "He was hounded by Allison's lawyers, and dragged over the coals" during an all-day deposition, Weir said.

    After Bennett resigned as a trustee, Vince Fumo, Bennett and Carolyn Zinni all asked Dr. Repici to take Bennett's place, Repici testified. Fumo wrote Repici a letter from jail, saying, "He was having some kind of problem and that I was the only one he could trust," Repici said.

    Besides being a doctor, Repici is also a lawyer. He thought he had a good relationship with Allie Fumo.

    "I didn't think she would be against it," Repici testified about him being appointed as trustee.

    Missing from the courtroom was the plaintiff in the case, Allie Fumo. She was one of four people subpoenaed by Fumo's lawyers who didn't show up in Courtroom 414 at City Hall. The others who were subpoenaed and didn't show included Vincent E. Fumo, Jane Saccetti -- Allie Fumo's mother and Vince Fumo's ex-wife -- and Sylvia DiBona. DiBona has been described in court as Jane Saccetti's best friend and the woman that Allie Fumo has asked the judge to appoint as trustee of the trust fund.

    Thomas A. Leonard, a lawyer representing Vince Fumo, said that he repeatedly tried to serve Vincent E. Fumo II with a subpoena, but "All four attempts failed."Regarding the other three people who were subpoenaed, "They're not here," Leonard complained.

    "You have to give reasonable notice," countered Bill Heyman, another lawyer representing Allie Fumo. Heyman told the judge in the case that Vince Fumo's lawyers were out of line. Not only did they serve four subpoenas less than 24 hours before today's hearing was supposed to begin, but they also subpoenaed countless documents.

    "They asked us to bring in tons of documents  in the middle of trial," Heyman complained to the judge. "They had months to ask for these things and they never did."

    Heyman added that any communication between Allie Fumo and her mother, an accountant, "would be privileged."He asked Judge Joseph D. O'Keefe to grant a motion to quash all the last-minute subpoenas.

    Leonard, representing Fumo, pressed on, arguing to the judge that the hearings over the trust fund had descended into "an attempt to assassinate Senator Fumo."

    But the judge disagreed, saying, "The motion to quash is granted."

    Not to be outdone rhetorically, Weir, Samuel Bennett's lawyer, compared the trust fund case to the "King Lear Syndrome." He was referring to the Shakespearian monarch who descended into madness after he divided his estate among three daughters, based on who flattered him the most.

    "If the case is going to turn on Senator Fumo," Weir argued, why not wait until the lead character can be here to testify.

    The small crowd in Courtroom 414, where reporters outnumbered spectators, undoubtedly thought that was a great idea. But the judge has repeatedly denied requests to delay the proceedings until next month, when Vince Fumo is scheduled to be released from jail.

    The original $2.5 million trust fund was depleted in 2009, when Vince Fumo asked his kids if he could take a $1.4 million loan out on that trust fund. At the time, Fumo had to pay $2.7 million to the feds in restitution and fines.

    Allie and Vincent E. Fumo II graciously went along with that request, Heyman told the judge. "It was supposed to be a three-year loan, originally due in 2013."

    But then the people Vince Fumo appointed to oversee the trust fund made some changes in the terms of the loan.

    "We've seen massive changes in the note," Heyman complained. That repayment date was changed to 2015. The interest rate was lowered from the original 5.0 percent to 4.5, and finally, to 2.38 percent. The loan also changed from a balloon loan to an amortized loan over 20 years, due in 2040.

    "This is the type of thing that a daughter should never have to go through," Heyman said. "Allison Fumo for good reason does not trust her father."

    Next up was Timothy Holman, representing Thomas Myers, a carpenter and longtime Vince Fumo friend who is president of the Fumo Family Limited Partnership, the parent company of the trust fund. Myers also happens to be Allie Fumo's godfather.

    "Thankfully for my client, I guess, we didn't really hear the character attacks against Mr. Myers that Vincent and Allison Fumo were willing to unleash on their father during this proceeding," Holman told the judge. "But it's clear that Allison is unhappy with some decisions made by her godfather, Tommy Myers."

    "Despite the apparent belief on the part of Allison and her lawyers that everyone even remotely connected to Senator Fumo is a mindless stooge, I respectfully submit that a review of the evidence presented confirms that my client doesn't fit that alleged mold,"Holman said.

    "He [Myers] is a friend of every member of the family, and Allison is his godchild," Holman said. He said when Allie and Vincent E. Fumo wanted to sue their father for violating the terms of the loan, Myers's advice to both was to go see their father in prison.

    "Vincent and Allie said, No, I don't want to go see him," Holman complained. "Their father's sitting in a federal prison. Talk about kicking a man, their own father, when he's down."

    And how did Vince Fumo default on the terms of his $1.4 million loan, Holman asked. Why Vince Fumo transferred to his son ownership of a 30-room mansion  on Green Street in the Art Museum section of Philadelphia. The son currently is listed as a 50 percent owner of the property along with his father. When Vince Fumo dies, his son inherits the mansion, Holman said. But according to the terms of the loan, Vince Fumo could not compromise the deed to the Green Street property, because it was collateral for the $1.4 million loan.

    The Green Street mansion "is a very valuable piece of real estate," Holman said. "Although young Vincent protested that he had not requested to be added to the deed, he admitted that he neither rejected the gift by his father nor asked to be taken off the deed."

    Holman told the judge that Tommy Myers was smart not to take the Fumo kids' advice and rush out and sue their father, and squander more trust fund assets on another court battle.

    "If Tommy Myers sued Vince Fumo, you think he's gonna lie down?" Holman asked. "My guy, Tommy Myers, he looks smarter all the time."

    Holman said besides the $1.4 million loan, the assets of the trust fund included $612,473.

    In closing, Holman urged the judge to read all the emails and letters Vince Fumo sent out regarding his daughter and her trust fund. Those letters include the "rantings of someone who's been in prison for four years," Holman said, but those emails and letters also show "the soft side of Vince Fumo in regard to his daughter."

    The judge gave both sides until July 29 to submit legal briefs, so he could decide on the matter.

    After court was adjourned, Heyman was asked about Allie Fumo, and why she wasn't in the courtroom.

    "It was very, very difficult to sue her father," Heyman said. Coming back to court today was "something she didn't want to do or need to do."

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    Damion Canalichio (right) with George Borgesi
    By George Anastasia

    They were both in the gambling business, but this time the odds don't appear to be in their favor.

    Mobsters Damion Canalichio and Anthony Staino go in front of Judge Eduardo Robreno this week to find out how to plan the next several years of their lives. Both are going to be inmates in federal prisons.

    The only question is for how long.

    Canalichio, 43, was convicted of racketeering conspiracy in the big mob trial that ended in February. Staino, 53, was convicted of extortion and shortly afterward pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge on which the jury had hung.

    Lawyers for both defendants have filed motions challenging prosecution requests for lengthy sentences. For Canalichio, a brash-talking mob soldier with two prior federal convictions for drug dealing who was picked up on tape boasting about being an enforcer, the government wants from 17 to 21 years.

    For Staino, a mob lieutenant and close associate of acting boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi, the government is looking for about 10 years. Staino, unlike the other defendants in the case, has no prior convictions. But he was recorded on tape boasting about being the "CFO" and a "member of the board of directors" of the crime family. Those comments would seem to support prosecutors' arguments that he was a leader of organized crime, a designation that enhances federal sentencing guidelines.

    Canalichio, of Turnersville, goes before Robreno tomorrow at 9 a.m.

    Staino, who lived in Woolwich Township outside of Swedesboro, has a date with the judge at the same time on Wednesday.

    The two South Jersey wiseguys already have a sense of where Robreno may be heading. On Thursday the judge sentenced mob underboss Joseph "Mousie" Massimino, 63, to 188 months (nearly 16 years). On Friday mob associate Gary Battaglini, 51, got eight years.

    The smart money says that Canalichio and Staino will both draw sentences somewhere in between those two. Both are likely to receive double figures. Canalichio, however, already has two years and two months in. He and several other defendants in the case, including Ligambi, Massimino and George Borgesi, were denied bail after their indictment and arrest in May 2011.

    That type of jail time is credited toward any sentence.
    Anthony Staino (left) with his lawyer Gregory Pagano

    Staino was free on bail until his conviction in February.

    Canalichio's brash and arrogant manner during the trial and on the tapes that were played as evidence was in sharp contrast to the portrait painted of him by his court-appointed attorney Margaret Grasso in a pre-sentence memo filed last month.

    She described him as a loving husband and father of three young daughters and said he had the support of family members and friends who have written letters to the court. The letters, she said, show that  he "has learned from his incarceration that his family is the most important thing in his life and that he would not do anything in the future to jeopardize his freedom to be with his family once given the opportunity to do so."

    Grasso, like lawyers for Massimino and Battaglini, argued that the conspiracy conviction was difficult to analyze since the same jury acquitted the defendants of more than 40 charges tied to gambling, loansharking and extortion that were part of the case.

    Canalichio, for example, was found not guilty of bookmaking and dealing in electronic video poker machines. But he was found guilty of racketeering conspiracy.

    Grasso said her client should be sentenced under a guideline range of 57 to 71 months, rather than the 210 to 262 months the government is suggesting.

    Her plea for a lenient sentenced also included references to Canalichio's difficult childhood where he was raised by his mother after his father abandoned the family and his past problems with drug use.
    Prosecutors, however, have identified Canalichio as a mob soldier who has two prior convictions for dealing drugs. One of the tapes played during the trial included Canalichio going on a rant about a "fucking junkie" who was causing problems at a social club that he ran with mobster Martin Angelina.

    Canalichio's underworld arrogance, say law enforcement sources, was captured in that conversation. Canalichio, who made thousands dealing cocaine, complaining about a junkie was the height of underworld hypocrisy, they said.
    Staino (left) with Uncle Joe Ligambi

    Staino will also be hard pressed to overcome tapes in which he was heard extorting an undercover FBI agent while bragging about his position as the chief financial officer and member of the board of directors of the mob.

    His lawyer, Gregory Pagano, argued that his background and his decision to plead guilty to the racketeering conspiracy charge should mitigate against the 10 to 11-year sentence the government is seeking. Instead, Pagano argued, Staino should receive a sentence similar to the terms Robreno meted out to mobsters Louis Fazzini (55 months) and Martin Angelina (57 months) who pleaded guilty prior to trial.

    "The characteristics of the defendant are unlike any other defendant in this case and unlike most others associated with or connected to organized crime," Pagano wrote in a motion filed earlier this month.

    "The defendant grew up in South Jersey," Pagano continued, "and was actively involved in his school and community. He was president of his class all four years in high school [Maple Shade]. He was captain of his football team and went to college for one year. The defendant has an excellent work ethic and work history. In 2010 he started a cleaning business. He and his wife personally cleaned homes to pay their bills. He has always paid his taxes."

    Pagano also wrote that Staino had tried to enter a guilty plea prior to the start of the trial, but the government negotiated "in bad faith" and did not offer Staino the same option as others, like Fazzini and Angelina, both of whom have criminal records.

    "Inexplicably, the government is asking this court to impose a harsher sentence on the defendant because he is a first-time offender," Pagano added.

    George Anastasia can be contacted at

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