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Articles on this Page
- 07/17/17--16:33: _Penn State Candidat...
- 07/20/17--10:32: _Is Mark Dambly Wear...
- 07/23/17--02:47: _Big Trial On With S...
- 07/27/17--10:48: _The Dangerous Misle...
- 07/29/17--08:36: _Mob Talk Sitdown Vi...
- 08/05/17--06:43: _Feds Highlight Murd...
- 08/12/17--13:18: _Twelfth Juror Stars...
- 08/14/17--14:39: _Let's Make A Deal -...
- 08/17/17--07:09: _Billy Doe Prosecuto...
- 08/17/17--05:00: _Detective Joe Walsh...
- 08/21/17--11:53: _Penn State Confiden...
- 08/22/17--13:50: _Lawyer For Former D...
- 08/22/17--15:54: _Penn State Confiden...
- 08/29/17--18:47: _Big Ron Previte Dea...
- 09/05/17--07:37: _Franco Harris: Grah...
- 09/11/17--09:30: _CNN Smears Joe Pate...
- 09/13/17--06:57: _Inky Readers Hit Pa...
- 09/18/17--07:42: _State Attorney Gene...
- 09/19/17--03:48: _Wine Club Crushes It
- 09/29/17--09:30: _Boy In The Shower S...
- 10/08/17--08:11: _Cosby's Accuser Has...
- 10/10/17--15:18: _Penn State Confiden...
- 10/17/17--18:30: _Pro-Prosecution Ink...
- 10/18/17--03:43: _Sandusky's Lawyers ...
- 10/18/17--06:47: _Spanier's Lawyers S...
- 07/17/17--16:33: Penn State Candidate For Chairman Carries Plenty Of Baggage
- 07/20/17--10:32: Is Mark Dambly Wearing A Wire?
- 07/23/17--02:47: Big Trial On With State College's Morning Guys
- 07/27/17--10:48: The Dangerous Misleading Narrative Of The Keepers
- 07/29/17--08:36: Mob Talk Sitdown Video Looks At The Case Against Joey Merlino
- 08/05/17--06:43: Feds Highlight Murder Talk In Merlino Tape
- 08/12/17--13:18: Twelfth Juror Stars In Chaka Fattah Appeal
- 08/14/17--14:39: Let's Make A Deal -- Bernard Shero Getting Out Of Jail Early
- 08/17/17--07:09: Billy Doe Prosecutor: We Don't Need No Stinkin' Investigation
- 08/17/17--05:00: Detective Joe Walsh Responds To ADA Blessington
- 08/21/17--11:53: Penn State Confidential: What Did Mike McQueary Hear and See?
- 08/22/17--15:54: Penn State Confidential: What Mike McQueary Heard And Saw, Part 2
- 08/29/17--18:47: Big Ron Previte Dead At 73
- 09/11/17--09:30: CNN Smears Joe Paterno With Old News From Tainted Source
- 09/13/17--06:57: Inky Readers Hit Paywall
- 09/18/17--07:42: State Attorney General's Office Tries To Keep Sandusky Probe Secret
- 09/19/17--03:48: Wine Club Crushes It
- 09/29/17--09:30: Boy In The Shower Says He Can't Remember 34 Times
- 10/08/17--08:11: Cosby's Accuser Has A Secret
- 10/10/17--15:18: Penn State Confidential: Prosecutor Told McQueary To Clam Up
- 10/17/17--18:30: Pro-Prosecution Inky Denounces Payday Loan Defendants During Trial
- 10/18/17--03:43: Sandusky's Lawyers Charge A.G.'s Office With Brady Violations
- 10/18/17--06:47: Spanier's Lawyers Say Statute Had Run On Crime He Was Convicted Of
As a Penn State student, Mark Dambly wound up in jail for five days in 1979 after he pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct. Then he got mixed up in an infamous multimillion dollar cocaine ring, a retired investigator says, but beat the rap by wearing a wire and cooperating with the government.
These days, Dambly is campaigning to become chairman of the Penn State Board of Trustees, an election scheduled for Friday.
But Dambly's most recent legal problems include getting hit with a subpoena last year in the federal probe of Allentown Mayor Ed Pawloski. Pawloski's being investigated for bribery and kickbacks; Dambly's connection is he's the Allentown mayor's top financial contributor.
With all the problems at Penn State, the question is, do they really need a guy with as much baggage as Mark Dambly as board chairman?
No, says Maribeth Roman Schmidt, executive director of Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship.
"I think it's common sense," she wrote in an email, to favor candidates "who haven't been associated with scandal or illegal activity."
Blogger Ray Blehar agrees.
"Mark Dambly, if elected chairman of the board, will do nothing but perpetuate the poor university governance that the Penn State community has experienced since November 2011," Blehar wrote in an email.
Dambly, the president of Pennrose Management, could not be reached by email or telephone for comment on this story. A spokeswoman this afternoon said that Dambly had been in meetings all day and might be able to respond in a week.
Presumably after the election on Friday.
The Dambly file begins in 1979, on the weekend of a Penn State-Temple football game, with an incident where three students got beaten up during a fight in the Pugh Street parking garage.
Dambly was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. If convicted, he faced a fine of $2,500 and a year in jail. That's when Dambly hired R. Bruce Manchester of Bellefonte, PA as his lawyer.
On Nov. 17, 1979, Manchester sent Dambly a letter telling him that he had been offered a plea bargain by the Centre County District Attorney's Office that included pleading guilty to disorderly conduct, spending five days in jail, and paying a $200 fine.
"By pleading guilty you will have a police record which may have to be disclosed on various occasions in the future," Manchester wrote Dambly. "You stated to me on Wednesday the 28th that your career goal is to be a real estate broker."
Manchester informed Dambly that he would have to disclose his criminal record in order to apply for a real estate license. But Dambly wasn't forthcoming about the arrest when confronted in recent years by a TV reporter.
In 2012, Dambly was a Penn state trustee who had supported criminal background checks for university employees. Reporter Gary Sinderson of WJAC Johnstown Channel 6 confronted Dambly in a video posted on youtube.com and asked if Dambly had been arrested in 1979.
"I'm not aware of that," Dambly responded twice on camera. As he was walking away, in unreleased video recorded by the TV station, Sinderson asked Dambly about his alleged association with members of the cocaine ring.
"I don't recall that either," Dambly said.
When asked by his fellow trustees during an executive session about the disorderly conduct arrest, Dambly replied that it was "undocumented."
In 2013, Dambly filed an application in Centre County to have his 1979 guilty plea for disorderly conduct expunged.
TV reporter Sinderson asked Dambly about the infamous "Dr. Snow" yuppie cocaine ring run by Larry Lavin, then a student at the University of Pennsylvania dental school. The ring operated between 1978 and 1984.
In 1986, a judge sentenced three dentists to jail for their roles in the ring that the FBI said at the time was the largest known cocaine distribution enterprise in the history of the Philadelphia area, grossing up to $5 million a month.
A retired investigator who worked the Lavin case and sought anonymity said that former FBI Agent Leo Pedrotty, who died last year, was Dambly's handler after he decided to wear a wire to get himself out of a legal jam.
"Pedrotty was responsible for placing the recording equipment on Dambly and monitoring the results as Dambly secretly recorded conversations about the massive drug operation," the investigator wrote. "In exchange, Dambly would not be prosecuted and there would be no asset forfeiture action."
In the Dr. Snow case, Lavin, convicted of not paying $545,000 in taxes, served nearly 20 years in prison before he was released in 2005.
The judge also sentenced Brian Cassidy, like Dambly, a graduate of Conestoga High School and Penn State, to 12 years in prison. The other Conestoga/Penn State alum implicated in the cocaine ring was Kenneth J. Kasznel, who pleaded guilty and became a cooperator.
One of Dambly's former customers wrote TV reporter Sinderson a letter, saying that Dambly "used to supply me and dozens of others with pot and cocaine."
"Mark graduated from PSU a mid level pot and cocaine dealer, then went back home in the Phila burbs and got his masters degree in large quantity drug dealing," wrote the former customer, who was subsequently interviewed by the investigator.
"If we needed a 1/4 or half pound of the white . . . Dambly was our guy," the former customer wrote.
Dr. Snow himself did not remember Dambly.
"I really do not recall a Mark Dambly," Lavin, the star of a recent National Geographic channel documentary about his Dr. Snow days, wrote in an email.
But people keep asking him about Dambly, Lavin said.
"This is the third time over the years that someone has asked this," Lavin wrote. "Obviously there is always the possibility he [Dambly] did things under someone involved with me, but I have no knowledge of him."
Dambly rankles many Penn State loyalists because of the way he ripped Joe Paterno in a TV interview, after the Jerry Sandusky scandal hit, and Paterno was fired.
"Although legally, I believe he [Paterno] did what he had to do," Dambly said, "Morally, I don't believe the standards he set for his own student athletes, he didn't live up to those standards for himself."
As far as Dambly's critics are concerned, he doesn't live up to the standards for chairman of Penn State's board of trustees.
"His apparent failure to recall a five-day period of incarceration in the Centre County prison for a violent crime casts great doubt on his credibility, and appears to be just the tip of the iceberg," wrote former NCIS Special Agent John Snedden, also a Penn State alum.
If you're a Penn State trustee, and you're going to talk to Mark Dambly about his impending election tomorrow as chairman of the board, should you pat him down first?
Yes, say two former investigators.
"My first question [for Dambly] would be, 'Hey, you still wearing a wire?'" said John Snedden, a former NCIS and FIS special agent who's a Penn State alum.
"Once a snitch, always a snitch," said another former investigator who worked the infamous "Dr. Snow" cocaine ring of the 1980s and said that Dambly wore a wire to get himself out of trouble with the feds.
With Dambly currently the subject of a federal subpoena in the Allentown pay-to-play corruption case, Snedden said, there are only two remaining possibilities left in the investigation where nine people have already copped pleas.
"At this stage of the investigation it is very likely that he is either THE subject or he is cooperating with the investigation," as in wearing a wire, Snedden said.
"Penn State needs to determine his specific involvement in all his alleged criminal endeavors so they can specifically identify the LOSS EXPOSURE he brings to Penn State," Snedden said.
Dambly has not responded to requests for comment about his alleged involvement in the Dr. Snow cocaine ring, and the five days in jail he spend back in 1979 as a Penn State student after he got nailed for disorderly conduct.
But Dambly is all ready for his impending coronation tomorrow as the new chairman of the Penn State board of trustees.
Meanwhile, a new arrest involving Dambly has surfaced. Dambly was arrested on May 27, 1987 and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, driving at an unsafe speed, failure to keep right, and possession of marijuana. He was released on $500 bail.
The 1987 arrest, as well as his earlier 1979 arrest, have been expunged.
The other mystery in this latest Penn State scandal -- besides the insanity of why Penn State would want somebody with as much baggage as Dambly as the face of the franchise -- would be why The Philadelphia Inquirer is sitting on this story.
Every scrap of information your Big Trial correspondent published on Monday about Mark Dambly was in the possession of a couple of reporters at the Inquirer, but they haven't written a word. Maybe they're waiting for an editor to give them permission to write about Dambly.
After he becomes chairman of the board.
|He's Moved On To Pay-To-Play|
Isn't that great? The July 19th radio interview about Dambly can be heard here. The July 20th radio interview can be heard here.
“When I was young, I made some mistakes. I deeply regret those actions," Dambly said. "I’ve learned from those mistakes, and I’ve moved on to live a productive life, both personally and professionally."
It is true that Sister Cathy Cesnik, 26, an attractive, popular English teacher, was murdered and probably raped on November 7, 1969. Only three days later, another young woman, 20, was killed two miles away in a very similar fashion. It is quite likely that the same unknown person killed both of them, but the murderer probably didn’t know that Cesnik was a nun, because she had just begun working at a public high school and had permission not to wear her habit.
As part of her prayerful memory process, Wehner visualized how Father Maskell had taken her to see Cathy Cesnik’s body, and that her face had been crawling with maggots. Maskell must have known that she would immediately repress the memory, just as she allegedly forgot her rapes every time the door clicked shut as she was leaving his office. When Maskell’s body was exhumed in 2017 (he died in 2001), his DNA did not match the DNA at the murder scene.
As background, readers should know that the late 1980s and 1990s featured the height of an epidemic of false memories of childhood sexual abuse, fomented by this misguided, pseudoscientific form of psychotherapy. The theory behind this fad stemmed from Sigmund Freud’s work a century beforehand, in the 1890s.
“It’s not unreasonable to interpret Eva’s dreams as tapping into repressed memories of her experiences with Maskell,” Ellis told Mandelbaum, the reporter. (Ellis is still practicing in Maryland, and he still promotes dream interpretation, writing: “Dreams can be viewed as the dreamer’s attempt to ‘work through’ or resolve some conflict that they are experiencing in reality.”)
On the contrary, reputable memory scientistshave found that years of traumatic events are impossible to forget and that false memories of abuse are frequently produced through suggestion and influence. Rogers erroneously concluded: “The science is firm that traumatic events can cause memory loss, and that these memories may resurface years or decades later.” I am sure that she sincerely meant well, but from her photo, Rogers is a young Millennial who was swayed by the series and accepted the myth of repressed memory hook, line, and sinker. I fear that she is representative of a new generation who will be vulnerable to these dangerous theories.
--Mark Pendergrast is a science writer and independent scholar and the author of many books (www.markpendergrast.com.) He discusses The Keepers in his forthcoming book, Memory Warp: How the Myth of Repressed Memory Arose and Refuses to Die (October 2017).
The author notes that he submitted a shorter version of this investigative expose of the popular Netflix series to Slate, Vice, Discover, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Psychology Today, and other publications, to no avail.
“I shouldn’t be surprised,” he said, “that the mainstream media have no interest in debunking sex abuse allegations, even if they are based on psychological myths.”
|The Mob Talk Boys Are Back|
He's beaten the feds in court more often than they've beaten him.
Still he's spent close to half his adult life either in jail or on supervised release.
Today Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino, 55, is prepping for another battle. Mob Talk, the one-time weekly feature on Fox 29 in Philadelphia, has a new life as Mob Talk Sitdown. Our first video report takes a look at how the case against Skinny Joey is shaping up.
Click below for the full report:
|"Leave the gun . . . "|
It was just a couple of guys talking . . . about how to commit a murder.
And the feds got to listen in.
Snippets of a conversation recorded by a cooperating witness show Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino and Eugene "Rooster" Onofrio casually discussing how to whack somebody.
"It's easy to kill somebody," said Merlino, according to a tape cited in a recent filing by federal prosecutors in a case against Merlino and Onofrio that is winding its way toward trial in New York.
"It's simple," said the New York wiseguy.
"You're my friend," Merlino said, picking up the conversation as cooperator John "JR" Rubeo listened and the body wire he was wearing for the FBI picked up every word. "You trust me. I tell you, 'Listen, drive me home right now.' Get you in the car. I shoot you in the fuckin' head and it's over."
For more on the story and the potential impact of the tape check out the latest Mob Talk Sitdown at:
While former U.S. Congressman Chaka Fattah sits in jail, his lawyers are trying to get him a new trial.
Their best shot involves pro-prosecution Judge Harvey Bartle III, and his ham-fisted ejection last summer of Juror 12 from the Fattah case, simply because that juror had the temerity to disagree with the government.
Fattah's appeal was filed earlier this month in the United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit, in the matter of USA v. Chaka Fattah, Sr.
Any appeal is a long shot, but if the Court of Appeals signs off on Judge Bartle's decision to remove a dissident juror merely because he was a dissident, what's the point of having a jury trial when it involves a Philadelphia politician accused of corruption? We might as well just pronounce the defendant guilty upon indictment, and send them straight to jail. So we can spare the taxpayers the cost of a lengthy trial, and stop wasting time with any nonsense about constitutional rights.
And since that newspaper has had an unholy alliance with prosecutors since the days of Harry Karafin, any allegations of corruption are treated as proven facts by the Inquirer the minute the indictment is released by the U.S. Attorney's office. Or the minute the allegations in that indictment are leaked to the Inquirer, in advance of the official release, for additional damaging pretrial publicity.
Regardless, the Inquirer keeps a permanent slot on their front-page open for the next breathless story about official corruption emanating from those beacons of light at the U.S. Attorney's office.
The end result: by the time a defendant finally goes to trial, especially a Philadelphia politician accused of corruption, he's already been convicted in the media. No matter what crazy theory the prosecutors are running with.
The game is so out of whack here in Philadelphia that the prosecutors can take a couple of milquetoasts, say Chaka Fattah and Herb Vederman, and convince people that they're dangerous racketeers. Yes folks, in the Fattah case, the congressman and his diminutive aide were prosecuted under the RICO Act, as if they were John Stanfa and Skinny Joey Merlino.
It doesn't matter how goofy the prosecution theories are. Here in Philadelphia, the Inquirer can be counted on to run with it without expressing a critical thought. All that's needed on the criminal justice railroad that runs through Philadelphia is a rubber stamp from the jurors.
What went wrong in the Fattah case was that Juror 12, a former U.S. Army paratrooper from Lancaster County, didn't think that the government had proved his case. A white guy from Amish country didn't think there was any evidence to convict a black congressman from Philadelphia of corruption.
Fattah was accused of orchestrating a plot to pay for his campaign expenses with a $1 million loan borrowed from a wealthy campaign contributor. But before he sent a guy off to jail, Juror 12 wanted some proof. And when he looked a the evidence, what did he discover?
|Herb the Racketeer|
One of those cooperating witnesses was Thomas Lindenfeld, a former political consultant to Fattah who got jammed up by the feds.
According to the evidence presented in court, Lindenfeld "lied to his wife, his family, his business partners, and those close to him," Juror 12 said. " So why would I believe anything he said to save his own skin? If you're gonna lie to them, why wouldn't you lie to me?"
Sounds reasonable. Juror 12's problem was once he looked at the evidence, and formed an opinion on whether the government had proved its case, he wasn't going to change his mind.
That became a problem with the rest of the jurors, some of whom thought just the allegations printed in the indictment amounted to proof of criminal activity. That, of course, would qualify them for jobs as Inky reporters and editors.
Stepping into the breach was Judge Bartle, a former state attorney general, who was determined to make sure that justice was done in his courtroom. The right kind of justice. Standing in Judge Bartle's way was the U.S. Constitution.
"The trial court abused its discretion by inserting itself into the jury deliberations and then dismissing a juror who did not view the evidence as the rest of the jury did," wrote lawyers Samuel W. Silver and Bruce P. Merenstein in a 64-page appeal brief. "The constitutional rights to due process, impartial juries, unanimous verdicts, and guilt only upon proof beyond a reasonable doubt all serve to protect a criminal defendant from the overwhelming pressure that can be brought to bear on a lay jury."
In their brief, Fattah's lawyers said that the judge's decision to question any jurors in the Fattah case was "improper and prejudicial.'"
"Barely a half-day into the jury's deliberations, the trial court questioned five jurors about those deliberations and then dismissed a juror who, according to some of the other jurors, would not view the evidence the way they did and would not vote with them to convict the defendants," the lawyers wrote.
The judge had "no basis to question the jurors in the first place," the lawyers wrote. The judge's interviews with the jurors, and a couple of jurors' notes revealed "nothing more than healthy disagreements over the merits and normal deliberations among jurors in a criminal case," the lawyers wrote. "Thus, the trial court abused its discretion in dismissing the dissenting juror and a new trial is required to remedy this error."
"The results of the trial court's questioning of the jurors confirmed that there was no legitimate grounds for removing Juror 12," the lawyers wrote. "The foreperson testified that Juror 12 wouldn't change his vote and that it was 'everybody pretty much against this guy.' The foreperson clearly was frustrated that no matter how much other jurors argued with Juror 12, he would not interpret the evidence the same way as they did, and that he insisted on reviewing the evidence very closely."
And when the judge interviewed Juror 12, it was his undisputed testimony that "while he pointed to evidence to justify his dissenting vote, other jurors rejected his arguments and 'pointed to the indictment.'"
"When he [Juror 12] reminded the other jurors that the indictment was not evidence and pointed to the jury charge that was supposed to guide their deliberations, the other jurors ignored him and simply insisted on taking another vote," the lawyers wrote.
Juror 6 conceded to the judge that Juror 12 was 'participating in the process' and was reviewing the evidence. He was just "being obstinate," Juror 6 told the judge. "He's being different."
In Judge Bartle's courtroom, this was a problem. Hopefully, the appeals court will remind the judge that you can't toss a juror off a case for weighing the evidence and following his conscience.
|The Philly D.A.'s Office In Action|
Like the Pope used to be, prosecutors think they're infallible.
And when they screw up, or get caught playing dirty, they don't apologize.
But today in Common Pleas Court, the nearest thing to a correction just happened -- Judge Ellen Ceisler signed off on a deal struck between the Philadelphia District Attorney's office and Bernard Shero's lawyers to let Shero out of jail nearly a dozen years early.
Shero, 54, is the former schoolteacher doing 8 to 16 years for his 2013 conviction by a jury on charges that included rape of a child, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a child, endangering the welfare of a child, corruption of a minor, and indecent assault. But Shero's conviction comes with a big asterisk -- the alleged victim in the case was Danny Gallagher, AKA "Billy Doe," the former altar boy who has since been outed as a complete fraud.
Shero, 54, has already done 4 years, 6 months and two weeks in jail for crimes that never happened. He has another 11 1/2 years to go on his maximum sentence. But as soon as tomorrow, he'll be walking out of State Correctional Institution in Houtzdale, thanks to a deal finalized today during a half-hour teleconference between the prison and Judge Ceisler's courtroom at the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia.
Wearing a maroon jumpsuit, inmate Shero was on camera in Judge Ceisler's courtroom, answering questions posed by the judge, his lawyer, Jeff Ogren, and a couple of assistant district attorneys.
|Danny Gallagher, The D.A.'s Star Witness|
Shero had an appeal for a new trial cooking under the Post-Conviction Relief Act, and reading the tea leaves, the throughly corrupt Philadelphia District Attorney's Office got the distinct impression from a prior hearing that Judge Ceisler was about to rule against them.
Shero's lawyers were pursuing a new trial on the grounds of prosecutorial misconduct. Their star witness: Joe Walsh, the retired detective who was the District Attorney's lead investigator on the Billy Doe case. Walsh came forward to say that Danny Gallagher was a liar who admitted that he just "made up stuff."
In a 12-page affidavit, Walsh wrote that he caught Gallagher telling so many lies that the detective repeatedly told the prosecutor in the case, former Assistant District Attorney Mariana Sorensen, that her star witness wasn't credible, and that the evidence he had gathered contradicted Gallagher's crazy stories. Sorensen's response, according to Walsh: "You're killing my case."
With a killer witness like that in the defense's corner, the D.A.'s office was justifiably concerned about losing the PCRA hearing, and Shero getting a new trial. So they cut a deal. In exchange for Shero's freedom, the former schoolteacher had to undergo the humiliation of a half-hour hearing, where, in front of his family, he pleaded no contest to three charges: involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a child, a first-degree felony, and two first-degreee misdemeanors, endangering the welfare of a child, and corruption of a minor.
Shero, who admitted he had taken Zoloft before today's hearing, had to sit there while an assistant district attorney read the alleged facts of the case. All of those facts were lies -- that Shero, Gallagher's homeroom teacher, back when Gallagher was an 11-year-old altar boy, allegedly raped Gallagher while driving him home from school.
Detective Walsh, the lead investigator on the case, has already stated that he didn't believe it ever happened. Gallagher's stories about the alleged rape also varied so wildly that he wouldn't have been a credible witness to any honest district attorney.
But the D.A. pushing the Danny Gallagher rape story was Rufus Seth Williams, a man so corrupt he admitted to stealing from his own mother, in addition to taking bribes and selling his office. And now Williams is sitting in solitary confinement at the federal prison at 7th and Market, awaiting his sentencing on Oct. 24th.
But Danny Gallagher's lies lived on the courtroom of Judge Ceisler today as the assistant D.A.'s read Gallagher's fictional rape stories into the record. And Shero had to plead no contest to it if he wanted to ever get out of jail.
Most men in his position would have pleaded guilty to the Kennedy assassination. Shero also had to give up his rights to a new trial, and any other appeals he may have wanted to file.
In return, the D.A. cut his sentence to time served. Shero will be on probation for the next 10 years. He will also have to register as a sex offender.
When the prosecutor asked Shero if he understood the term so this plea bargain, Shero replied, "I believe it's clear."
The judge also wanted to know if Shero understood the rights he was giving up.
"I'm good, ma'am, thank you," Shero replied.
For her part, the judge granted Shero a new trial under his PCRA appeal, in exchange for Shero immediately taking the plea bargain offered by the D.A.'s office.
Judge Ceisler told Shero that his family was in the courtroom, including his father, Bob, his mother Bonnie, and his sister, Robin.
"They've been fighting for you" for years, the judge said. She told the defendant he had her "best wishes" for "the next chapter of your life."
"Good luck, Mr. Shero," the judge said as she ended the hearing. "Enjoy the rest of your summer," the judge told Shero's family.
After the hearing was over, Jeff Ogren, Shero's defense attorney, acknowledged that Shero was initially against pleading no contest to anything. His position has always been that he's an innocent man.
But Ogren's position was simple: "If he [Shero] did nothing, he'd be coming out in a million years," Ogren said.
So they struck a deal so the D.A. could still pretend that Danny Gallagher was a rape victim and that Rufus Seth Williams' historic prosecution of the Catholic Church was still legitimate.
Even though Danny Gallagher is a fraud and Rufus Seth Williams is a criminal. But at least Bernie Shero will soon be a free man.
In Philadelphia, this is what passes for justice.
And if you're a prosecutor, it means you never have to say you're sorry. Even when they catch you putting a witness on the stand that you know is a fraud.
By Ralph Cipriano
Bernard Shero got out of jail yesterday. "He's home and we are so happy!!!" his mother wrote in a text.
But the question remains: Why did the scandal-plagued Philadelphia District Attorney's office decide to let a convicted child rapist out of prison 11 1/2 years early? The D.A.'s office isn't talking, but the facts are they only did it after one of their own, retired Detective Joseph Walsh, came forward with damaging accusations of prosecutorial misconduct.
When the D.A. cut their deal with Shero, Walsh was one of the witnesses scheduled to take the stand this fall in another hearing before Judge Ellen Ceisler on Shero's petition for a new trial under the Post-Conviction Relief Act. Now, thanks to that deal the D.A. cut, Walsh won't be making any appearances on behalf of Shero. But the D.A.'s office isn't out of the woods just yet.
Msgr. William J. Lynn, the lead defendant in the so-called "Billy Doe" sex abuse case, is still scheduled to be retried, pending a couple of appeals in state Superior Court over some pretrial rulings in the Lynn case. And unless the D.A.'s office cuts another deal with Lynn, retired Detective Walsh will be taking the stand as the monsignor's star witness, to give another dissertation on the prosecutorial misconduct in the D.A.'s office that he witnessed up close and personal.
A recently released court transcript reveals the D.A.'s defense against Walsh's accusations, and it basically amounts to a comedy skit that was openly met with disbelief by an incredulous judge. But the transcript also contains some damaging admissions from the lead prosecutor about the so-called Billy Doe "investigation." It's a primer on the the legal perils of trying to defend a case after one of your own team members has come forward to blow the whistle.
Memo to interim D.A. Kelley Hodge : it might be high time to cut a deal with Msgr. Lynn and spare the scandal-plagued D.A.'s office further embarrassment. Before this entire travesty goes up in flames on a national stage, namely a retrial of Msgr. Lynn.
Before the D.A.'s office moved to shut down the circus over Shero's PCRA petition, Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington tried to shoot his way out.
At a June 8th PCRA hearing before Judge Ceisler, Blessington decided his only defense was to attack Detective Walsh's credibility, but the volatile prosecutor wound up inflicting more damage on the D.A.'s office than he did on Walsh.
Blessington, the lead prosecutor in the Lynn case, got things rolling by trying to imply that the D.A.'s office couldn't wait to cross-examine Walsh at a future PCRA hearing.
"I had a pile of information to cross-examine Joe Walsh with, who by the way, was not brought in to investigate the case," Blessington declared. "The investigation had been completed. There had been an arrest. He was brought in for trial preparation."
Blessington further alleged that if there was any prosecutorial misconduct during trial prep, it was Walsh's fault.
"So Detective Walsh, who, by the way, if there is a violation here, he is the violator," Blessington declared. "No one is going to make him this violator and this hero; if there was egregious miscarriage of justice based upon a failure, it was Joe Walsh's -- Detective Walsh's failure. Let's not lose sight of that."
George Bochetto, a lawyer defending Shero, pointed to a 12-page affidavit filed by Walsh in Common Pleas Court that detailed the prosecutorial misconduct that he witnessed.
"The affidavit," Bochetto told the judge. "He [Walsh] was pleading with the Commonwealth's lawyers about these problems. I was urging them to re-look at this and reconsider this, and they kept saying that you are trying to kill the case."
Bochetto then pointed out that if Blessington is right about the misconduct being Walsh's fault, "It doesn't matter" because "Walsh is part of the Commonwealth." Bochetto then proceeded to attack the rest of of Blessington's argument.
"We do not concede to the Commonwealth's characterization that was just about trial prep," Bochetto said.
"This is Mr. Walsh who was brought in after the indictment to try to go get the evidence that would support the story of Danny Gallagher," Bochetto said. "And this was a series of meetings over time where Detective was trying to A, understand what Danny Galalagher was saying, and B, square it with what he could objectively find as facts."
"And that's where the tension began to grow and grow, which eventually led to the prosecution saying that you are trying to kill my case," Bochetto said.
"This was an attempt to build the prosecution's case," Bochetto told the judge. "Many of these things of Detective Walsh's decidedly and profoundly upset about not having been disclosed, took place not as trial prep, but as an investigation."
What Blessington referred to as trial prep was a session that lasted some three hours before the Lynn trial where Detective Walsh repeatedly questioned Danny Gallagher the lying scheming altar boy about nine key factual discrepancies in his testimony. And Gallagher's responses, according to Walsh, varied from putting his head down and saying nothing, to claiming he was high on drugs, or to inventing new stories of abuse.
And none of this was ever disclosed to the defense. This is the prosecutorial misconduct alleged by Detective Walsh. It was serious enough in the Lynn case to prompt Judge Gwendolyn Bright to announce from the bench that Lynn would have gotten a new trial because of that prosecutorial misconduct, if an appeals court had not already granted him a new trial.
At the PCRA hearing on the Shero case before Judge Ceisler, Bochetto got in a few more licks.
"Detective Walsh is part of the Commonwealth's team," Bochetto pointed out. "Detective Walsh comes forward, issues an affidavit, gets on a witness stand and testifies under oath that the Commonwealth improperly withheld a lot of this information, and particularly Danny Gallagher's reactions and explanations as to what was going on and the inconstancies, was all withheld."
"And I, Detective Walsh, am going to step forward as a former decorated member of the Commonwealth, their team, and say this is wrong," Bochetto said. "This should not have taken place."
Jeff Ogren, another lawyer for Shero, pointed out that Burt Rose, Shero's trial attorney, said "over and over that we had no idea Danny Gallagher was tested so strongly by the detective on all these inconsistencies, so we never knew what his reactions were."
"Judge, the only I was trying to say is, we disagree strenuously that this was simply trial prep," Bochetto said. "This was a lot more than trial prep."
Blessington blamed Walsh for any possible misconduct, saying the detctive had given several conflicting versions of how his trial prep went down with Gallagher.
The judge went along with the prosecutor's argument, and proceeded to hang him with it.
"Even though the Commonwealth might not have committed any prosecutorial misconduct, maybe the detective did," the judge suggested, referencing the possibility that Walsh didn't tell the prosecutors about what went down in his trial prep session with Gallagher.
Given that opening, Blessington decided it was a good time to take a shot at one of his own team members.
"What is also to consider is Detective Walsh's credibility," Blessington said.
Bochetto cut in.
"Let's say that Mr. Blessington is right" that it's Joe Walsh fault, Bochetto said. "I'd disagree with that severe of a characterization, but let's give him [Blessington] the benefit of the doubt for this argument."
Blessington should have kept talking. When your opponent is agreeing with you, he could be ready to stick a knife in your back.
"Whose problem is that," Bochetto asked the judge about any possible misconduct committed by Detective Walsh.
"It's certainly not Mr. Shero's problem," Bochetto said. "It's not our problem. It's the Commonwealth's problem. This is their investigator. This is the main guy who was putting the case together to put Mr. Shero in jail forever. If he [Blessington] wants to march Joe Walsh in and say at that time you said this and that time you said that, whose problem is that Judge?"
"If there were these types of shenanigans," Bochetto said, whether it was Walsh's fault, or the prosecution's, "we are not here to defend that," Bochetto said. "We are not here to justify it."
"It's a corruption of the system," Bochetto said. "It's not the way this system, particularly in a case of this significance, is supposed to work."
"If Mr. Blessington wants to march Mr. Walsh in here and say what's lacking credibility" is the detective himself, and "how he mishandled this, and how falsified his testimony here and there, and he [Walsh] was the main pillar of their investigation and prosecution of Mr. Shero, whose door step should that fall on?" Bochetto asked.
Blessington spoke up.
"And Detective Walsh, as I said, and I will repeat, he was brought in primarily for trial preparation," Blessington insisted.
That's when the judge got involved.
"Why didn't you bring him [Walsh] in to start questioning all the witnesses related to Shero and Engelhardt," the judge asked.
Here, Blessington made a statement that prompted an incredulous reaction from the judge, and the audience.
"He did that on his own apparently, Your Honor," Blessington said about the investigation conducted by Walsh.
"He did that on his own?" the judge responded in amazement. "In Hagler and Clopp and all these folks, he did that on his own?"
Louise Hagler was one of two archdiocese social workers who interviewed Danny Gallagher about his initial wild allegations of abuse, shortly after he called in on the archdiocese hotline to make a complaint. Donna Clopp was Gallagher's second-grade teacher at St. Jerome's.
Blessington began backtracking.
"I wasn't there when most of that was going on," Blessington said. "I was detailed to Harrisburg."
"But what I'm saying is, this representation of Joe Walsh as being the leading investigator, this defendant was arrested because a grand jury issued presentment recommending the charges against him," Blessington said.
"It was the grand jury that was responsible for the arrest, not Joe Walsh. He didn't come into it -- and I think [Assistant District Attorney Mariana "You're killing my case"] Sorensen would say that Joe is giving all these inconsistent statements, she's asking him to do other things that he is not doing."
"There may have been an agenda," Blessington added, on the part of Walsh. "I don't know. But what I do know, Your Honor, is there is a burden here on the defense to prove it. That's why his [Walsh's] credibility is at issue, it's their burden."
Here we have the spectacle of the lead prosecutor in the Msgr. Lynn case trying to destroy the credibility of his own lead investigator.
"I understand that," the judge said about the defense's burden. "But I'm kind of intrigued to hear that Walsh might have been kind of doing things on his own."
"I don't think anybody said, hey, Detective Walsh, go out and interview these people," Blessington continued. "I don't think anybody told him to do that . . . He testified twice, and he never said that he received any direction from any of the prosecution."
We interrupt this story to point out that this is an amazing declaration from the lead prosecutor in the Lynn case. Here, Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington is stating that the prosecution didn't need to do any further investigation after a faulty grand jury probe led by a rookie prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Mariana "You're Killing My Case" Sorensen, who had never previously prosecuted a traffic stop.
Here you have a case that rests solely on the completely uncorroborated accusations of Danny Gallagher. There is no medical or physical evidence to back Gallagher's claims that more than a decade earlier, he had been brutally raped by three different assailants -- two priests and a schoolteacher. And nobody saw or heard a thing. There is no witness to corroborate what Gallagher is claiming.
Here, Blessington is saying, we don't need no stinkin' investigation. We already have all the evidence that we need, the totally uncorroborated accusations of Danny Gallagher. That's all we need to indict a bunch of Catholic priests and a school teacher for sex crimes.
So, according to Blessington's INSANE argument, the D.A.'s office didn't need Detective Walsh to go out to the scene of the crime, where an alleged multiple rape spree occurred, and interview the only possible witnesses.
Danny Gallagher's teachers at St. Jerome's. The priests and nuns at the school and church, the sexton at the church who cleaned up after Mass and locked up the church. No, in a case where the fate of four men rests entirely on the credibility of a single accuser, we don't need to know what anybody who knew him thinks or saw or may have witnessed.
Detective Walsh conducted 21 interviews, mostly with nuns, teachers, and priests at St. Jerome's. He interviewed Donna Clopp, Billy Doe's second-grade teacher who described him as a "happy kid" who "liked attention." Clopp was also a member of the bell choir who pointed out that Danny Gallagher couldn't be telling the truth when he claimed to have been a member of the bell choir maintenance crew.
Gallagher had claimed that he was accosted as a fifth grader by Father Avery, after he was putting the bells away after a bell choir concert. But Clopp, as did several other teachers at the school, told Detective Walsh that only eight-grade boys were big and strong enough to lift the heavy tables and bells to set up for the concerts.
And that it was the bell choir members themselves who put away the bells and tables after the concert, not the eighth-graders who had already gone home for the night.
It was Detective Walsh who interviewed Margaret Long, the church music director, who confirmed what Clopp said. "I read the grand jury report," Long told the detective. "The information contained int the grand jury report concerning the bell choir could not have happened."
Because the bells and tables each weighed more than 30 pounds, and 10-year-old Danny Gallagher the fifth-grader only weighed 63 pounds.
It was Detective Walsh who interviewed James Gallagher Jr., Danny Gallagher's older brother, who was also an altar boy at St. Jerome's. James Jr. said he never saw or witnessed any abuse. He also contradicted his younger brother by saying it was the church sexton who put away the sacramental wine after Mass, and not the altar boys.
Danny Gallagher had claimed he was attacked by Father Charles Engelhardt, while he was putting away the sacramental wine after Mass.
Danny Gallagher also claimed that after he had been raped by Fathers Engelhardt and Edward Avery, he switched Masses with other altar boys to avoid his attackers. But James Gallagher Jr. told Detective Walsh that he never switched Masses with his brother, and furthermore, that switching Masses was hard to pull off because he would need the approval of his parents and the pastor.
The older brother also contradicted Danny's stories that Father Engelhardt locked all four doors to the sacristy when he allegedly raped poor Danny. But Danny's older brother told Detective Walsh one of those doorways in the sacristy led to the dressing room for the priests, and it was always kept open.
[No wonder the prosecution managed to basically hide Danny's older brother during the Engelhardt-Shero trial, even though the jury sent the judge a note asking why they didn't hear from him.]
But according to Blessington, there was no need to know any of that. Because we had already indicted and arrested three priests and a school teacher on false charges.
Let's return to the PCRA hearing on Shero, where Blessington was still attacking Detective Walsh.
"He [Walsh] didn't tell anybody about this [prep] session and he never expressed these misgivings until he says that . . .," Blessington said, until the judge interrupted him.
"What you're possibly saying is that his actions were very improper," the judge said. "And they [the prosecutors] didn't know about it. And I'm not saying that your actions were improper, but I'm saying he might be the one who tainted this, in all aspects."
"I'm not saying his [Walsh's] actions and investigation were improper," Blessington responded. "What I'm saying is, if he had all the information that he claims to have gotten as detailed in this affidavit, and he [Walsh] didn't tell anybody about it, if there is a violation, its his violation. That's all I'm saying.
"His violation," the judge repeated. But it still might have precluded a fair trial. We might be getting into an after discovered evidence situation here."
Here, Blessington repeated a false charge against Detective Walsh, first uttered by the judge in this hearing, but undoubtedly fed to her by somebody in the prosecution. The false charge: that Walsh was allegedly and improperly contacting Mike McGovern, Father Engelhardt's lawyer, before the trial where he and Shero were convicted of rape.
"As the court pointed out, he [Walsh] was feeding stuff to McGovern," Blessington said. "If McGovern had it, Shero had it. He is not going to hold things from his co-counsel."
This is a lie.
Detective Walsh pre-trial was not feeding Mike McGovern. How do we know this? As part of their PCRA investigation, Bochetto and Ogren contacted McGovern, a former assistant district attorney himself, and asked if this was true. And McGovern said no way, it never happened.
Walsh told Shero's lawyers the same thing.
Here's the proof: if Walsh had been feeding McGovern, Shero and Engelhardt would have never been convicted. Not if they had known all the stuff Walsh detailed in his 12-page affidavit.
If anybody needs proof of this, call a hearing, put McGovern on the stand, and Walsh, and see what they have to say about their so-called collusion.
It never happened. But what's amazing here is that Blessington is willing to repeat a lie to impeach Walsh. And who fed that lie to the judge in the first place?
Imagine if you're a defense lawyer in the Msgr. Lynn retrial and you've got the lead prosecutor and the lead investigator in the case against you going at each other like this. How do you lose the case?
At the PCRA hearing, Bochetto was enjoying the show.
"Judge, listen to what's going on here," Bochetto said. "On the one hand, Mr. Blessington" is "saying they [the prosecutors] had all this stuff" presumably on Walsh.
"But on the other hand," Bochetto said, "he [Blessington] is saying, Mr. Walsh was doing all this stuff on his own, and we didn't know about it. How could they have turned over what they didn't know about?"
"If there is evidence that the Commonwealth wasn't organized and didn't understand completely what Detective Walsh was up to, we get the benefit of that doubt, Judge," Bochetto said. "It's our constitutional right that was violated."
"If there is misconduct," Bochetto said, "I submit that Mr. Blessington's own statements here about Walsh, go a long way towards supporting the idea that there was something amok here."
"They [the prosecutors] didn't known everything that Walsh knew according to them," Bochetto said. "Walsh says that he turned it over and he was rebuffed. We say that none of that [information] came to us. So I just think that we need to keep our eye on the ball here."
Memo to Interim D.A. Kelly Hodge: Keep your eye on the ball here. The entire credibility of the Billy Doe prosecution, and what's left of the credibility of the D.A.'s office, is on the line here.
Your honorable predecessor, Rufus Seth Williams, the sponsor of the Billy Doe witch hunt, is sitting in solitary confinement awaiting his sentencing on political corruption charges Oct. 24th. What a legacy. And what a headache he's left you with, that pesky and now potentially embarrassing retrial of Msgr. Lynn.
To cut a deal with Msgr. Lynn, here's the bad news, Ms. Hodge: you don't have much leverage.
Unlike Shero, Lynn's not sitting in jail. He's already served 33 months out of his 36-month jail term. Unlike Shero, the monsignor ain't pleading guilty to nothing.
So cut a deal. Declare victory, drop all the charges, and forget about the retrial.
Before everybody over there at the D.A.'s office is exposed on a national stage for perpetrating a fraud on the Commonwealth, as well as justice.
Retired Philadelphia Detective
By Mark Pendergrast
by Ralph Cipriano
Pierre Gomez had a front row seat when it came to watching former District Attorney Rufus Seth Williams in action.
In 2010, Detective Gomez went to work on the personal detail for the new D.A. "As a member of the detail, Detective Gomez provided protection for Williams, which included traveling with Williams to events and other personal meetings," Robert J. McNelly, a lawyer for Gomez, wrote in a letter to Interim D.A. Kelley Hodge that threatens a federal lawsuit. "During this tenure, Detective Gomez gleaned much information regarding Williams' activities."
Gomez was on duty at the Union League the day the D.A. had lunch with Joseph Sullivan, then a chief inspector assigned to Homeland Security, and Mohammad Ali, the Jordanian-born businessman who pleaded guilty to bribing Williams.
Gomez was there the day Williams picked up a red 1997 Jaguar XK8 convertible from Michael Weiss, the owner of a Philadelphia gay bar who testified under a grant of immunity about bribing Williams. So when the FBI came to Gomez in 2015, when the detective was assigned to the Drug Enforcement Agency, and asked him to cooperate with the federal investigation of his former boss. Gomez was granted immunity and cooperated with the federal investigation for two years. His reward, his lawyer says, was to be retaliated against by his bosses.
Cameron Kline, a spokesman for the D.A.'s office, did not respond to a request for comment. Gomez also declined comment.
"As a result of his cooperation, Detective Gomez suffered systematic retaliation from Philadelphia County," his lawyer wrote. "The county targeted Detective Gomez and acted to discourage him from assisting investigators. Specifically, it sought to prevent Detective Gomez from testifying at a possible future trial" as well as before the federal grand jury investigating D.A. Williams.
"The County's retaliatory conduct violates Detective Gomez's rights protected by federal law and the United States Constitution, McNelly wrote.
Gomez was first approached by FBI agents on May 14, 2015, outside the DEA office where he worked.
"The agents indicated to Detective Gomez that they wished to speak with him regarding the corruption investigation of Seth Williams," wrote McNelly, of McNelly & Goldstein LLC of Hatfield. "Detective Gomez voluntarily accompanied the agents to an adjacent building, which housed offices for the Pennsylvania Attorney General. The agents were cognizant of the need for discretion, and the likely retribution that Detective Gomez would receive if the County learned of their conversation."
"Immediately on the flowing day, Lt. Kenyatta Lee summoned Detective Gomez into his office," McNelly wrote. "Lt. Lee is the direct supervisor of Detective Gomez at the County Detective's Unit."
During an "exceedingly rare" meeting with Lee, the lieutenant "inquired about the content of Detective Gomez's conversation with the FBI investigators," McNelly wrote. "Lt. Lee probed to ascertain what specific questions the FBI asked. Detective Gomez answered Lt. Lee's questions respectfully and truthfully, but provided as few details as possible."
"A few short weeks later, Detective Gomez received a phone call from an individual purporting to be an investigator hired by the attorneys representing Williams," McNelly wrote. "The individual stated that the county 'could make it good' for Detective Gomez, if he exhibited loyalty towards Williams in the investigation. Gomez ddi not respond and ended the phone call."
That wasn't the only way Detective Gomez found himself on the outs with his former teammates at county detectives.
"Notably, the County paid for the legal representation of other possible witnesses," McNelly wrote. "After these changes, however, the County never offered to compensate Detective Gomez for the attorney he was forced to retain."
In the letter, attorney McNelly claims that Lt. Lee and other county employees "began retaliating against Detective Gomez" by messing with his work assignment Lt. Lee "attempted to reassign Gomez from a DEA task force," McNelly wrote, but the transfer order got quashed.
Undaunted, Lt. Lee filed "an improper reprimand memo against Detective Gomez, citing specific violations of Police Department rules and regulations," McNelly wrote. Even though Lt. Lee and Detective Gomez were not members of the police department but employed by the county detectives unit, "which sets forth its own rules and regulations," the lawyer wrote.
The reprimand letter was a "baseless and a transparent attempt to tarnish the stellar employment record of Detective Gomez," McNelly wrote. "Whether the memo continues to blemish Detective Gomez's record -- and his ability to advance or seek other employment -- remains unknown."
The county further retaliated against Detective Gomez by preventing him from working overtime in the wiretap room, duties that usually earned the detective overtime worth $30,000 annually,
In addition, McNelly wrote, the D.A.'s office gave "Detective Gomez's name and personal information to a local newspaper reporter at The Philadelphia Inquirer, "even though he [Gomez] was presently on a covert assignment with the DEA."
On March 11, 2016, reporter Barbara Laker requested information regarding the members of Seth Williams' protection detail, "including the individuals' names, salaries and overtime numbers." The information was provided by Elizabeth "B. J." Graham-Rubin, an assistant district attorney, McNelly wrote. "The County had specific knowledge of Detective Gomez's cover assignment, and decided to release his name and information regardless."
"The county's decision to release the name of a detective on covert assignment is an egregious example of retaliation," McNelly wrote. "For the purpose of retribution, the County intentionally risked the life and safety of Detective Gomez."
The demand letter, which seeks $200,000, said the county further retaliated against Detective Gomez by assigning him to an unmarked police car that was "experiencing a recall in regard to its seatbelts."
"Detective Gomez reported the recall to his superiors," McNelly wrote. "He received no response . . . After three weeks of riding in a vehicle with defective seatbelts, Detective Gomez decided to comply with the recall at his own expense."
McNelly's letter implies that Philadelphia County officials loyal to Seth Williams were circling the wagons in an effort to protect him from a federal investigation that eventually brought him down.
Claude Thomas, chief of county detectives, "circulated an email that directed all personnel in the county detective's unit not to respond to third-parties inquiries regarding District Attorney Williams or the ensuing investigation," McNelly wrote.
"Detective Gomez received a Grand Jury subpoena, and promptly notified Thomas," McNelly wrote. "Detective Gomez asked whether Thomas's directive applied to federal inquiries, including the subpoena. Thomas responded that his directive applied to all inquiries -- even to Grand Jury subpoenas."
"Philadelphia County subjected Detective Gomez to persistent harassment and retaliation due to his exercise of protected First Amendment rights," McNelly wrote. "The county retaliated against Detective Gomez for his decision to cooperate with the FBI and offer truthful testimony."
"Notwithstanding the foregoing, Detective Gomez is willing to reach an amicable resolution with Philadelphia County," the lawyer wrote. He asked for compensation for injuries "in the amount of $200,000."
The county has until Aug. 24th to respond. "If you refuse to consider Detective Gomez's very reasonable proposal, he will have no alternative to take immediate action," McNelly wrote, in the form of a "federal retaliation claim against Philadelphia County."
While Detective Gomez was cooperating with the feds in the investigation of D.A. Williams, his superior at the district attorney's office was Kathleen Martin, who was hired in 2015 as chief of staff and integrity officer.
Williams promoted Martin to first assistant district attorney. She took over as acting district attorney when Williams voluntarily suspended his law license, but stayed on as D.A. so he could still collect his $175,000 a year salary.
Lat week, days after Interim D.A. Kelley Hodge received Detective Gomez's demand letter, Kathleen Martin was demoted to deputy district attorney in charge of administration and technology.
Cameron Kline, spokesperson for the D.A.'s office, did not respond to a question about whether the demand letter from Gomez and the demotion of Martin were related in any way.
It is clear that Paterno, Curley, Schultz, and Spanier took the incident for what it apparently was – McQueary hearing slapping sounds that he misinterpreted as being sexual.
The showers are running and, and he is right up against his back with his front. The boy’s hands are up on the wall.” He saw “very slow, slow, subtle movement.” After he slammed his locker, McQueary said, they separated and faced him. Surprisingly, he said that Sandusky did not have an erection. When Amendola failed to object, Judge Cleland inserted himself, obviously fearful of future appeal or post-conviction relief issues. “Wait, wait, wait, just a second,” he warned McGettigan. “I think you have to be very careful for you not to lead this witness.”
A few minutes later, the judge asked both lawyers to approach the bench. “I don’t know why you’re not getting objections to this grossly leading [questioning],” he told McGettigan, who said, “I’m just trying to get through it fast.”
McQueary recounted how he had met with Joe Paterno.
“I made sure he knew it was sexual and that it was wrong, [but] I did not go into gross detail.” Later, he said, he met with Tim Curley, the Penn State athletic director, and Gary Schultz, a university vice president.
In an email quoted during his testimony, McQueary had written, “I had discussions with the police and with the official at the university in charge of the police.” He now explained that by this he meant just one person, since Schultz oversaw the university police department. With only an hour’s warning, Joe Amendola asked Karl Rominger to conduct the cross-examination of McQueary and handed him the file. Rominger did the best he could, asking McQueary why in 2010 he had told the police that he’d looked into the showers twice but had now added a third viewing, and he questioned him about his misremembering that the shower incident occurred in 2002 rather than 2001.
Rominger also noted that McQueary had told the grand jury, “I was nervous and flustered, so I just didn’t do anything to stop it.” Now he was saying that he slammed the locker, which allegedly ended the incident. Without meaning to, McQueary indirectly helped Sandusky’s case by explaining the demanding work schedule of a Penn State football coach, typically reporting to work Sunday through Tuesday at 7 a.m. and working until 10 p.m. or later. Then, Wednesday through Friday, it was 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. If Sandusky kept the same hours, it was difficult to see when he would have managed to molest all those boys, at least during preseason training and football season.
recognize the overweight, bearded, sullen 29-year-old, who clearly didn’t want to be there.
At the end of November 2016, Judge Thomas Gavin ruled that that amount wasn’t enough, so he added another $5 million. In doing so, he cited prosecutor Jonelle Eshbach’s testimony during the trial that McQueary had been a terrific grand jury witness: “He was rock solid in his testimony as to what he had seen,” Eshbach said. “He was very articulate. His memory was excellent.”
Big Ron Previte, the mobster turned government witness whose cooperation brought down three crime bosses and changed the face of the Philadelphia mob, died last week after suffering a heart
attack, according to family members and friends.
A former Philadelphia police officer who once said he learned the most about how to be criminal while working as a cop, Previte as a larger-than-life figure who never tried to sugarcoat who he was or what he had done.
Six feet tall and sometimes weighing 300 pounds, Previte [pronounced previ-i-tee] was an imposing and intimidating figure, but he was also a shrewd and astute criminal entrepreneur. He described himself as a "general practitioner of crime" and admitted his involvement with almost every mob gambit . . . with the exception of murder.
To read the rest of the story, click here.
By Ralph Cipriano
Franco Harris thinks that former Penn State University President Graham Spanier got screwed.
Harris, 67, the former Penn State star and NFL Hall of Famer with the Pittsburgh Steelers, went on John Ziegler's "World According To Zig" podcast on Sunday to describe the trial and subsequent jail sentence of Spanier as a ridiculous farce.
"They had this secret witness who was guarded by 1,000 police take the stand," Harris said, laughing. "It was a farce, it was staged."
Harris was referring to the Dauphin County trial of Spanier last March, when Judge John A. Boccabella had a phalanx of extra sheriff's deputies patrolling the courtroom while the judge introduced 28-year-old Michal Kajak to the jury as "John Doe."
Kajak, who testified as a sex abuse victim of Jerry Sandusky's, proceeded to sob on cue. Only the jury was never told about the sex abuse that Kajak allegedly suffered. It wasn't rape; Kajak was allegedly soaped up in the shower by Sandusky, for which Kajak collected in a civil settlement $8 million.
And when Kajak got through his direct testimony, with the help of some Kleenex, the cowed defense lawyers in the case were too intimidated to ask Kajak a single question. Even though Kajak, a shaky witness at best, had given four different dates for the alleged shower incident, varying from 1998 to 2001, when he was between 10 and 14 years old.
In the Kangaroo Court of Judge Boccabella, this was all the evidence that was needed to send a man up the river. Spanier was promptly convicted of endangering the welfare of a child, and the judge sentenced him to 4 to 12 months in jail.
"That was so ridiculous," Harris said about the jail sentence. "So once again we see the political system at work here with the Attorney General's office. That was a farce."
About the prosecution's case against Spanier, Harris said, "They showed nothing, they had nothing. It was all an emotional appeal to the jury."
"This judge was just ridiculous," Harris said. And then there was the Attorney General's office.
Short of an acquittal on all the charges, "This is the second best verdict we could have had," Harris said, because the jury found Spanier innocent of a second endangerment charge, as well as a charge of conspiracy.
"And the Attorney General's office tried to make it . . . like they had this big victory," Harris said.
"And of course the media lapped it up," Ziegler chimed in. "The media is so dumb. Anything that substantiates their fairy tale narrative they embrace."
Ziegler asked Harris, a longtime defender of former Coach Joe Paterno, if he believed that Sandusky was innocent.
"There will always be questions about that because a lot of them [the alleged victims] weren't even vetted," Harris said. "Penn State ended up playing all the money [$93 million to 32 alleged victims] and Penn State didn't even take the time to vet anyone."
In Harris's view, his former coach got tarred and feathered.
Harris said he would continue the fight to clear Paterno's name.
"We have to get the story out, we want to educate Penn Staters," he said. He expects "this HBO movie" starring Al Pacino to stir things up again.
"There are things that we're gonna have to do to really get our side of the story out," Harris said. "That's going to be very important, to get our side of the story out."
"We will continuing fighting and never stop."
On the podcast, Harris said he was reading an advance copy of Mark Pendergrast's book on the Penn State sex scandal, "The Most Hated Man In America; Jerry Sandusky and The Rush To Judgment," which has been excerpted several times on Big Trial.
"It definitely makes you question some things," Harris said about Pendergrast's book. "It definitely isn't over."
Elsewhere, on the podcast, Harris talked bout the upcoming football season. He pronounced Penn State's Saquon Barkley "the real deal." And revealed how he changed his diet 17 years ago to include blueberries and fish oil in hopes of healing his brain from all the concussions he's had on the gridiron.
Harris also panned former NFL QB Colin Kaepernick for his social activism.
"When he puts that suit on it is not just about him and his position," Harris said. "The team has to come first."
The entire podcast can be heard here.
By Ralph Cipriano
On Saturday, when the Nittany Lions were defeating the Pittsburgh Panthers 33-14 to go 2-0 on a promising young football season, Sara Ganim of CNN posted a blast from Penn State's nightmarish past -- a big scoop that supposedly further tarred and feathered the ghost of the late Joe Paterno.
What startling new evidence did Ganim have to attack what was left of Paterno's credibility? A one-page police report about a 16-year-old incident from a tainted source in an investigation marred by blatant police and prosecutorial misconduct. And what did Ganim and CNN do with that police report? She claimed it "bolsters evidence" that Paterno "knew years before Jerry Sandusky's arrest that his longtime assistant might be abusing children."
You had to dig deep into Ganim's intellectually dishonest story to discover what her main new allegation was -- that Paterno supposedly knew about a 1998 incident where Sandusky was accused of hugging a naked 10-year-old boy in the shower. An incident investigated by the Centre County District Attorney's Office at the time and determined to be unfounded.
An incident that happened three years before the infamous 2001 Mike McQueary shower incident, where McQueary, according to the state attorney general's indictment, supposedly saw Sandusky anally raping another 10-year-old boy in the showers. Even though McQueary later admitted what the attorney general wrote wasn't true. And the alleged victim of the most infamous act of child abuse in the history of America never came forward to testify. Despite tons of publicity and a potential multimillion dollar payout.
With the so-called Penn State sex abuse scandal, it's getting harder and harder to separate reality from myth. All Ganim has done with her latest effort is to throw a fresh coat of mud on the situation and emphasize the need for independent scrutiny of the tainted investigation of Sandusky, as well as Ganim's central role in it.
The problems with Ganim
Problem No. 1 with Ganim's new story is that the scoop the reporter was peddling directly contradicted one of her previous scoops. Where she claimed that Paterno, who's no longer around to defend himself, knew about a previous allegation of sex abuse regarding Sandusky dating back to 1971.
She also writes in her latest story about the 1998 shower incident as though it's some kind of mystery, even though Ganim, who did not respond to a request for comment, was intimately familiar with all the details.
Problem No. 2 with Ganim's latest scoop -- the reporter has an ethical conflict that is undisputed.
At Sandusky's trial, the prosecutors from the state attorney general's office admitted in a legal stipulation that Ganim, who won a Pulitzer Prize for her reporting on Sandusky while working for The Patriot News of Harrisburg, had meddled in a supposedly secret grand jury investigation. An investigation that was in danger of expiring if the prosecutors didn't find more alleged victims of Jerry Sandusky.
So how did Ganim meddle? By acting as an agent for the state attorney general's office when she contacted the mother of the naked 10-year old who was allegedly hugged in the shower back in 1998.
Ganim's ethical conflict was laid out in a legal brief filed by Sandusky's lawyers in their arguments for a new trial. In the brief, Sandusky's lawyers wrote that Ganim "approached the mother of accuser 6," Deb McCord, according to the testimony of State Police Corporal Joseph Leiter, and gave the mother the name and phone number for an investigator assigned to the attorney general's office.
Ganim, according to the brief, left this message for McCord:
"Debra, it's Sara from the Patriot. I just want to pass along this agent's name and number. The Attorney General has expressed interest in helping you."
Let's get to Ganim's new evidence and lay out why the source of it is tainted, as well as the product of an investigation marked by blatant police and prosecutorial misconduct.
The one page Pennsylvania state police report from 2011, supposedly obtained from a source, Ganim wrote, is "described here for the first time." The report "lays out an account from whistleblower Mike McQueary," who was telling Paterno about the infamous shower incident from 2001 starring a naked Jerry Sandusky and a 10-year-old boy.
"Paterno allegedly told McQueary in 2001 that the claim against Sandusky 'was the second complaint of this nature he had received," according to the police report, which was written after Sandusky's arrest 10 years later," Ganim wrote.
"Paterno, upon hearing the news, sat back in his chair with a dejected look on his face," the report states, adding that McQueary "said Paterno's eyes appeared to well up with tears."
Nice dramatic touches for a police report. Next, Ganim writes:
"Then he [Paterno] made the comment to McQueary this was the second complaint of this nature he had received about Sandusky," the report states, citing McQueary's recollection."
The police report also noted, Ganim wrote, that Paterno allegedly told McQueary that Dottie Sandusky, Jerry's wife, had told Sue Paterno, Joe's wife, that "Jerry doesn't like girls."
A tainted witness
Let's start with McQueary, who, according to Ganim, is now writing a book about his exploits as the alleged Penn State whistleblower.
As former NCIS Special Agent John Snedden has said, McQueary is not a credible witness. As a special agent for the Federal Investigative Service, Snedden investigated former Penn State President Graham Spanier in 2012, to determine whether his top secret security clearance should be renewed by the federal government. Snedden wrote a recently declassified 110-page report that concluded there was no sex crime at Penn State and no coverup.
Snedden didn't believe McQueary was credible because he told five different versions of what he saw and heard in the Penn State showers, featuring slapping sounds and fleeting glimpses of naked people in the shower. The day he witnessed the shower event, McQueary was repeatedly questioned by his father, a doctor, and a friend of his father's, another doctor, about what happened. McQueary could not definitely say whether he had witnessed a sexual attack or horseplay. And that's why neither of the two doctors, both mandated reporters, ever told the police.
McQueary was also questioned by two Penn State administrators, who came to the same conclusion as the two doctors, that McQueary wasn't sure what he saw or heard in the showers. So they didn't report it to the police either.
Atainted investigation and grand jury report
That didn't stop the attorney general's office from running with their exaggerated version of McQueary's story.
The 2011 grand jury report was built around a lie. It claimed that McQueary witnessed a 10-yar-old boy in the showers being subjected to “anal intercourse” by a “naked Jerry Sandusky.” McQueary supposedly told Joe Paterno about it, and two other university officials, but Penn State covered it up, the grand jury report says.
But McQueary himself was shocked when he read the grand jury report. He emailed the prosecutors, saying they had “twisted” his words. ”I cannot say 1,000 percent sure that it was sodomy,” McQueary wrote. “I did not see insertion.”
The investigation conducted by the state police in the Sandusky case also included stone-cold proof of police misconduct on tape. On April 21, 2011, the state police made the mistake of leaving a tape recorder on, and the machine caught the police deliberately lying to one alleged victim to get him to tell the story they wanted him to tell.
State Troopers Joseph Leiter and Scott Rossman were interviewing alleged victim Brett Houtz at the police barracks, with Houtz’s attorney Benjamin Andreozzi present. While Houtz took a cigarette break the two troopers continued talking with Houtz’s lawyer. They assumed the tape-recorder was turned off but it wasn't.
The trooper told Houtz about nine adults that they had already talked to and said, “It is amazing. If this was a book, you would have been repeating word for word pretty much what a lot of people have already told us.”
That's what you call coaching a witness, to manufacture testimony.
The condemnation of Ganim's most recent story came from many quarters.
"Well CNN published a lie from Sara Ganim," tweeted Scott Paterno, a lawyer who defended his father during the Sandusky scandal. "Sue [Paterno] never said that Dottie [Sandusky] told her anything and this was categorically denied before publication."
"To be clear Sara Ganim and @CNN is using triple hearsay to get clicks and it's false. And enough is enough."
"To my knowledge we were not contacted by Sara Ganim for a response," Dottie Sandusky wrote. "If we had been, I would have told her that this is old news which actually exonerates both Joe and Jerry. The incident in question is the 1998 episode which, according to [Former Penn State Athletic Director] Tim Curley's testimony, Joe knew was fully investigated by the D.A. and determined to be unfounded. I never said that Jerry doesn't like girls and the factual record, including at trial, makes that extremely obvious to anyone not invested in this entire fairy tale."
"On the brighter side, I'm glad to see that Sara and the rest of the news media has seemingly dropped the absurd notion that Joe Paterno was told in the 1970s about abuse that never happened by accusers who made up stories for Penn State money," Dottie Sandusky wrote.
"The whole thing is absurd," Snedden said about the supposedly new police report from 2011. "It was written ten years after the fact," Snedden said about the 2001 shower incident supposedly witnessed by McQueary, and described to the state police in 2011.
"Police reports are supposed to be contemporaneous," Snedden said. About the 2011 police report concerning the 2001 shower incident, Snedden asked, "How is that contemporaneous?"
The CNN story, Snedden said, is the product of either "trying to either cover your ass or bolster your position. It appears to me that she [Ganim] doesn't even go through the motions of asking if it's accurate."
"This one [Ganim's new story] is the biggest piece of crap yet," Ziegler said. "Ganim is pretending that we don't know" about the 1998 shower incident, Ziegler said. "If she was at the [Sandusky] trial she would know that what she's reporting is ancient news. It's got cobwebs on it."
Ziegler went at Ganim's work from another angle -- logic.
"This is actually exculpatory," Ziegler said about Ganim's latest scoop.
When McQueary is telling Joe about the 1998 shower incident, which is almost identical to the 2001 shower incident, Ziegler said, "Joe is immediately flashing back to 1998."
"That tells us that McQueary never said anything [to Paterno] about a sexual assault because Joe already knows that 1998 [the first alleged shower incident] is a nothing burger," Ziegler said. "Had McQueary actually said something about a sexual assault Joe would have never connected it to 1998, because the [Centre County] D.A. had already cleared Sandusky."
Ziegler said that Ganim's story goes beyond any claims of the prosecutors. Former Chief Deputy Attorney General Frank Fina, the lead prosecutor in the Sandusky case, went on 60 Minutes Sports in 2013 and declared that there was no evidence that Joe Paterno had ever participated in a cover up.
"I did not find that evidence," Fina said on 60 Minutes Sports.
"It does reek of deception," Ziegler said about Ganim's latest effort to prop up the official Penn State story line. "They have to be worried about something," Ziegler said, who devoted a podcast to it. "This story makes me think that even she doubts it."
Mark Pendergrast, an author who has written a book about Jerry Sandusky, The Most Hated Man In America; Jerry Sandusky and the Rush to Judgment, said that McQueary "revised his memory a decade after the Feb. 2001 shower incident, in which he heard slapping sounds but did not see Sandusky and a boy in the shower -- he only fleetingly saw a boy, in the mirror."
McQueary's "memory of his meeting with Paterno in 2001was also subject to revisions and this appears to be more evidence of that," Pendergrast wrote in an email. "In other words, this is Sara Ganim once more raising a non-issue based on Mike McQueary's revised memory, and referring as well to highly questionable anonymous allegations dating back to the 1970s."
The 1970s alleged victims
In May 2016, Ganim reported on CNN that a man who claimed to have been sexually abused by Sandusky at a rest stop after he was picked up as a hitchhiker. The alleged victim also claimed that he was personally ordered by Joe Paterno to keep quiet about the abuse.
"Stop it right now" or "we'll call the authorities," the alleged victim claimed that Paterno had told him on the phone.
The alleged victim told Ganim that he had no doubt it was Paterno on the other end of the line ordering him to keep quiet.
"There was no question in my mind who Joe was," the alleged victim told Ganim. "I've heard that voice a million times. It was Joe Paterno."
Sure it was. Penn State's gullible trustees decided, OK, we'll just take your word for it. So the alleged victim got paid.
Now we come to the most ridiculous part of our story, namely the man referred to in Ganim's most recent opus as "John Doe 150," an alleged sex abuse victim of Jerry Sandusky's dating back to June 1976.
Another ancient claim of abuse that Joe allegedly knew about.
John Doe 150 was represented in his civil claim by Slade McLaughlin and Paul Lauricella, two Philadelphia lawyers who represented Danny Gallagher AKA "Billy Doe" in his bogus claim against the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, where Gallagher collected $5 million.
Gallagher is the lying, scheming altar boy who claimed he was the victim of three separate rapes by a couple of priests and a Catholic school teacher. But then the lead investigator in the case, retired detective Joe Walsh, came forward to say that he caught Gallagher telling one lie after another, and that Gallagher even admitted he "made up stuff." Which led the detective to conclude that all of Gallagher's allegations were false.
In the John Doe 150 case, the alleged victim, who is 56 years old, claimed that back in 1976, when he was 15, he attended a Penn State football summer camp for a week. According to alleged victim, he was taking a shower when 10 other kids when Jerry Sandusky, who had just introduced himself, stopped by. And then, after the other boys left the shower, Sandusky "came up to me and began soaping my back and shoulders."
And then "he stuck his finger in my ass," the alleged victim claimed. Sandusky allegedly apologized, saying he didn't realize he was getting that close.
What allegedly happened next is even more unbelievable.
John Doe 150 claims, at 15 years old, that he had the guts to talk about the incident to an anonymous Penn State football player, who told him that Sandusky "does this with all of his, I guess, boys."
According to John Doe 150, at 15, he then had the moxie to hunt down Joe Paterno at his Penn State office, and corner him in the hallway. John Doe 150 supposedly told Paterno what just happened with Sandusky. And Paterno supposedly replied, "I don't want to hear about any of that stuff, I have a football season to worry about."
Have you ever heard a more absurd story? A 15-year-old kid molested on the first day he ever met Jerry Sandusky? No grooming? No box of candy or six-pack first?
A 15-year-old kid who has just been victimized who has the nerve to track down and confront a legendary football coach?
Who would believe this crap? Oh that's right, the same lawyers who bought Billy Doe's lies and made $5 million off of it.
Before he collected his settlement, John Doe 150 was never questioned by any lawyers or any psychiatrists representing Penn State. The Penn State Board of Trustees just paid John Doe 150 as one of 32 such claimants who collected a total of $93 million.
What an irresponsible expenditure of money. Even the lawyers who were ripping off Penn State had to know it was bogus. Actually, one of them did, and said so.
In 2016, Paul Boni, one of John Doe 150's lawyers, told reporter John Ziegler that he knew of no "direct irrefutable evidence" that Paterno knew about any prior abuse by Sandusky dating back to the 1970s.
"I think you need more than anecdotal evidence or speculative evidence" to attack Paterno, Boni told Ziegler.
So Sara Ganim keeps serving up more fairy tales and asking us to believe them. Only the stories just keep getting crazier.
At 10:30 a.m. on the Tuesday after the Labor Day weekend, visitors to philly.com ran into a big surprise -- a brand new paywall.
If you were one of those readers who had already read 10 stories on philly.com that month, you were out of luck. No more freebies. Your only option, besides hopping on another computer, or accessing the site from another web browser, was to sign up for "unlimited digital access for 99 cents for four weeks, and $2.99 per week thereafter."
By the next day, Sept. 6th, philly.com, the formerly free website of The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News, recorded 67,804 "meter stops," meaning 67,804 readers had just ran into the paywall. "Of those who 'hit the meter,' we had 1,736 new digital subscribers sign up," wrote Fred Groser, chief revenue officer, in a Sept. 6th email to all employees of Philadelphia Media Network.
"As you all know, we launched our new digital subscription model yesterday, Groser wrote. "This initiative, by far one of our most important undertakings in years, has been in the works for many months."
PMN's strategy was to offer print subscribers "a very attractive offer for a digital subscription, giving them full access to our digital content on multiple devices for each household. We sent letters to about 180,000 subscribers announcing this with an option for them to decline the offer."
"Of the 180,000 mailed, we have received 22,379 opt-outs. We planned on having 36,000 opt-outs," Groser wrote. "This leaves us 157,403 paid print + digital subscribers, of which 1,256 have activated their subscriptions. This is promising news and good results, though very early."
So if you take the 1,736 new digital subscribers who just signed up after hitting the pay wall and combine that with the 1,256 print subscribers who just signed up for digital access, "We currently have 2,992 digital activated subscribers, which is a good conversion rate of readers who have engaged the meter," Groser wrote.
Groser advised all PMN employees when talking to readers to "please remind them that they will receive fewer ads and an improved experience with our site should they subscribe. Subscribers will not be served high-impact ads such as wallpapers and interstitials," Groser wrote, referring to web-page ads displaying age-restricted materials.
So the grand paywall experiment progresses, as philly.com seeks to find out whether local readers are willing to pay for news. But Groser won't be around to see how it all turns out.
He resigned two weeks ago.
Meanwhile, web page traffic at philly.com was rumored to be down 30 percent by the end of the first week that the paywall was up.
So, as a free service to all those former visitors to philly.com who are now restricted from the site, here's what you missed.
Today, the Inquirer's PC posse led the webpage with three different stories about the city's ongoing statue wars.
First, Tirdad Derakshani, an Inquirer staff writer, breathlessly reported the big news that the city's PC Mural Arts program had just installed right behind the racist Frank Rizzo statue a new statue of a 12-foot high steel Afro Pick topped by a black fist raised in a black power salute.
Take that, Big Bambino.
Next, Solomon Jones, an Inquirer columnist, visited the two statues and found the Afro-Pick statue to be empowering. But not empowering enough the columnist said, to combat the continuing racism posed by the Rizzo statue. So, for the umpteenth time, the courageous Inquirer columnist called for the removal of the racist Rizzo statue.
This was a major development, and in shocking contrast to Jones's stance.
Finally, Weillington reported that the racist Frank Rizzo statue deliberately snubbed the black columnist by turning its back on her. [I kid you not.]
So the racism continues unabated outside the Municipal Services Building.
It will cost you only 99 cents a month for four weeks [and $2.99 a week thereafter] to tune into further adventures of the Inky's PC posse, as they confront more dangerous racist statues.
By Ralph Cipriano
What do you do when you screw up royally?
If you're the state Attorney General's office, you try to keep a top secret lid on everything, even if its years after they put Jerry Sandusky in jail.
That's what our A.G.'s office is up to. On June 28th, Jennifer C. Selber, executive deputy attorney general, wrote Assistant U.S. Attorney D. Brian Simpson in Harrisburg, about all of the files the A.G. turned over to the feds three years ago from the state's grand jury investigation of Sandusky.
Selber's concern was that the U.S. Attorney's office not turn any of the A.G.'s records in response to a long-running FOI battle being waged by Ryan Bagwell, a former newspaper reporter and candidate for Penn State trustee. When Bagwell couldn't get any records out of the state, he filed FOI requests with the U.S. Attorney's office in 2014, and so far has recouped some 1,000 pages of documents.
The A.G.'s office wants to make sure no further documents are released.
"Initially, it must be understood that the investigation of Sandusky PSU and TSM [The Second Mile] was done through two Statewide Investigating Grand Juries," Selber wrote. "As such, all of the materials gathered by the OAG and provided to your Office were subject to grand jury secrecy."
The state attorney general turned over their Sandusky records when they asked the U.S. Attorney's office to investigate Penn State and The Second Mile, Sandusky's defunct charity, for "financial irregularities and possible Clery Act violations" stemming from the state's grand jury probe of Sandusky. The Clery Act mandates transparency when it comes to reporting crime on campus.
The feds closed the investigation in 2014, without any tangible results.
Under Pennsylvania law, the state is allowed to turn over records from an investigation "only if the agency is investigating a crime within its jurisdiction and the person to whom disclosure is made are sworn to grand jury secrecy," Selber wrote. She asked that the records turned over to the feds under an FOI request remain secret and "confidentiality be maintained."
Bagwell says he's determined to see this battle through to the end, "no matter how long it takes."
"There's virtually no public access to records from police investigations in Pennsylvania," Bagel said. "They're not used to the idea of having their investigations scrutinized."
Bagel says if the records are eventually released, they "might reveal some interesting things that suggest the original grand jury presentment should have never been written in the way it was."
As previously reported on this blog, the grand jury report on Sandusky was built around an event that didn't happen, an anal rape of a naked 10-year-old boy by Sandusky, supposedly witnessed by Mike McQueary in the Penn State showers back in 2001.
However, four men who interviewed McQueary said he didn't witness a sexual attack. Even McQueary agrees he never saw an anal rape, as he stated in writing in an email to the state attorney general's office.
A federal official, former Special Agent John Snedden, also investigated the alleged shower rape as part of an investigation of former Penn State President Graham Spanier. Snedden concluded in a recently declassified 110-page report done in 2012 that McQueary was not a credible witness, no sex crime was committed at Penn State, and hence, no cover up, since there was nothing to cover up.
During the state attorney general's investigation, a couple of state troopers were caught on a tape recorder lying to an alleged victim of sex abuse about hearing the same story from several other alleged victims, even though it wasn't true.
"Obviously the AG is doing everything it can to make sure that people don't have the opportunity to review the facts versus the presentment," Snedden said.
|PhillyVoice/Tracie Van Auken|
On Saturday morning, 28 men gathered outside a South Jersey warehouse to crush 25,000 pounds of grapes.
Stacked in the yard on grass and gravel were 680 36-pound boxes of grapes arranged in 17 stacks. The men were using hammers and crowbars to pry the lids off the boxes, so they could dump the grapes into two automatic crusher-destemmers.
As the machines roared, Guy Ferranti strolled through the crowd looking like a football coach on the sidelines carrying his laminated play cards.
Ferranti is the CEO of the Vino Degli Amici wine club, which loosely translated means "wine among friends."
The rest of the story can be read here.
By Ralph Cipriano
Allan Myers, the boy in the Penn State showers that Mike McQueary allegedly saw being raped by Jerry Sandusky, sure has a lousy memory.
Myers couldn't remember when a picture of him posing with Sandusky had been taken, even though it was at Myers' own wedding.
Myers couldn't remember what he told a couple of state troopers when they interviewed him in 2011, and Myers said that Sandusky had never abused him.
Myers couldn't remember what he told a private investigator, namely that Mike McQueary was full of crap, and that nothing sexual had happened in that shower.
A 48-page transcript from a Nov. 4, 2016 hearing where Myers was called as a witness as part of Sandusky's bid for a new trial was released for the first time earlier this week, in response to a request from a reporter for a major mainstream media news outlet. The transcript provides some insight into what is clearly a screwed-up case that the prosecutors and the news media have completely botched.
And they blew it because they showed no skepticism about witnesses like Allan Myers, who, from what he had to say in this transcript, clearly isn't credible.
In the transcript, Myers, who was on the witness stand for less than an hour before Centre County Senior Judge John M. Cleland, said he couldn't recall or didn't remember 34 times.
Either Myers was very forgetful, or he was clearly lying.
Before Myers was brought in as a witness, Sandusky was sworn in and the judge explained to him that since nobody knew what Myers was going to say, his testimony "could be harmful to your case."
But Sandusky had his mind made up.
"It is my decision to have Allan Myers testify," Sandusky told the judge.
Myers, a former Marine, testified that he got to know Sandusky through the former assistant Penn State coach's Second Mile charity.
"Did you think of Mr. Sandusky as a father figure," Al Lindsay, Sandusky's lawyer, asked.
"Yes, I did," Myers said.
Myers was shown a picture of himself and Sandusky at Myers's wedding. Lindsay asked if Myers remembered when that picture was taken.
"That I do not remember," Myers said.
Lindsay showed Myers a photo of a football camp when Myers served as a coach, and posed for a picture with the boys he was coaching, along with Sandusky. Lindsay asked Myers how old he was in the photo.
"I don't remember," Myers said. "I don't even know what year that was."
"Well, were you an adult," Lindsay asked. "Do you know that?"
"I wasn't an adult," Myers said.
"Can you give us any estimate of your age," the lawyer asked.
"No," Myers said.
Myers recalled that he lived in Sandusky's home "right after I graduated high school to attend Penn State."
"And I left there because he [Sandusky] was controlling and I left," Myers said. "And that was the end that I ever lived with him."
Too controlling, Myers said, but he said nothing about being abused.
Lindsay asked Myers if he remembered being interviewed on Sept. 20, 2011, by state Trooper James Ellis and Corporal Joseph A. Letter.
"I recall being interviewed," Myers said.
Lindsay gave Myers a copy of the police report and asked if it reflected what he told the state troopers.
"Yes," Myers said, before snapping at the lawyer, "Please don't raise your voice at me."
Lindsay asked if Myers remembered telling the troopers that he and Sandusky at worked out at the Lasch Building.
"I don't remember that interview," Myer said.
Lindsay asked Myers if he recalled telling the troopers "nothing inappropriate occurred" in the shower, and that at "no time were you made to feel uncomfortable."
"I don't recall," Myers replied.
Lindsay asked Myers if he remembered telling the troopers that after workouts with Sandusky, he and Jerry would return to Sandusky's home and shower in separate facilities?
"I said it," Myers said, "But I don't remember it."
Lindsay asked Myers if he remembered an interview he gave to an investigator named Curtis Everhart who worked at the time for Joseph Amendola, Sandusky's trial lawyer.
Myers remembered the interview.
Lindsay asked if he remembered telling the investigator, "I am alleged Victim No. 2."
"I'm sure I did," Myers said, before adding, "I don't remember everything."
Lindsay asked Myers if he recalled telling the investigator that on the day McQueary thought he saw an anal rape in the showers, Myers said "Jerry and I were slapping towels at each other trying to sting each other."
Myers was a month short of his 14th birthday in 2001 when the infamous shower incident occurred. Even though the official grand jury report says that Mike McQueary heard "slapping sounds" and witnessed Sandusky raping a 10-year-old boy in the shower.
"I don't recall everything I told Mr. Everhart," Myers said.
Did Myers recall telling the investigator that he used to slap the walls and slide on the shower floor when he was taking a shower with Jerry?
"I can't recall everything I said in that interview back then," Myers said.
Lindsay read out loud a quote from a report that stated what Myers had supposedly told Everhart:
"The grand jury report says Coach McQueary said he observed Jerry and I engaged in sexual activity. That is not the truth and McQueary is not telling the truth. Nothing occurred that night in the shower."
"Do you recall telling him that," Lindsay asked the witness.
"Like I said, I can't recall everything I said back then," Myers said. "But if it's in there, I said it then, yes."
Lindsay asked Myers if he told the investigator that "I never saw McQueary look into the shower that night. I am sure."
"That's what I said back then," Myers said. "Once again, I can't recall what I said then."
Lindsay read Myers more quotes from the interview with the investigator.
In the quotes, Myers:
-- denied having sex with Sandusky;
-- repeated that "McQueary did not tell the truth;"
-- repeated that "I am alleged Victim No. 2 on the grand jury report;"
-- Again claimed that Sandusky "never sexually assaulted me."
"That's what I said then," Myers said. "And once again, I can't recall everything I said then."
Lindsay asked Myers if he told the truth when he spoke to the investigator.
"Yes," he said.
Myers had once been Jerry Sandusky's biggest defender. He had even written a letter to the editor of a local newspaper stating what a great guy Jerry was.
Then Myers hired attorney Andrew Shubin, who represented eight victims in the Penn State sex abuse scandal.
Myers became Shubin's ninth victim. He flipped on Jerry, claimed he'd been abused, and collected a reported $3 million.
When asked how much he received from his settlement, Myers said," Im not allowed to answer that question."
Lindsay asked Myers, who wasn't called as a witness during the Sandusky trial, where he was when the trial took place.
"I believe I was somewhere in central Pennsylvania," he said. "Now exactly where I was, I can't recall. I might have been working. I don't know exactly, but I was here in Pennsylvania . . . I was somewhere inside Clinton County or Clearfield County, somewhere in that little Trifecta."
Asked if he could recall being in a specific place, Myers replied, "I can't recall where I was when the trial was going on . . . I can't tell you exactly where I was, I don't remember that."
It was Lindsay's contention that Sandusky deserved a new trial because the prosecutor, Joseph McGettigan, lied to the jury when he said that the existence of Victim No. 2 was "known only to God."
After Myers left the witness stand, Lindsay put Sandusky up to testify as a rebuttal witness.
"Mr. Sandusky, did you ever sexually abuse Allan Myers in any way," Lindsay asked.
"Absolutely not," Sandusky said.
John Ziegler, a reporter who was in the courtroom when Myers testified, said he was glad that the transcript had finally released.
"This is the only testimony of the person who is the epicenter of this whole thing," Ziegler said about the Penn State scandal.
"And it's obvious to anyone who understand the case that he [Myers] wasn't telling the truth," Ziegler said. "He [Myers] remembers everything up until he flips on Jerry and then he can't remember anything."
Myers' testimony, Ziegler said, was "a hundred percent consistent with a guy who had who had flipped for $3 million and felt bad about it, and didn't want to deal with it anymore."
When Sandusky took the stand, Ziegler recalled, "He was in tears, he was angry. It was righteous anger."
John Snedden, a former NCIS and FIS special agent who investigated the scandal at Penn State, said he was disturbed by Myers' evolving story.
"His initial statements are definitive and exculpatory," Snedden said. "His testimony then degrades into a wishy-washy, exceptionally foggy abyss."
"Being officially interviewed as the 'victim' of a traumatic event doesn't happen everyday," Snedden said. "And then you can't remember the specifics of that interview? Seriously?"
"It's clear why he [Myers] wasn't called by the prosecution" in the Sandusky case," Snedden said. "His testimony is exculpatory and now serves only as an example of blatant prosecutorial manipulation."
And where the hell did they hide Myers during the Sandusky trial?
By Ralph Cipriano
Andrea Constand, the woman who accused Bill Cosby of drugging and sexually assaulting her, has a few secrets she'd like to keep.
So in federal court in Philadelphia, where she's suing former Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor for defamation, Constand wants to seal her deposition and keep her medical and financial records private.
But those secrets may not keep. On Sept. 12, Judge Eduardo C. Robreno issued a ruling for Constand to show cause why the interim seal on her deposition should not be lifted. Cosby's lawyers, who filed as intervenors in the defamation case, have already received a redacted copy of Constand's deposition against Castor.
In a 12-page motion to seal filed Sept. 22 by Constand's lawyers, Bebe H. Kivitz and Dolores M. Troiani, the lawyers argue that Cosby's alleged victim would like to keep "sensitive personal information" under seal, and not have it exposed to Cosby and the media. Castor's lawyers, however, filed a motion last week, saying there is no justifiable reason for the secrecy since all of Costand's allegations against Cosby, as well as Castor, have been nationally and internationally publicized.
Judge Robreno has set a 9 a.m. Oct 20 hearing on the issue of whether Constand's sensitive personal information should remain under seal. In the meantime, with the graphic details of Constand's accusations already out there in People magazine, Vanity Fair, The New York Times, the Daily Mail, The Washington Post, etc., the only thing Costand may have left to hide is how many millions Cosby paid her to go away.
Constand is the 44-year-old former director of operations for Temple University's women's basketball team who claimed that in 2004, Cosby drugged her with three blue pills and then sexually abused her at his Elkins Park home.
Castor, the former Montgomery County D.A., declined to prosecute the case, forcing Constand "to seek any recourse in a civil action," her lawyers wrote in the defamation lawsuit.
But in not prosecuting Cosby, and granting him immunity, Castor did Constand a favor of sorts that would ultimately pay off for her. When Castor told Cosby's lawyers he wasn't going to be prosecuted, Cosby gave a 2005 deposition in the civil case where he admitted to drugging Constand, and engaging in sexual encounters with her. These were admissions that came back to haunt the comedian.
Constand's civil suit against Cosby was settled with a confidential payoff in 2006, probably for millions. Cosby would have been justified if he thought that was the end of it.
Then, in 2015, a new Montgomery County D.A., Risa Vetri Ferman, decided to reopen the criminal case against Cosby. And that same year, a judge decided to unseal Cosby's deposition in the old civil case.
Castor, who wanted to make another run for D.A. 2015, then made some statements about the old criminal case that angered Constand.
Castor said that if he had gone ahead with a Cosby prosecution, both Cosby and Constant could be portrayed "in a less than flattering light." Castor also said that Costand had lodged more serious sexual assault allegations in the civil lawsuit against Cosby than she divulged to police.
Constand had originally told police that when she woke up after Cosby drugged her, she found her brassiere around her neck.
But in her civil lawsuit, Constand claimed the comedian had fondled her breasts, penetrated her vagina with his hand, and placed Constand's hand on his penis, charges she would reiterate when she testified for a day and a half in the criminal case against Cosby last June.
"If the allegations in the civil complaint were contained with that detail in her statement to the police, we might have been able to make a case out of it," Castor said.
So Constand sued Castor for defamation. But she wanted to keep what came out in her lawsuit against Castor under seal. In the motion to seal Constand's records, her lawyers say, "This [defamation] lawsuit should not serve as a backdoor mechanism for Cosby and his counsel to obtain documents they would otherwise not be able to access in the criminal case."
Cosby is supposed to be retried next Spring.
In their motion to keep Constand's records private, her lawyers claimed that she was reluctantly brought into the spotlight.
Constand "does not hold public office nor is she a celebrity," her lawyers wrote. "She lived a very quiet and private life in Canada for 10 years. She is a private person who finds herself engaged in litigation based on [Castor's] efforts to defame her by statements to the media and the phenomenon of social media."
"Her private testimony and records concerning her medical and emotional care as well as her financial status should remain private," Constand's lawyers wrote. "Releasing it would not only violate her privacy rights, it would cause her embarrassment."
There was a confidentiality agreement in the defamation case regarding discovery [depositions and responses to lawyers questions] that was approved by Judge Robreno back on March 8, 2017. But while what happens in discovery is usually confidential, the judge may decide that confidentiality might be over when discovery is over.
Although Cosby's lawyers got a redacted copy of Constand's deposition in the defamation case, the
"entire deposition transcript" as well as and expert reports in the case remain under seal, her lawyers wrote. As does "evidence concerning plaintiff's medical and psychological treatment, financial information, including the deposition testimony and discovery responses."
In their motion to keep Constand's private information under seal, her lawyers cite "Castor's history of attempting to pass information to Cosby's criminal defense team and convey confidential information to Cosby's counsel via publicly filing discovery responses."
In an 8-page response motion filed Oct. 2nd, Castor's lawyers, Justin A. Bayer and Robert Connell Pugh ripped Constand's earlier filing.
"Rather than attempt to show cause, [Constand] spends the first six pages of her memorandum leveling nonsensical, false accusations intending to impugn the reputation of Mr. Castor," his lawyers wrote.
"Rather than waste the judge's time disproving each falsehood," Castor's lawyers wrote, they turned to the matter at hand, and concluded there was "no privacy interest at issue that justifies a seal."
"The facts of Commonwealth v. Cosby have received world-wide media attention," Castor's lawyers wrote.
"Moreover, [Constand] 'finds herself in litigation' with Mr. Castor because she field a lawsuit against him one week before an election publicly accusing him of wrongdoing and alleging damages," Castor's lawyers wrote. Constant "knowingly gave up privacy rights when she sued" Castor. And now Castor "seeks to defend himself against baseless claims."
Constand "fails to articulate any embarrassment which would justify a seal," Castor's lawyers wrote. So Castor is "entitled to defend himself in the same public manner in which the accusations against him have been made."
By Ralph Cipriano
On Nov. 10, 2011, six days after the state Attorney General's office released its official grand jury report on the Jerry Sandusky sex scandal, deputy Attorney Jonelle Eshbach was trying to calm Mike McQueary, her distraught star whistle-blower.
McQueary had written Eshbach earlier that day to tell her that the grand jury report that told the world that McQueary had witnessed a naked Sandusky in the Penn State showers having anal intercourse with a 10-year-old boy was wrong. In that same email, McQueary complained to the A.G.'s office that they had "twisted" his words about "whatever it was" that he had actually seen or heard in the showers.
Now there's a star witness you can have confidence in.
In a second email sent that same day, McQueary complained to Eshbach about "being misrepresented" in the media. And then McQueary tried to straighten out the prosecutor on a couple of other misconceptions, writing that he never went to Coach Joe Paterno's house with his father, and that he had never seen Sandusky with a child at a Penn State football practice.
"I know that a lot of this stuff is incorrect and it is hard not to respond," Eshbach emailed McQueary. "But you can't."
That email exchange, divulged in a couple of posts by Penn State blogger Ray Blehar, have people in Penn State Nation talking about prosecutorial misconduct. Naturally, the A.G.'s office has nothing to say about it, as an office spokesperson declined comment today.
The 2011 grand jury report said that back when he visited the Penn State showers in 2001, Mike McQueary heard "rhythmic, slapping sounds." Then, he peered into showers and "saw a naked boy, Victim No. 2, whose age he estimated to be ten years old, with hands up against the wall, being subjected to anal intercourse by a naked Jerry Sandusky."
But McQueary wrote Eshbach, while copying Agent Anthony Sassano, "I feel my words are slightly twisted and not totally portrayed correctly in the presentment."
"I cannot say 1000 percent sure that it was sodomy. I did not see insertion," McQueary wrote. "It was a sexual act and or way over the line in my opinion whatever it was."
McQueary also complained about the media attention he was getting.
"National media, and public opinion has totally, in every single way, ruined me," McQueary wrote. "For what?"
"Also," McQueary wrote, "I never went to Coach Paterno's house with my father . . . It was me and only me . . . he was out of town the night before . . . never ever have I seen JS with a child at one of our practices . . . "
Then he returned to the subject of the bad publicity he was getting over the grand jury report.
"I am being misrepresented in the media," McQueary wrote. "It just is not right."
"I know that a lot of this stuff is incorrect and it is hard to to respond," Eshbach wrote back. "But you can't."
Former NCIS and FIS Special Agent John Snedden, a Penn State alum, was blown away by Eshbach's email response to McQueary.
"It's incredible, it's evidence of prosecutorial misconduct, trying to steer a witness's testimony," Snedden said. "It shows that the prosecution's manipulating the information, throwing out what they don't want and padding what they do want . . . It very strongly suggests a fictitious presentment."
During the defamation suit McQueary filed against Penn State, Eshbach was sworn in as a witness and asked to explain what she meant by telling McQueary not to talk.
"My advice to Mr. McQueary not to make a statement was based on the strengthening of my -- and saving of my case," Eshbach testified. "I did not want him [McQueary] making statements to the press at that time that could at some time be used against him in cross-examination. He [McQueary] was perfectly free to make a statement, but I asked him not to."
There's another angle to the prosecutorial misconduct story line -- this email exchange between McQueary and Eshbach that was reported on by Blehar was not turned over by the prosecution to defense lawyers during the Sandusky trial and the trial of former Penn State president Graham Spanier.
While we're on the subject of prosecutorial misconduct, at the Spanier trial, it was McQueary who testified that during the bye week of the 2011 Penn State football season, he got a call on his cell phone from the attorney general's office, tipping him off that "We're going to arrest folks and we are going to leak it out."
The fact that Mike McQueary didn't see a naked Jerry Sandusky having anal intercourse in the showers with a 10-year-old boy isn't the only erroneous assumption that came out of that shoddy 2011 grand jury report, Blehar wrote.
"The Sandusky grand jury presentment of Nov. 4, 2011 provided a misleading account of what eyewitness Michael McQueary reported to Joe Paterno about the 2001 incident," Blehar wrote. "Rather than stating what McQueary reported, it stated he reported 'what he had seen'which led the media and the public to erroneously conclude the specific details were reported to Paterno."
Keep in mind what the grand jury report said McQueary had seen -- a naked Sandusky having anal intercourse in the showers with a 10-year-old boy -- never actually happened, according to McQueary.
The grand jury report said:
"The graduate assistant went to his office and called his father, reporting to him what he had seen . . . The graduate assistant and his father decided that the graduate assistant had to promptly report what he had seen to Coach Joe Paterno . . . The next morning, a Saturday, the graduate assistant telephoned Paterno and went to Paterno's home, where he reported what he had seen."
Blehar cited the words of Joe Paterno, who issued a statement on Nov. 6, 2011, saying that McQueary had "at no time related to me the very specific actions contained in the grand jury report."
On Dec. 6, 2011, McQueary was asked under oath whether he had ever used the term "anal sodomy" in talking to Paterno.
"I've never used that term," McQueary said. "I would have explained to him the positions they were in roughly, but it was definitely sexual, but I have never used the word anal or rape in this since day one."
So what exactly did you tell Paterno, the prosecutor asked McQueary.
"I gave a brief description of what I saw," McQueary testified. "You don't -- ma'am, you don't go to Coach Paterno or at least in my mind and I don't go to Coach Paterno and go into great detail of sexual acts. I would have never done that with him ever."
Blehar also points out that not even the jury in the Sandusky case believed that Sandusky had anally raped Victim No. 2 in the Penn State showers, because they came to a not guilty verdict on the count of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse.
Blehar then cites four other witnesses in the case who also testified that McQueary never used sexual terms in describing what he had allegedly seen in the shower.
"Subsequent testimony in numerous proceedings from 2011 through 2017 by John McQueary, Dr. [John] Dranov, [former Penn State Athletic Director Tim] Curley and [former Penn State VP Gary] Schutz confirmed that no explicitly sexual terms were used by McQueary when he described what he actually saw," Blehar wrote.
In his second email to Eshbach, McQueary stated, "I never went to Coach Paterno's house with my father . . . It was me and only me . . . he was out the night before . . ."
In the email, McQueary doesn't say who the he was who was out the night before. In his blog post, Blehar takes the he as a reference to McQueary's father.
"Wait, what?" Blehar writes. "Paterno was in State College on Friday night. If this statement is true, then Mike did NOT meet with his father (and Dr. Dranov) immediately after the incident(because John Sr. was 'out of town.')"
"Another fabrication?" writes Blehar. "And the AG knew it."
In handwritten notes made in 2010, McQueary doesn't mention mention any meeting with his father and Dr. Dranov. Instead, he writes that he "drove to my parents' house" and "spoke with my father about the incident and received advice."
He also reiterates, "to be clear: from the time I walked into the locker room to the time I left was maybe one minute -- I was hastened & a bit flustered."
A hazy one-minute memory that McQueary himself admitted he had no idea "whatever it was" he had actually witnessed.
But it was a hazy, one-minute memory that the AG's office wrote an entire grand jury presentment around.
It was evidence like this that led Special Agent Snedden to conclude that McQueary was not a credible witness back in 2012 when Snedden was investigating whether former Penn State President Spanier deserved to have his high-level security clearance with the federal government renewed. Snedden wrote a recently declassified 110-page report that concluded there was no cover up at Penn State because there was no sex crime to cover up.
Because McQueary wasn't a credible witness, and he gave five different accounts of what he witnessed during that one minute in the Penn State showers.
"I'd love to see McQueary's cell phone records, absent whatever dick pics he was sending out that day," Snedden cracked, referring to the day McQueary witnessed the shower incident, and then called his father to figure out what to do.
"Did he even call his dad," Snedden wondered.
Snedden renewed his call for an independent investigation of the entire Penn State scandal, and the attorney general's role in manipulating evidence in the case.
"Anybody who cares about justice needs to be screaming for a special prosecutor in this case," Snedden said.
John Ziegler, a journalist who has covered the Penn State scandal since day one, agreed.
"This seems like blatant OAG misconduct and an indication that they were acutely aware their case had major problems," Ziegler wrote in an email. "Eshbach's response is stunning in that it admits errors in grand jury presentment and tells Mike to shut up about it."
Ziegler said the possibility that Mike McQueary never met with his father and Dr. Dranov, his father's boss, in an emergency meeting, if true, was big news.
"This is HUGE for several reasons," Ziegler wrote. The meeting, which supposedly occurred on the night McQueary witnessed the shower incident was the "ONLY piece of evidence that has EVER been consistent with Mike witnessing something horrible/dramatic" in the Penn State showers. And that's why "Dranov was brought in to meet with him [Mike McQueary] late on a Friday night in February," Ziegler said.
The AG's office, Ziegler speculated, "is desperate for evidence that Mike did something dramatic in reaction to" witnessing the shower incident.
If he really saw an anal rape ongoing in the shower, however, McQueary didn't rush in there and try to save a helpless, 10-year-old boy.
He didn't call the police.
"The meeting with Dranov is all they have," Ziegler wrote.
By Ralph Cipriano
The Philadelphia Inquirer is typically pro-prosecution.
It's something that defendants in a long line of corruption cases can attest to, such as Vince Fumo, Chaka Fattah, the so-called rogue cops, former L&I Inspector Dominic Verdi, the Traffic Court judges, state Senator Larry Farnese, etc.
The Inquirer's usual pattern is to trumpet the allegations of prosecutors as proven facts, which can be a problem when it comes to the presumption of innocence. It's also troublesome if the defendants in these corruption cases are actually found not guilty at trial, as with the rogue cops, Verdi, and Farnese. After all, that's why they play the games, because sometimes the underdogs might win.
But on Monday, the Inky did something new in the war on defendants in corruption cases: they actually denounced a couple of defendants on the editorial page while they were on trial for their lives. While their fates were actually in the hands of a jury.
In the case of payday lending pioneer Charles Hallinan, and his lawyer, Wheeler K. Neff, the Inquirer blasted both of them on the editorial page under a headline that said, "Why payday loan sharks should be arrested and tried."
In the case of Hallinan and Neff, a business man and his lawyer have been hit with a RICO indictment as the government is attempting to criminalize the previously tolerated practice of payday lending.
It's something for a jury to decide, whether payday lending should indeed be criminalized. But the Inquirer editorial board already has the whole thing figured out.
In case you missed it, in the editorial that was originally written on Oct. 13 and updated on Monday, Oct. 16, the Inquirer wrote:
"It is a relief to see federal prosecutors and regulators finally cracking down on payday lenders. While the moves are past due, it is unclear if the prosecutions will be enough to deter a sleazy industry if tough new restrictions will last.
"Payday lending is simply a genial term for loansharking. Lenders make short-term loans to cash-strapped individuals at exorbitant interest rates that can top 800 percent. The high-cost loans leave borrowers, often already living on the edge, deeper in debt or even bankrupt.
"That's why it was good to see federal prosecutors bring racketeering and conspiracy charges against one of the biggest payday lenders in the region, Charles Hallinan, owner of MyNextPaycheck and more than two dozen other loan companies . . .
"Hallinan and codefendant Wheeler K. Neff, his longtime legal counsel, are credited with developing dubious strategies that helped turn payday lending into a multibillion-dollar industry by partnering with sovereign American Indian tribes to evade state-imposed interest-rate caps . . .
"Regardless of the outcome of Hallinan and Neff's trial," the newspaper editorial concluded, more prosecutions and regulation are needed to stop payday lending abuses."
The newspaper also ran a photo of Hallinan with the editorial. The only thing they forgot to do was to tell the jury to convict the defendants.
On Monday, faced with prejudicial publicity, the judge in the case, at the behest of defense lawyers, called a halt to the trial to question jurors about whether they had seen the editorial. The judge asked for a show of hands but nobody had read or would admit to reading the editorial.
It's standard jury instructions for jurors to be told not to read anything about the case they are sitting in judgment on. Although in the Fumo case, we know the jurors were reading those stories. And at the end of the epic, nearly five-month long Fumo trial of 2008-09, one juror actually asked a bunch of reporters who wrote all those Fumo stories in the Inquirer, and then the juror wound up high-fiving the Inky reporter.
So much for standard jury instructions in the age of the Internet and social media.
Defense lawyers in the payday lending case declined comment, and the trial, which began last month, resumed. It's expected to be finished by the end of this month.
By Ralph Cipriano
Lawyers for Jerry Sandusky yesterday charged the state Attorney General's office with prosecutorial misconduct for withholding a revelatory email exchange between the lead prosecutor in the case, and her distraught star witness.
A day before the judge in the case was expected to announce whether Sandusky would be granted a new trial under the Post Conviction Relief Act [PCRA], lawyers Alexander H. Lindsay Jr. and J. Andrew Salemme filed a motion in Centre County Common Pleas Court asking the judge to reopen the record, admit newly discovered evidence, and convene a hearing to question former Deputy Attorney General Jonelle Eshbach, and whistle blower Mike McQueary.
A Big Trial story on the email exchange, first disclosed by blogger Ray Blehar, was attached to the defense lawyers' petition filed yesterday as Exhibit B. [The email exchange itself was Exhibit A.]
On Nov. 10, 2011, six days after the state Attorney General's office released its official grand jury report on the Sandusky sex scandal, McQueary emailed Eshbach to tell her that the grand jury report that said McQueary had witnessed a naked Sandusky in the Penn State showers having anal intercourse with a 10-year-old boy was wrong. In that same email, McQueary complained to the A.G.'s office that they had "twisted" his words about "whatever it was" that he had actually seen or heard in the showers.
In a second email sent that same day, McQueary complained to Eshbach about "being misrepresented" in the media. McQueary appeared to be contradicting a Sara Ganim report by telling Eshbach, "I never went to Coach Paterno's house with my father . . . It was me and only me . . . he was out of town the night before . . ."
"I know that a lot of this stuff is incorrect and it is hard not to respond," Eshbach responded in an email to McQueary. "But you can't."
In their petition, Sandusy's lawyers wrote that they just received a copy of that email echange on Oct. 10th, and that it had not been turned over previously to Sandusky's trial attorney, Joseph Amendola.
"This email exchange, which is attached, is evidence that McQueary's statements that he met with his father regarding observing Mr. Sandusky in the shower with a child the same night is inaccurate as Michael McQueary indicates that his father was not actually in town," the lawyers wrote.
In the McQueary email, there's some confusion over whether the person that McQueary said was out of town was his father, or Coach Joe Paterno. Either way, the defense lawyers write, it's a problem for the prosecution.
"To the extent that the email could be construed as Mr. McQueary stating that Mr. Paterno was not in town, it is believed . . . that Mr. Paterno was home and therefore that also could have been impeachment evidence," the lawyers wrote.
In their petition, Sandusky's lawyers say the email exchange where McQueary claims the AG's office twisted his words was evidence of prosecutorial misconduct. The defense lawyers previously gave the judge in the PCRA hearing a transcript from the Graham Spanier case, where McQueary disclosed on the witness stand that the AG's office had informed him that they were going to leak the grand jury report to the media.
"None of this information had previously been provided by the office of attorney general," Sandusky's lawyers wrote the judge.
This "additional information is further evidence of the prosecution's failure to turnover Brady impeachment evidence," the lawyers wrote, referring to the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case, Brady v. Maryland, where the court ruled that all evidence that could benefit a defendant must be turned over to the defense.
At the end of their petition, Sandusky's lawyers ask for a hearing where Eshbach, McQueary and Amendola would be summoned to testify "as to whether such information was disclosed and/or received by trial counsel in conjunction with previously raised Brady claims."
Graham Spanier's conviction on a single count of child endangerment doesn't make much sense from a variety of different angles, his lawyers argued in an appeal brief filed yesterday in Commonwealth Court.
First, the crime that the former Penn State president was convicted of was Spanier's response, or lack thereof, to an alleged 2001 rape in the Penn State showers of a ten-year-old boy, a crime supposedly witnessed by wacky whiste blower Mike McQueary.
Let's skip over the fact that McQueary told five different versions of the story about what he supposedly saw and heard in the shower that night, and that he later admitted in writing in an email to the prosecutor that they got the grand jury report wrong, and that he had never actually seen a rape.
The statute of limitations for child endangerment in Pennsylvania is only two years. So by the time the attorney general's office got around to charging Spanier, in 2012, the statute on the 2001 imaginary sex-in-the-showers crime had long expired.
Second, the way the resourceful prosecutors got around the statute of limitations problem at trial was to claim that Spanier had engaged in a continuing course of conduct over the years, namely a cover up that extended until the time they charged him, in 2012. But the jury at Spanier's trial found him not guilty of engaging in a continuing course of conduct to endanger the welfare of a child.
So, the conviction was on flimsy ground.
But third, the resourceful trial judge's post-conviction solution on how to get around the statute of limitations problem was to raise an exception from the Philadelphia archdiocese sex abuse case that allowed for someone accused of endangering the welfare of a child to be charged up until the year that the alleged [in our case unknown and possibly imaginary] rape victim was 50 years old.
Again, to wrap our heads around this pretzel logic we have to forget that the alleged victim never came forward, and the prosecutor at trial claimed his identity was known "only to God."
The problem with that exception employed post-trial by the trial judge was that it was never raised before, during or after the Spanier trial by the prosecutors. So Spanier's lawyers say the exception shouldn't apply.
Fourth, Spanier's lawyers make the point that the prosecutors charged Spanier in 2011 with violating the child endangerment statute with the 2001 imaginary rape.
The problem here is that the state's 1972 child endangerment law only applied to people who had direct contact with children, such as parents, teachers and guardians. The law was amended after the Philadelphia archdiocese sex abuse scandal in 2007, to include supervisors such as Msgr. William J. Lynn, the archdiocese's former secretary of clergy, who was in charge of supervising abusive priests.
The problem in the Spanier case, his lawyers say, is that the attorney general's office is in effect charging Spanier under the 2007 amended law, which is unconstitutional.
In the case of Msgr. Lynn, his conviction on one count of child endangerment in 2012 was overturned by the state Superior Court because the original law didn't apply to him. But that sensible decision was overturned by the state Supreme Court.
The state Supreme Court's decision in the Lynn case basically got around the fact that Lynn wasn't in direct contact with children by saying that if an administrator knowingly placed a sexually abusive person in proximity to children under his care, then he could be charged with child endangerment.
During the Spanier trial, however, his lawyers argue that the prosecution failed to offer any evidence that Spanier, the president of a university, "owed a duty of care to minor children, or that he was supervising the welfare of those children."
Spanier was sentenced to a jail term of between four and twelve months, a $7,5000 fine, 200 hours of community service, as well as being on the hook for paying the costs of prosecuting him.