Thursday, December 11, 2014

Galati Asks For Court-Appointed Lawyer

By George Anastasia

Ron Galati's broke.

The South Philadelphia auto body shop owner accused to orchestrating a $5 million insurance  scam told a judge this morning that he does not have the money to pay for a lawyer in either of the two pending criminal trials he is facing in Common Pleas Court.

"Exactly right," Galati said when Judge Jeffrey Minehart asked if he could not afford to hire an attorney for either the insurance fraud conspiracy case or a murder-for-hire case in which he is a defendant.

Assistant District Attorney Dawn Holtz said her office believes Galati has the financial ability to retain private counsel.

"He may not be able to afford the best attorney in the land," Holtz said during a brief hearing before Minehart. But she said her office believes Galati has assets and that "the City of Philadelphia and the taxpayers of Philadelphia should not be paying" his legal bills.

Minehart set a Jan. 8 hearing date on the financial question. Holtz said her office would offer evidence showing that Galati can afford an attorney.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Billy Goes Viral

The new media superstar
By Ralph Cipriano

The improbable story of "Billy Doe," the former Philadelphia altar boy who claimed he was raped by a couple of priests and a Catholic school teacher, has gone viral.

Rolling Stone opened the door by apologizing for the improbable story it ran about "Jackie," the University of Virginia freshman who claimed she was raped by seven guys at a fraternity party.

Big Trial's contribution to the unfolding scandal was to point out that before they fell for Jackie's story, reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely and Rolling Stone bought Billy's bogus tale. In a classic case of the media turning on itself, the Big Trial post about Billy and Rolling Stone attracted 50,000 hits to this website in two days.

The local scandal about Billy, ignored by the hometown press, was suddenly hot news to The Daily Caller, and a bunch of websites such as,, and, Even The Daily Mail, the British national newspaper, weighed in with a story about Billy.

And we're not done yet. The Washington Post and Newsweek are hot on the trail as well. Over at the District Attorney's office, our stonewalling D.A. Seth Williams is probably hoping he gets through this news cycle unscathed. Seth, however, does have a distant but curious link to Rolling Stone's Billy story that has attracted the curiosity of the national media.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Before Rolling Stone Ran With Jackie's Story They Fell for Billy's

Sabrina Rubin Erdely
By Ralph Cipriano

Before a writer for Rolling Stone ran with an alleged gang-rape story told by a student named "Jackie," she bought an alleged multiple-rape story told by a former altar boy named "Billy."

On Nov. 19th, Rolling Stone published an article claiming that "Jackie," a student at the University of Virginia, had been allegedly gang-raped by seven men at a fraternity party. ["A Rape on Campus; A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice At UVA."]

The fraternity was tried in the media and found guilty. Bricks were thrown through the windows of the frat house, the cops in Charlottesville were called in to investigate, and the university president shut down all fraternity and sorority events on campus.

Then, The Washington Post, citing factual discrepancies, cast doubt on the victim's story. Rolling Stone rolled over almost immediately, issuing an apology that said their trust in Jackie had been "misplaced."

There's lots of irony here folks for readers of this blog. The writer of the story in question, Rolling Stone contributing editor Sabrina Rubin Erdely, is from Philadelphia. Before she ran with Jackie's story, she fell for a story told by a former altar boy dubbed "Billy Doe" by a grand jury.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Galati's Lawyer Bows Out

By George Anastasia

Wannabe wiseguy Ron Galati, the South Philadelphia auto body shop owner with a Godfather fixation, wants to keep fighting. But it looks like he'll have to do battle without the services of topnotch criminal defense attorney Anthony Voci Jr.

Voci has filed motions to withdraw as Galati's attorney in a pending murder-for-hire case and a massive insurance fraud conspiracy case. Both are listed for trial in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court.

"My client does not have sufficient funds to allow me to continue," Voci said in a brief comment today when asked about the withdrawal motions. Voci, a former Assistant District Attorney, represented Galati in another murder-for-hire case in federal court in Camden earlier this year.

In that case, Galati was convicted of hiring two hitmen to murder the boyfriend of his estranged daughter. The boyfriend survived the hit and was one of several key witnesses. The two hitmen, a third conspirator and Galati's daughter Tiffany also took the stand for the government.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Trying To Peddle The Ultimate Contrarian Story

By Ralph Cipriano

When I was a reporter at The Philadelphia Inquirer and had a story to pitch, I used to go editor shopping.

Back in the 1990s when the newspaper had 600 journalists, there were so many departments to shop in -- news, features, sports, the projects desk where they did long, boring investigative stories, and the Sunday magazine. And so many different editors to pitch a story to. If one editor said no it was on to the next one until I made a sale.

Sadly, one rule applied to too many editors I dealt with. If you told them something they already knew, something that squared with the prevailing wisdom, you were in good shape. But if you told those same editors something new, especially something that might challenge the prevailing wisdom, that's when the trouble started.

On this blog for the past two years, we've been dealing with the ultimate contrarian story. A junkie criminal scheming to get out of prison poses as a victim of clerical sex abuse. A politically ambitious district attorney drafts that junkie criminal as his star witness to put men in collars behind bars while the media and public cheer him on. Even though people in the D.A.'s own office privately agreed with defense lawyer Michael J. McGovern's assessment of star witness Billy Doe as a "lying sack of shit."

It's the story nobody wants to hear because it runs counter to the cult of victimology and current, pervasive prejudices against Catholic clerics. But in Philadelphia, with three courts prying into the local district attorney's self-described "historic" prosecution of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, the truth is lurking out there. Especially in the civil case beginning next month when certain current and former members of the district attorney's office are placed under oath and have to answer some tough questions about a bogus investigation rigged from day one.

Friday, November 21, 2014

"I Accept This Injustice"

By Ralph Cipriano

An oblate of St. Francis de Sales takes priestly vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. He prays to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ.

Few who pray that prayer could have ever imagined the fate that befell Father Charles Engelhardt.

That was the message of the homily delivered today by Father Michael Connolly at the funeral of Father Engelhardt, his friend and fellow oblate of nearly 50 years.

An oblate wears a silver cross around his neck, Father Connolly said. He fished his own cross out of his priestly garments to show the crowd. It's a cross an oblate receives on the occasion of his first presentation of faith, the priest said. It's not a crucifix; there's no body on it.

"Charlie was the body on that cross in his life," Father Connolly said. Like Jesus, Father Engelhardt was falsely accused, tried, and convicted, Father Connolly said. Like Jesus, "Charlie endured his suffering" with patience and humility, Father Connolly said. Like Jesus, Father Engelhardt was repeatedly humiliated before he died as a prisoner.

What was Charlie Engehlardt's response to his fate?

"I accept this injustice believing God will make it right in the end." That's what Father Engelhardt repeatedly told his lawyers and fellow oblates, Father Connolly said. It would be Father Engelhardt's parting message on the day that his family and fellow oblates gathered to bury him.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Moses, Solomon And The Monsignor

By Ralph Cipriano

Under a stained glass dome and bronze statues of Moses and Solomon, the state's highest court this morning debated the fate of Msgr. William J. Lynn.

"God save the Commonwealth and this honorable court," the court crier shouted in the packed, ornate chambers of the state Supreme Court on the fourth floor of the state Capitol in Harrisburg.

Up at the raised mahogany bench, Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille got things rolling by announcing, "The issue here was this application of the [child] endangerment statute."

That really is the issue in the Lynn case. The other justices, however, did not seem to want to stick to that script as they fired one extraneous shot after another at Thomas A. Bergstrom, the monsignor's defense lawyer.

After it was over, Bergstrom had the dazed look of a hockey goalie. His adversary from the D.A.'s office seemed to get off much easier, but he did have to concede a few key points that could be fatal.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Handcuffs And A Hospital Bed

By Ralph Cipriano

For Father Charles Engelhardt, the ordeal is finally over.

The 67-year-old priest died at 8:30 p.m. Saturday night at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pa., according to Father James J. Greenfield, provincial of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, Father Engelhardt's religious order.

"A beautiful and holy man" was how his lawyer, Michael J. McGovern, described him. He was "a true martyr," McGovern said.

At the time of his death, Father Engelhardt was an inmate at the State Correctional Institution in Coal Township, Northumberland County, where he had served nearly two years of a 6-to-12 year-sentence. The priest was convicted on Jan. 30, 2013 of endangering the welfare of a child, corruption of a minor and indecent assault. His accuser, however, was "Billy Doe," the former altar boy turned heroin addict who had all kinds of credibility issues.

To Father Engelhardt's family and lawyer, the priest was an innocent man falsely accused and wrongly convicted in a case overflowing with reasonable doubt. When the priest died at the hospital, no family member was present.

Father Greenfield saw Father Engelhardt the day before he died. Despite being handcuffed to a hospital bed and under guard by two armed correctional officers, "Charlie" appeared to be in good spirits, Father Greenfield said.


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