The night before Father Charles Engelhardt died, a fellow inmate claims, the priest gave a dying declaration:
"Paul, I do not feel well. Please understand that I am an innocent man, who was wrongly convicted."
On Dec. 22, the inmate, Paul H. Eline, a former Temple Law student, filed as an intervenor with the state Superior Court in the case of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Charles Engelhardt, appellant. In his application for third party intervention, Eline wrote that the matters he was bringing to the court's attention were "critical and constitute 'extraordinary circumstances' " that should be made part of the record.
At the time of his death last month, Engelhardt was an inmate at the State Correctional Institution in Coal Township, Northumberland County. The 67-year-old priest had served nearly two years of a 6-to-12 year-sentence after being convicted on Jan. 30, 2013 of endangering the welfare of a child, corruption of a minor and indecent assault. His accuser, however, a former altar boy dubbed Billy Doe, told an incredible and constantly changing story subsequently refuted by evidence gathered by the district attorney's own detectives. The priest died during an ambulance ride on the way to Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pa. while his conviction was under appeal with the state Superior Court.
Under federal rules of evidence, a dying declaration is an exception to the hearsay rule and is admissible as evidence in criminal homicide or civil cases. In his court filing, inmate Eline argues that in his final moments of life the priest had no reason to lie.
"There is no other reason for Charles F. Engelhardt to state anything but the truth, knowing that his life will be lost to improper medical procedures," Eline wrote in a "dissertation in support" of his application to intervene.