Before he ever told his story to detectives, the district attorney, the grand jury, or the jury in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia sex abuse case, "Billy Doe" gave an interview to a couple of social workers from the archdiocese.
And the story he told was pretty wild, and full of violence. According to one of the social workers, Billy claimed a predator priest sat on his chest, cutting off his air, before the priest pummeled the 10-year-old altar boy with hours of anal sex. Billy told the social worker another predator priest punched him in the face and knocked him out, and when he woke up, he was naked and tied up with altar sashes. Billy also claimed a Catholic teacher punched him in the face, and wrapped a seat belt around his neck before raping him.
By the time Billy Doe told his story to authorities, many of the colorful details were gone and many of the facts had changed. The jury in the archdiocese sex abuse case may have to figure out why.
Billy Doe is the pseudonym in the 2011 Philadelphia grand jury report for the former altar boy who claimed he was serially raped by two Catholic priests and one school teacher. Last week, Billy Doe told the jury in this case that when he talked to the two social workers for the archdiocese, he was high on drugs and couldn't remember anything he told them.
But Louise Hagner, the social worker for the archdiocese, was taking notes on Jan. 30, 2009 when she met with Billy, then 20 years old. Today, Hagner's handwritten notes, a subsequent typed report and her testimony to the grand jury were the subject of intense scrutiny from defense lawyers and prosecutors.
Hagner told defense attorney Michael J. McGovern that she was a retired social worker in 2009 working part-time for the archdiocese as a victims assistance coordinator when a young man called in on the archdiocese sex abuse hot line, an 800 number, and left an allegation of abuse.
Hagner played back the tape, got the phone number for Billy Doe, and called him back.
Her job, she told the jury, was to go out and document "allegations of abuse" and "provide services to victims to help them rebuild their lives."
Critics, however, such as Assistant District Attorney Mark Cipolletti, used cross-examination to point out that Hagner's handwritten notes, as well as her typed -report on Billy Doe's story were never seen by the defendant, so he could verify them. Hagner's report, however, did wind up on the desks of the archdiocese's in-house counsel, and its hired legal guns at the Stradley-Ronon Stevens & Young law firm.
So was Hagner's role to gather intelligence for the archdiocese so it could defend itself against future abuse claims, or was she a social worker trying to aid and comfort victims? Defense lawyers and prosecutors took predictably opposing views in court today while Hagner told her story to the jury.
Hagner recalled the message left on Jan. 29, 2009 by a distraught Billy Doe.
"He was on his cell and he sounded like he was crying through most of the phone call" on the 800 line, Hagner told the jury. She said there was static on the line, and she had a hard time deciphering what Billy had to say. She even got his first name wrong in her initial notes and report on Billy's case.
But when she called Billy back the next day, she said he sounded "composed." Hagner suggested that Billy either come over to archdiocese headquarters at 222 N. 17 St., or she could come out to his house. Billy told Hagner "he preferred that we came to his house" in Northeast Philadelphia.
So Hagner and her social worker partner rode out to see Billy. The partner drove. When they got to Billy's house, Hagner said she knocked on one door, but there was no answer. Hagner told the jury she saw "a young man looking out the window," but he didn't open the door. Hagner said she knocked on a second door but again, nobody opened it. She called Billy's cell phone, but he didn't answer.
As the two social workers were leaving, Billy called back and said he would meet them if they drove down the street.
Billy came over and sat in the back of her partner's car, Hagner told the jury. He told the social workers he had talked to several lawyers, and that he knew his claims of abuse were within the statute of limitations.
Billy identified his attackers as Father Charles Engelhardt, Father Edward Avery, and his sixth-grade teacher, Bernard Shero.
He said in fifth grade, he had one sex session with Father Engelhardt and two sex sessions with Father Avery. He said his sixth grade teacher, Bernard Shero, had raped him "after class in the classroom." Later, he gave Hagner another location for the alleged attack.
"Those are my handwritten notes from my contact with the victim," Hagner told McGovern, who represents Father Engelhardt, one of the priests accused of raping Billy Doe.
"No," Hagner told the jury. "We would never interview anyone who was impaired."
When he walked down the street to the car with the social workers in it, was he staggering or swaying, McGovern asked the witness.
No, he appeared to be walking normally, Hagner testified.
Billy told Hagner that Father Engelhardt attacked him after a 6:30 Mass. The priest climbed on top of Billy, "pressed down" on Billy's chest so hard he couldn't breathe, and then he forced the boy to masturbate the priest.
Then, he flipped the boy over and pounded away on him with brutal anal sex. The attack began at 7 a.m. and lasted until noon, Billy Doe told the social workers, according to Hagner. When the priest was finished, he told Billy, "If you ever tell anyone, I'll kill you."
Billy told the social workers that Father Edward Avery "punched him in the head," and when he woke up, he was naked and tied up in altar sashes. Avery threatened to "break every bone in his body," Billy Doe told Hagner. Then, after rough sex, the priest made the boy suck the blood off of his penis. The priest promised that if Billy told anybody, he would "hang him" by his balls and "kill him slowly," Hagner told the jury, as she read from her notes.
In a second attack, Father Avery took Billy up to a bedroom in the rectory. He tossed the boy on the bed and made the him perform anal sex on the priest, which was not successful. Then the angry priest anally raped Billy so brutally that he he "bled for a week," Hagner told the jury, reading from her notes.
"Did you like it," the priest supposedly asked Billy after the attack, according to Hagner.
The following year, when Billy was in sixth grade, Bernard Shero took him for a ride in his car. The teacher "punched him in the face," and wrapped seat belts around Billy's neck before raping him, Hagner testified. This time, Billy told Hagner the attack took place in a parking lot near a dumpster, she testified.
During the attack, Shero ripped the boy's shirt, Hagner told the jury. Billy Doe said on his way home he threw the torn shirt in the sewer. Shero also threatened that if the boy ever told anyone, "they won't believe you," Hagner said, reading from her notes. The teacher also told the boy, "You liked it, didn't you?"
Hagner told the jury she was concerned about identifying the alleged assailants so that Father Engehardt could be taken out of his current mission, and so Shero could be kept away from children. Father Avery had already been defrocked by the time Billy told the social workers about the alleged attacks.
Asked about Billy's demeanor in the car when he told his story, Hagner said, "he was nervous, he was upset." She said a few times during the interview, Billy "put his head down and made crying noises." But when he lifted his head, the social worker said she noted "his eyes weren't red and there weren't any tears."
She thought that was strange.
On cross-examination, Assistant District Attorney Cipolletti asked Hagner to describe her training to become a victims assistance coordinator. Hagner said she read some articles about sex abuse and talked to the other victims assistance coordinator.
That was about it.
Cipolletti asked Hagner if she knew that male victims of sex abuse frequently exaggerate.
"I've read that, yes," she said.
When Cipoletti asked about Hagner's investigations, she corrected him, saying "They were not investigations, they were interviews."
Cipolletti asked if Billy sounded distraught on the 800 line tape, and said he needed time to compose himself, why did Hagner push to interview him right away?
"When I called him back, he was composed," she said.
Cipolletti used Hagner's grand jury testimony in an attempt to discredit her claim that Billy was sober when he told his story to the social workers.
"Well when he called, he was slurring his words," Cipolletti quoted Hagner's grand jury testimony.
But Hagner said she was referring to the distorted sound on the 800 tape, which she claimed was static on Billy's cell phone.
So the grand jury got that wrong, Cipolletti asked.
Apparently, Hagner said.
On redirect, Hagner told defense lawyer Burton A. Rose that after she interviewed Billy, he phoned the archdiocese's in-house counsel, Timothy R. Coyne.
"He called Tim Coyne to find out how to sue us," she said.
On Feb. 6, 2010, Hagner said she had another phone conversation with Billy Doe.
"He was slurring his words," she said. She asked if he was on any medication. Billy replied he "hadn't slept in two days," Hagner told the jury, and that he "had problems with drugs."
But, on Feb. 6, 2010, "He told us he had been clean for the past six months," Hagner said.
When defense lawyer McGovern asked Hagner if she was proud of all her work to assist victims of sex abuse, Hagner agreed she was. It seemed like an innocuous comment. However, it opened the door for Cipolletti to come back and try to impeach Hagner. Cipolletti asked Hagner about grand jury testimony where he claimed she admitted to badgering another sex abuse victim, Mark Bukowski, for an interview after he had twice tried to kill himself.
Defense lawyers objected, but Judge Ellen Ceisler told McGovern, "You've opened the door," and now Cipolletti could ask Hagner about her work with other sex abuse victims. Bukowski was the accuser in the case against Father James J. Brennan last year that wound up in a hung jury.
Hagner, however, told Cipolletti that the grand jury also got that story wrong, and that she had waited for Bukowski's doctor to say when the victim was ready to talk.
"He called me when he was ready," Hagner told the prosecutor. "That grand jury testimony was very wrong."
The rest of the day was taken up with repetitive testimony of the mind-numbing variety from 20 character witnesses. They included Engelhardt's friends, neighbors, sister, brother-in-law, nephew, niece, former students, and relatives and friends of the Shero family.
Each time, a witness was sworn in and asked if he or she could testify about a defendant's reputation in the community for "peaceful and law-abiding behavior."
Judge Ceisler complained the testimony was "getting repetitive," especially after four members of the same family were called.
On the final witness, Cipolletti said, "I have no question that I haven't asked ad nauseum with other witnesses."
When the character witnesses were finally done, the judge thanked the jury for their patience, and told them, "this case will be in your hands very soon."