At 8:11 p.m. on June 9, 2010, the district attorney's star witness in the case against the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, a man subsequently identified in a 2011 grand jury report as "Billy Doe," was walking on the 200 block of Allegheny Avenue when he caught the eye of Police Officer Cesar Torres.
At the time, Torres was on patrol in a marked police car, the officer subsequently testified.
Assistant District Attorney Katie Brown asked the officer what caught his eye about Billy Doe:
Q. What was the defendant wearing when you saw him?
A. I believe he had [on] sweatpants with a hoodie that had a jacket over it ...
Q. Did something draw your attention to the defendant that brings you here today?
A. Yes, ma'am. I was traveling eastbound and I observed a large bulge coming out of the right side of the defendant's waist area.
Q. What happened after that?
A. At that time, myself and the defendant made eye contact and he looked very surprised ... um, just like, you know a look of shock. His eyes opened wide.
That large bulge turned out to be 56 bags of heroin. This is the story of how a smart criminal lawyer made that heroin disappear.
On June 9, 2010, the night Billy Doe got nailed with 56 bags of heroin, he was already an important witness in the ongoing sex abuse investigation of the archdiocese.
Five months earlier, Billy Doe had been sprung out of Graterford Prison by Detective Andrew Snyder, and driven to the district attorney's office to be interviewed by Snyder and Assistant District Attorney Mariana Sorensen from the Special Investigations Unit.
Billy Doe, who was in jail on a parole violation at Graterford -- the largest maximum security prison in Pennsylvania -- subsequently enrolled in a drug rehab known as Gaurdenzia House.
On May 3, 2010, according to police records, Detective Snyder drove to Gaurdenzia House to check up on Billy Doe. The detective wrote in his notes:
I stopped by Gaurdenzia House to have [Billy] sign the release papers and was informed that [Billy] absconded. I talked to Jack Kelly, director of Gaurdenzia. Kelly stated that there were rumors of [Billy] using drugs. Kelly had no evidence of [Billy] using drugs but he did cancel [Billy]'s appointments for the day and they were going to search his room. [Billy] came down for lunch and left through the out-patient entrance. I talked to [Billy's] parents. [Billy] did call them and told them that Kelly accused him of using drugs and that his probation officer, Ryan Smith, was on his way to Gaurdenzia to lock [Billy] up and take him back to prison.
But Billy Doe was on the lam. On June 2, 2010, Detective Snyder got a phone call from the escapee:
[Billy] told me he that he left Gaurdenzia because of his problems with the director, Mr. Kelly. [Billy] stated that he first was staying with a friend and then lived with a girl and her children in Glenside, PA. [Billy] did admit to using heroin for about a week after he first left Gaurdenzia but he assured me that he has been sober for the last couple of weeks. [Billy] is back home with his parents.
... [Billy] asked me if I could help get him into a rehab. I asked about Miramount and [Billy] replied that "they" are mad at him for leaving Guardenzia and then using. I told [Billy] to get me a list of some of the places that he would like to stay at and I would make some phone calls on his behalf.
Despite Billy Doe's assurances to Detective Snyder, his new attempt to stay sober would last exactly one week.
On June 9, 2010, Billy Doe was arrested by Officer Torres and and charged with possession with intent to distribute 56 bags of heroin.
On Jan. 7, 2011, there was a hearing in the case of the Commonwealth V. Billy Doe. In Courtroom 604 of the Criminal Justice Center, the Hon. Judge Adam Beloff was listening to a motion to suppress evidence.
That's when Assistant District Attorney Katie Brown put Officer Torres on the stand. The officer testified that he saw Billy Doe walking with a large bulge around his waist. After the officer made eye contact with the suspect, Torres testified, Billy Doe started moving down Allegheny Avenue at a "faster walking pace."
Q. And what did you do?
A. I went around with my patrol vehicle and pulled up next to him and asked where he was going. He stated he was going home, so I stopped him for investigation of the bulge coming out of the right side of his pants and asked him if he had a weapon, and he stated no. I conducted my frisk, and during the frisk, in the lower left-hand pocket, I asked the defendant what were those and he stated four bundles of heroin which he purchased on Mutter [Street].
Q. Did you recover anything as a result of your conversation with the defendant?
A. Just four bundles of heroin ...
A. And back to the bulge. When you saw the defendant, how far were you from him?
A. At first, I would say 30 to 40 feet ...
Q. Can you describe the size and shape of the bulge?
A. It was sticking out ... I thought it was a firearm ...
Q. Where were the bundles of heroin recovered from?
A. They were recovered from the shorts inside the pants. He was, you know, wearing shorts and then pants over the shorts ...
At this point, Judge Beloff interrupted the proceedings.
The Court; Hold on. They were recovered from inside the shorts, in the pants?
The witness: Yes, Your Honor. He was wearing shorts, basketball shorts, and then pants over the basketball shorts. He had pockets inside of the basketball shorts with pants over it.
On cross-examination, Attorney McLaughlin questioned Officer Torres about the particulars of the stop.
Q. You're driving down Allegheny Avenue in a marked police unit?
Q. It's daylight out?
A. It's sunlight. It's 8 o'clock in the afternoon, it's dusk.
Q. You see my client walking down the street, right?
Q. All he's doing is walking, right?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Your driving towards my client or away from him?
A. Towards ...
Q. While driving towards him, you're claiming you make eye contact with my client?
A. Eye contact, yes. I observed him and I was checking him out and as I observed him, he we made eye contact?
Q. This is from a distance of 50 feet?
A. Forty feet. I would say 40 feet.
Attorney McLaughlin brought up Officer Torres's testimony at a preliminary hearing on Aug. 6th, 2010. McLaughlin handed the officer a transcript from that hearing.
Q. All right. Directing your attention to page 7 of the testimony. You were asked a question on direct about how far away you were from him just as an estimate and your answer was 50 feet?
A. Yes, sir ...
Q. Now, regarding the eye contact you mentioned, where you said he had a surprised look, does the [transcript] mention that eye contact?
A. No, sir ...
Q. All right. So at that point, that's when you see the bulge on this person's waist band?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. You don't know what the bulge is?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. At that point in time, you make a decision to go to my client and basically tell him to stop?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. When you go up to him, you stop him and he's not allowed to go?
A. At that time, no.
Q. Ok. Nothing was ever recovered from the waist band?
A. It wasn't a firearm, just a water bottle.
The Court: A water bottle? Like a plastic water bottle?
The witness: Like a plastic water bottle ...
Q. So the bottle is what you thought was potentially a gun?
A. Yes ...
Q. You patted him down first or ask him questions?
A. Asked him questions first.
Q. Then you pat him down. What did you ask him, first? What are you doing?
A. What are you doing, identification, do you have weapons on you?
Q. What was the response to that?
Q. And at that point in time, did you conduct a pat down?
A. Yes, sir
Q. And during that pat down, you said you felt an object.
A. A couple. Some small items on the left side.
Q. It's your testimony today when you ask those questions, you knew what the items were?
A. At that time, at that point, when I felt those small items, I knew that they were some type of narcotics. I did not know that they were heroin or cocaine. I knew it was narcotics ...
Q. Did you have any information he was wearing a gun at that time?
A. No sir ...
Q. Never recovered a firearm?
In arguments before the judge, McLaughlin said the police stop "wasn't based on some type of anonymous call for a robbery in progress."
"We didn't hear anything about a lot of gun arrests in that particular location," McLaughlin said. Instead, the officer claimed he made eye contact and spotted a bulge before he "stopped my client and he wasn't free to go," McLaughlin said.
"I submit to Your Honor that's not enough to allow a stop."
And when the officer conducted a pat down of the bulge in the waist, McLaughlin told the judge, all he found was a water bottle. Then he discovered the lumps in Billy Doe's shorts. When the officer asked Billy Doe what was in his shorts, he told him about the heroin. That's when the officer goes in and recovers the drugs. That's why the drugs and the statement given by Billy Doe should be suppressed as evidence, McLaughlin argued.
Assistant District Attorney Brown countered that "there was a reasonable suspicion" to stop and search the suspect "because of the bulge." When the officer approached the defendant, "based on experience .. he immediately knew that there were some kind of narcotics in the pocket."
"I would submit that he did have probable cause," the assistant district attorney said. "I'm not saying that statement -- the statements were made without the Miranda warning. I'm not going to argue that. I would just say based on Officer Torres's experience, based on his interaction with the defendant, it was sufficient enough for him to have probable cause to make the arrest."
The judge was ready to make his ruling.
It was the court's findings that the officer observed the defendant walking down Allegheny Avenue. He observed a large bulge at the defendant's waist and indicated he made eye contact with the defendant. The officer stopped the defendant, asked where he was going, and then conducted a pat down for weapons and narcotics. A water bottle was recovered. The officer then discovered several small objects hidden in the defendant's shorts. When he asked the defendant what they were, the defendant stated it was four bundles of heroin.
"The court finds that the officer did not have reasonable suspicion or probable cause at the time to stop the defendant," the judge said. The officer did not have probable cause to conduct "a further pat down beyond the area where the alleged water bottle was found. Therefore, the motion to suppress is granted."
During the trial of Father Charles Engelhardt and Bernard Shero, Billy Doe disagreed with the charge he was originally arrested on, possession with intent to distribute. Billy Doe told the jury he intended to use those 56 bags of heroin himself.
Alan J. Tauber, one of the defense lawyers for Msgr. William J. Lynn, has had considerable experience representing defendants at the Criminal Justice Center, also known as the CJC. He says the judge made the right call.
"It's just another day at the CJC," Tauber said. "The police had no lawful justification to stop Billy Doe. He wasn't observed behaving in any criminal behavior, or even suspicious behavior at the time they stopped him and frisked him."
"That doesn't mean the police shouldn't get a merit badge for good instincts," Tauber said. "On the positive side they kept Billy Doe from injecting himself with 56 bags of heroin."
The Commonwealth did not appeal the case.
During the hearing on the suppressed evidence, Judge Beloff made no public mention of having conferred with Billy Doe when the judge was a civil lawyer about whether Billy Doe could sue the archdiocese in the civil courts for damages. Billy Doe has told authorities Beloff was one of the lawyers he conferred with before filing a civil suit against the archdiocese.
The judge committed suicide on Dec. 1, 2012.
The heroin bust wasn't Billy Doe's last arrest.
On Nov. 10, 2011, ten months after the hearing to suppress the 56 bags of heroin, Billy Doe was arrested again in Philadelphia, this time for possession of a controlled substance. It's still an open case that's been continued nine times in the past 16 months.