A lengthy summary story about "Billy Doe," based on reporting originally done for big trial.net, has won first prize for best investigative reporting from the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada.
The story, "Star witness' story in Philadelphia sex abuse trials doesn't add up," ran in the April 29, 2013 edition of the National Catholic Reporter. Labeled an "analysis" by NCR, the nearly 6,000-word story examined a "compromised investigation," a "flawed grand jury report," and the many contradictory stories told by Billy Doe.
Doe is the former 10-year-old altar boy and drug addict who claimed at two historic Philadelphia sex abuse trials that he was raped by two priests and a school teacher. Three men are currently in jail because of Doe's stories. A fourth defendant, Msgr. William J. Lynn, was convicted on one count of endangering the welfare of a child, but that conviction was overturned by an appeals court.
Lynn remains on house arrest as the reversal of his conviction is scheduled to be reviewed by the state Supreme Court.
After convictions in the two criminal cases, Doe's accusations are currently the basis of a civil case where Doe is seeking monetary damages for his alleged suffering from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
The NCR article lays out the connection with big trial:
"At the second archdiocese trial, when the jury came back with its stunning guilty verdicts, I decided to take another look at the historic prosecution," I wrote in NCR. "For the past two months on big trial.net, sponsored by The Beasley Firm, I have published the inside story of the DA's investigation as told in formerly secret grand jury transcripts and police records. The records show the investigation was compromised from day one."
The analysis prompted an NCR editorial -- "Philadelphia was a shallow victory" -- that pointed out the troubling questions that remain about Seth Williams and his historic prosecution.
The NCR editorial referred to Billy Doe's different accounts as "utterly different versions of reality."
The editorial questioned why evidence wasn't introduced at trial that showed Billy Doe's mother kept meticulous calendars that directly contradicted her son's stories. The editorial said that former priest Ed Avery's recanting of a guilty plea "should raise serious questions."
The NCR editorial also wanted to know how District Attorney Williams "found a loophole in the state's child endangerment law that allowed his office to take action against Lynn, who had never had direct contact with the children involved." While Williams' predecessor, Lynne Abraham, described by NCR as "one of the most determined prosecutors in the country in dealing with sex abuse by priests, said the law did not apply."
That very issue was the reason why an appeals court overturned Lynn's conviction, a decision that will be reviewed by the state Supreme Court.
Finally, the NCR editorial addressed the persistent stonewalling in the case by DA Williams, who, with the assistance of the local media, has been able to hide from answering any tough questions about Billy.
"Perhaps answers exist for all these questions, but in months of reporting on his blog about the issues, Cipriano repeatedly sent lists of questions to the district attorney's office," the NCR editorial said. "He never received a substantive response to his queries."
The DA also stonewalled NCR. At least he's consistent.
The Catholic Press Association, founded in 1911, has more than 600 member organizations and reaches more than 26 million people.
Why the local media turned a blind eye to the Billy Doe story is the $58,000 question. That's the amount of money the Catholic League was willing to pay The Philadelphia Inquirer to publish an ad that would have called attention to the case. But the Inky said no and never explained why.