Monday, October 13, 2014

The Secret Life Of A Corroborating Witness

By Ralph Cipriano
Best guy friends Billy and Leo
for Bigtrial.net

In court nearly two years ago, Leo Omar Hernandez was the only witness who could corroborate any part of Billy Doe's wildly improbable tale about being repeatedly raped as an altar boy by a couple of priests and a school teacher.

Hernandez was supposedly the "best guy friend" that Billy Doe first confided his story of sex abuse to back when they were high school classmates at the International Christian Academy in Northeast Philadelphia.

Hernandez told the jury that when he and Billy were sophomores at the Christian Academy, they used a Bible verse as a weapon against a male teacher who got "touchy-feely" with them. In court, Hernandez presented himself as a clean-cut, straight-arrow, honorably-discharged Air Force vet living with his girlfriend and newborn son at a house he owned in Mayfair. But none of that turns out to be true.

Billy Doe is currently suing the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and his alleged abusers in a civil suit in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court. Meanwhile, his former "best guy friend" Leo Omar Hernandez has filed a medical malpractice case filed in Common Pleas Court against a Philadelphia osteopath, a male doctor that Hernandez claims got him hooked on drugs and then had an abusive sexual relationship with him.

Records gathered for that medical malpractice case show that while Leo Omar Hernandez claims he's a victim, he also admits he's a former drug addict, steroid abuser, and a dancer in gay male strip clubs.

THE CRIMINAL APPEAL IN THE BILLY DOE CASE

Defense lawyers for a priest and a former Catholic school teacher convicted of sexually abusing Billy Doe plan to use Leo Hernandez's secret life in their appeal for a new trial in state Superior Court. The defense lawyers say the only witness to corroborate Billy Doe's story of sex abuse is a fraud and a liar.

Hernandez presented himself to the jury" as part of Ozzie and Harriet Nelson's family," recalled Michael J. McGovern, the lawyer for Father Charles Engelhardt. The priest is serving 6 to 12 years at the State Correctional Institution in Coal Township, Northumberland County after he was convicted of endangering the welfare of a child, corruption of a minor and indecent assault.

"It turns out that he [Hernandez] has a dark side that was never revealed to the jury," McGovern said. "All these new revelations that are being brought to my attention ... raise the important question of how much did Detective [James] Dougherty and the district attorney's office know prior to him [Hernandez] being presented as a witness."

A spokesperson for the district attorney's office, as usual, did not respond to a request for comment.

The question of what the district attorney knew or didn't know about Hernandez's secret life won't be answered during a hearing set for Oct. 28. That's the date when a panel of state Superior Court judges is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the appeal for a new trial on behalf of Engelhardt and Bernard Shero.

Shero, a former Catholic school teacher, is serving an 8 to 16-year sentence at SCI Houtzdale, Clearfield County, after being convicted of rape of a child, attempted rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a child, endangering the welfare of a child, corruption of a minor, and indecent assault.

McGovern says he's not going to mention the Leo Hernandez story during the few minutes he may get to argue his case before the Superior Court. But he does plan to include the Hernandez story in the formal record of his appeal.

"We are eager to include this in a supplemental motion," McGovern said. "However, we do not wish to delay the proceedings any further than already have been delayed."

WHAT THE CORROBORATING WITNESS HAD TO SAY

On Jan. 15, 2013, Leo Omar Hernandez, then 24, was sworn in as a witness in the case of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Charles Engelhardt and Bernard Shero.

Hernandez told the prosecutor he left the Air Force in 2008. He moved to the Mayfair section of Philadelphia where he worked as a nursing assistant and was scheduled to graduate nursing school in May 2013.

When asked by Assistant District Attorney Mark Cipolletti if he had received an honorable discharge from the Air Force, Hernandez replied, "Yes." When asked by the prosecutor who he lived with, Hernandez replied, "My girlfriend, the mother of my newborn."

Hernandez told the jury he met Billy Doe in 10th grade. "He was pretty quiet, a rule breaker, just different from the majority of the school," Hernandez testified. "I think that is why we clicked so well."

Hernandez said he hung out with Billy Doe "every day" and acted as his bodyguard.

"I was [Billy's] protector, confidant, whatever you want to call it," Hernandez testified. "He had gotten himself into trouble around the neighborhood because of the way he looked."

At the time, Billy had "blond hair highlights in a predominantly Spanish and black neighborhood," Hernandez testified. "They could tell he wasn't exactly from the neighborhood. There was a couple situations where I had to get involved and protect [Billy]. And after that we just grew closer."

Then a high school teacher got touchy-feely.

"Teacher McAvinney, tall Irish fellow, white hair, he kind of weirded us out," Hernandez testified. "He was really touchy-feely, just awkward, just weird vibes that came from him all the time, weird sexual-type vibes to be specific."

"So me and [Billy] came up with a plan and we found a Bible verse pertaining to homosexuality and we printed it out," Hernandez told the jury. "We typed it up, printed it out and stuck it under his door."

On cross-examination, Hernandez was asked what the teacher had done to make him feel weird. "The same thing he did to [Billy]," Hernandez replied. "Pat my back, breathe over my shoulder, just be weird, really weird."

In direct testimony, Hernandez said it was the episode with the touchy-feely teacher that prompted a confession from Billy.

"And later on that night back at his [Billy's] house, we got to talking as to why we did that [put the Bible verse under the teacher's door] and everything else and this is when the topic came up about his past years," Hernandez said.

At the time, Hernandez said he and Billy were alone in Billy's basement drinking "a couple of beers."

The prosecutor asked about Billy's demeanor.

"Angry and nervous," Hernandez replied. "I'm pretty sure it is not too easy to tell a guy, especially when you are not homosexual, hey, I was touched or fondled. It is hard for me to talk about it in front of all these people, so I can only imagine him telling his best guy friend about it."

Hernandez then told the jury what Billy supposedly confessed about his sexual abuse.

"Well, both grades, 5th and 6th middle school, St. Jerome's, that two priests would touch him, try to perform oral sex and what not," Hernandez said. "And eventually, after that happened, later on in 6th grade, a teacher got involved and eventually the teacher actually had sex with him. [Billy]. That was about the end of the conversation there."

"I was shocked," Hernandez testified. "I was angry more toward McAvinney, I guess. That is the person I could relate his problem to."

Hernandez told the jury he left International Christian Academy to spend his senior year in Puerto Rico. He came back two or three years later, but realized he could no longer be friends with Billy. The prosecutor asked why.

"[Billy] got really involved in drugs, heroin to be exact," Hernandez testified. "And I was trying to get out of the city and make something of myself and I wanted [Billy] to be there with me but he just kept headed down that other path, so we just parted ways."

While Billy was doing drugs, Hernandez joined the Air Force. But according to Hernandez, he never forgot about his "best guy friend."

"I came back on leave, stopped at [Billy's] house," Hernandez told the jury. "I would always try my best to check in on him but he was still doing the same stuff so I left it alone."

A few months before the trial, Hernandez told the jury, he just happened to bump into Billy. On the witness stand, Hernandez sounded like he was reprising "Glory Days," the old Bruce Springsteen song about a guy who bumped into an old friend who used to be a "big baseball player back in high school:"

Saw him the other night at this roadside bar
I was walking in, he was walking out
We went back inside sat down had a few drinks
but all he kept talking about was ... Glory days

"I went to a bar after work, Hammerheads, Cottman and Frankford," Hernandez testified. "And I'm walking in and he is walking out. And we just see each other and what not and just yell and hug because it had been so long. And that was about when we first got back together."

Hernandez said he didn't have any idea that Billy was headed to trial. But Billy told him, "Oh, I'm going to court soon." He didn't say anything else about the case, Hernandez claimed to the jury.

Then, Hernandez got a call from Detective James Dougherty of the Special Investigations Unit, who interviewed Hernandez on Aug. 22, 2012.

On a six-page "investigation interview record," Detective Dougherty wrote out both his questions and Hernandez's answers in a Q and A format.

Q. "How often would you see or talk to [Billy Doe] after high school?"

A.  "We stayed in contact with each other for about two years after high school and then he we parted ways because [Billy] had gotten so deep into drugs and I didn't want to be around him and the drug use. We had a fight about him using drugs. That was back in 2008."

The last question Detective Dougherty asked Hernandez was:

Q. "Leo, were you ever the victim of any kind of sexual abuse?"

A. "No."

Then Dougherty asked Hernandez to look over the record, make any corrections and sign all six pages of the statement.

Hernandez signed every page. On the last page, he signed and dated the record of his interview with the detective.

LEO HERNANDEZ'S CIVIL COMPLAINT

On March 28, 2013, two months after he testified in the Billy Doe case, Leo Hernandez filed a civil action complaint regarding "medical professional liability" in Common Pleas Court.

The complaint stated that Hernandez was treated by a doctor "initially for a common cold and later for concerns he had regarding his energy levels, sexual performance, strength training, and overall health."

"After an initial evaluation of Mr. Hernandez, which included an examination of his genitals," the complaint states, the doctor "injected testosterone directly into Mr. Hernandez's scrotum and testicles. It was the most pain Mr. Hernandez ever felt."

After the injections, Hernandez "was almost in tears and in too much pain to walk," the complaint states. "The next day, Mr. Hernandez's scrotum ballooned to the size of a small cantaloupe."

The complaint charges that the doctor "did not exercise reasonable and ordinary care in his medical treatment of his patient" and that the injections caused Hernandez "to lose his testicle and sustain other related injuries."

A second amended complaint, filed June 10, 2013, claims the doctor provided Hernandez with "liquid-injectable testosterone along with an assortment of other steroids and related drugs -- in pill, powder and injectable testosterone ... including but not limited to testosterone, Tamoxifen, Codeine, Clomid, Nolvadex, Xanax, Lorazepam, Morphine, Lidocaine, Oxycodone, Oxycontin, Ativan, Hydrocodone, Clomifene, Citrate, Tamoxifen Citrate, Climofene Tablets a/k/a Fetomid-50 and Vicodin."

Hernandez, according to the amended complaint, "became addicted to the narcotic drugs and other drugs" listed above that he claimed were "over-prescribed" by the doctor.

In a document titled "Plaintiff's Answers to Lien Interrogatories" filed on March 8, 2014, a lawyer for Hernandez charges the doctor with "hooking him on pain medication in return for a sexual relationship" that "resulted in mental pain and suffering, including but not limited to, severe depression, anxiety, Plaintiff questioning his self worth and esteem, and damaging his ability to engage in meaningful, trusting relationships."

The doctor, who admits to a sexual relationship with Hernandez, denies injecting him with steroids or over-prescribing any drugs.

LEO HERNANDEZ'S DEPOSITION

On May 22, 2014, Hernandez was deposed by a lawyer for his medical malpractice case. Hernandez testified that he lived alone in his house for the past three years in Mayfair. Before that he lived alone in Bristol Township for 14 months, he said. He said his son did not live with him but with his mother in Gibbstown, N.J.

Hernandez testified that he's a registered nurse who works at Albert Einstein Medical Center.

Regarding his military service, Hernandez testified that he served for two years in the Air Force at Elgin Air Force Base and received a general honorable discharge. But he was discharged early because of what he described as a "failure to adapt."

Asked why he failed to adapt, Hernandez replied, "Ask the military. I don't know. I didn't ask to be discharged. I just failed to adapt."

On a military discharge record know as a DD form 214, it says that Hernandez served one year and ten months in "explosive ordinance disposal." Under a heading on the form that says character of service, it says "under honorable conditions (general)." But under "narrative reason for separation" it says, "misconduct (serious offense)."

Hernandez was asked whether he had worked as a dancer anywhere.

"Yes," Hernandez replied. "Risque, Woody's, ICandy. That's all."

Hernandez testified that he worked as a dancer at the three clubs during 2011. He usually worked one or two nights a weekend, he said, but not every week. He met the doctor in February 2011 while working as a dancer at either ICandy or Woody's, he couldn't remember which.

Hernandez said he became involved in the relationship with the allegedly abusive doctor from March of 2011 until February or March of 2012.

"We had developed sort of a friendship," Hernandez said. It happened "after letting him know that I was a nursing student, that I danced part-time to try and make some extra money to pay rent. I guess he took interest in maybe coaching me or helping me along in my travels and so that's how that started."

"Since he already saw my body type and build from ICandy or Woody's, whichever club he had come out to," Hernandez said, the doctor told Hernandez he could show him how to "gain weight faster, be stronger and look better."

Hernandez sent pictures to the doctor of himself half-naked and naked, and posted naked pictures of himself on jackd.mobi, a website that advertises itself as the "gay men's social network."

But five months after Hernandez testified he concluded his relationship with the abusive doctor, Detective Dougherty, investigating the Billy Doe case, asked Hernandez on a written Q and A form if he'd "ever been the victim of any kind of sexual abuse?"

And Hernandez's answer, which he signed and dated on Aug. 22, 202, is "No."

How does he ever get around that?

In his deposition, Hernandez described his drug use.

"I stopped taking pills and all other drugs that should not have been in my body after I almost died in a Las Vegas hotel," he said. He said he got sick after taking drugs allegedly provided by the doctor including "Nitrous oxide, Percocet, Viocodin, Xanax, testosterone, marijuana, alcohol." In the deposition, Hernandez said he also used synthetic heroin.

"After I just got my testicle stuck I'm poking myself with needles, I'm doing Percocet," he testified. "I'm talking Xanax. I'm doing whippets. I'm smoking weed. I'm shooting my ass with needles and dancing at the club. I'm living this completely outrageous lifestyle. .. It was just a madman's lifestyle. I don't know who does that."

THE FALLOUT

Michael J. McGovern, the defense lawyer for Father Engelhardt, has a hard time believing that Detective Dougherty didn't know about the secret life of Leo Omar Hernandez.

"Jimmy Dougherty is one of the sharpest detectives I've ever dealt with," said McGovern, himself a former prosecutor in the district attorney's office. "You mean to tell me he didn't know any of this toxic information?"

Had the dark side of Leo Hernandez been known, McGovern said, he believes that the prosecutors in the Billy Doe case would have decided not to proceed. Or the jury would have found the defendants not guilty.

McGovern can't believe what's going on in Common Pleas Court.

Less than two months after Hernandez "perpetrated a fraud" on the jury in the Billy Doe case, McGovern said, Hernandez filed his own civil case seeking his own ticket to "bonanza land."

Billy Doe and Hernandez, McGovern said, are now going down "parallel railroad tracks looking to get paid."

Ralph Cipriano can be reached at ralph@bigtrial.net.

33 comments:

  1. I had a friend who was a big bullshit artist back in high school
    Man he could throw that b.s. at you
    Always playing the fool

    Saw him the other night at Hammerheads bar
    I was walking in he was walking out
    We went back inside sat down had a few drinks
    But all he kept talking about was ... getting paid

    ReplyDelete
  2. Leo's employer may want to know of his checkered past? Keep a close eye on their supply closets. Wonder if the DA expunged any records (personal, family, friends) for his fraudulent testimony in the case

    ReplyDelete
  3. From my perspective I think both men are looking for a nice chunk of change.And the crazy part about it is these "educated" detectives,judges, and even jury fall right into the madness.To accuse an educated professional of something so ludicrous and actually have people who believe you in the process just goes to show the people who make convictions and decide if someone's life should be destroyed for false accusations have absolutely no idea what they're doing.Im not nearly as educated as half of these higher individuals and they can barely see through someone's bull****.When I can clearly see what is going on here.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Guess Leo violated the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy which was put in place to protect him

    ReplyDelete
  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Add Detective Jimmy Dougherty to others like Joe Walsh of the Seth Williams led DA's office who certainly knew while investigating those bizarre abuse accusations claimed by Danny Gallagher that the stories didn't add up, but as Ralph has recounted earlier, the train had already left the station by the time they actually started their investigations.

    Bottom line is, innocent men are in prison, their lives and reputations destroyed because of these lying drug addicts.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Ralph - Who is Leo's attorney in the civil action complaint?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In answer to your question, you might want to enter case # 130304392 on the following link: http://fjdefile.phila.gov/efsfjd/zk_fjd_public_qry_03.zp_dktrpt_frames

      Delete
  8. While telling the detective from the DA's office he was never sexually assaulted and then filing a civil suit for an alleged assault at the hands of his doctor a scant 2 months after his perjured testimony in court, Leo could borrow one of Danny Gallagher's infamous lines that he recited in court:

    "I don't remember", I was high on drugs
    "I don't remember, I was high on drugs
    "I don't remember, I was high on drugs

    sad thing is, the jury bought it.......

    ReplyDelete
  9. Just two more, high stakes junkie hustlers working from the same playbook.
    Birds of a feather......fluck together.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Professionals in the DA would know the difference between using unreliable witnesses and witnesses who know what they are talking about. The ADA's would know the difference between both kinds and the horrible effects it can have on innocent people's reputations if they are convicted and put in jail for something they didn't do.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. not when Seth Williams is calling the shots in the interest of political gain. it is a known fact he threatened a detective in his own office who was subpoenaed as a character witness for Fr Engelhardt that he would lose his position and all the OT that went with it if he stepped into that courtroom last January. They might call themselves professions but when they turn away from the truth as they did in this case they are no better than the lying junkies like Danny Gallagher and Leo Hernandez that put those innocent men in prison.

      Delete
    2. Interesting tidbit about the threatened detective. Could you please reference the source of this information? I was under the opinion that it one was subpoenaed (in Latin this means under penalty or pain), one had to appear or face a contempt of court citation. If this was the case, could judge ceisler have nullified the subpoena or just quashed it?

      Delete
    3. don't know what was done or not done legally to prevent the detective from testifying, but his name has already appeared on this blog, name is Billy Hunter....
      I believe fr engelhardt taught him along with about 20,000 other students he encountered during his 20+years as a high school teacher up and down the east coast, some of whom testified in court as to his "impeccable character"........at least they had the courage to show up

      Delete
    4. Thanks. I write to Father Engelhardt periodically, and will ask him about this.

      Delete
  11. Two more names to add to the list of the complicit:
    Judges: Renée Cardwell Hughes, Sarmina and Ceisler.
    DA office: Mark Cipoletti, Seth Williams, Mariana Sorensen; ADA Pat Blessington, ADA Evangelina Manos.
    False accuser: Daniel P Gallagher, aided and abeted by: officer James Gallagher Sr., Sheila Gallagher and James Gallagher Jr. (brother), Leo Omar Hernandez.
    Detectives Walsh and Jimmy Dougherty.
    (not forgetting – Mark Bukowski in the Brennan case).
    The stench from Philadelphia is overwhelming.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Joe Wash does not belong on this list as anybody who read any of his detective statements can attest. Every statement he took disproved Billy Doe's ludicrous fables.

      Delete
    2. Ralph,

      Joe Walsh has sat silent for three years while innocent men sit in prison, lives ruined, families ruined. He is a former detective in law enforcement, bound by a call to protect and serve. His silence is ludicrous and shocks the families of the innocent. The same families that you have personally interviewed. He is just part of this big conspiracy, like the others listed above.

      Delete
    3. James Gallagher is the brother of Daniel Gallagher aka Billy Doe. Were he deposed, he would realize if caught perjuring himself, he would see his legal career go to toast. Instead of becoming his brother's keeper, he would end up selling his brother down the river to save his own life.

      Safe to say Billy Doe was thoroughly grilled to death over his various stories that failed to mesh.

      Delete
  12. Why doesn't the Inquirer cover any of this? Can they be THAT biased?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. During the Lynn case, defense lawyers first made the legal argument in a motion that Lynn should have never been charged under the state's former child endangerment law. The argument fell on deaf ears with the trial judge but the Superior Court bought it, resulting in Lynn's conviction being overturned. The motion, however, was still a story as the defense argument was all laid out in a court filing. The defense first offered it to the Inky reporter covering the trial. His response: My editor isn't interested in this. Then the story wound up on this blog.

      Delete
    2. Ralph, isn't it ironic that the ADA who led the Lynn trial and also certainly was a key player behind the scenes in the malicious wrongful prosecution & conviction of Fr engelhardt and Bernard Shero is now under fire as one of many Attorney General employees who swapped hundreds of sexual emails throughout his tenure with the state prior to being hired by Seth Williams. I am talking about none other than Pat Blessington....and it appears that all this swapping of those porn emails occurred while on state time....can't wait to see how this situation plays out, I'm sure he'll be allowed to quietly resign ...I'm not making this up for those who wish to come to his defense, his name was on the original list released by PA Attorney General Kane recently......what a creep and a lying, conniving one at that......

      Delete
  13. Yes. They turned down $58,000 from the Catholic League rather than run an ad publicizing the issues in this case as reported on this blog.

    ReplyDelete
  14. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  15. The Complaint was filed by someone at The Beasley Firm. Isn't that who employs you Ralph? What's going on here?

    ReplyDelete
  16. To the best of my knowledge, the lawyer who filed the complaint [the lawsuit] on behalf of Leo Hernandez was "of counsel" to the Beasley Firm, but did not file the case with the Beasley Firm. The lawyer no longer has any relationship with the firm.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Ralph, I went to the link cited by the poster above. I was able to pull up the Leo Hernandez Complaint referenced in your article. It lists the address of the filing attorney as The Beasley Building, 1125 Walnut Street in Philadelphia. That's the Beasley Firm, right? So are you telling us that this Complaint that you bash was filed by an "of counsel" attorney for YOUR employer? Does Beasley have any continuing interest in the case, contingent or otherwise? Did Beasley put up any costs for the case? Let's get the full story out, Ralph. That's what accurate journalism is all about right? I looked into this defendant doctor, and Beasley was involved in another case with the same "of counsel" attorney and the case was settled for a lot of money. The doctor admitted to doing all the bad stuff he is accused of doing. Seems to me that you're out for headlines, not truthful reporting. I hope your employer Beasley knows what you're doing on your blog, and how you're playing fast and loose with the facts, and not revealing the role of the Beasley Firm in the pursuit of this "disgraceful" lawsuit that was filed by someone you infer is a liar. I'd be surprised if this Hernandez guy doesn't sue you and Beasley for defamation. Doesn't Beasley represent Chief Justice McCafferty in a liblel/slander case vs. the Inquirer? I'm disappointed at your half baked reporting, Ralph. Not surprised, but disappointed. You have an agenda. I guess the ends justify the means in your mind. This is NOT responsible journalism.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A nice attempt at character assassination Mr. Anonymous. Why don't you point out one fact that I've reported that isn't true? Leo Hernandez in two different legal forums is claiming to be two different guys. He's got the credibility problem, not me. Nice try.

      Delete
  18. We only have to look in the past about documented comments regarding Mr. Cipriano's reporting.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Ralph, we truly appreciate your reporting on this matter especially since you are our only source of information
    This story has been ignored by the Phila Inquirer and Daily News as well as the Calkins suburban papers. What is happening to Msgr Lynn, Fr Englehardt and Mr Shero should scare the hell out of people. Sent to jail based on an underhanded prosecution, a lying witness and judges and juries who just wanted to punish someone from the Catholic Church for the sins of others. I continue to pray that God will take care of these men.
    Please ignore these hecklers who look to go off topic and thanks again for all the information.
    (Isnt it ironic for as hard nosed as Pat Blessington was to Msgr Lynn; the North Catholic grad is in a bit of a pickle in this Porn Email scandal. But since he works for Seth Williams, this behavior is condoned)

    ReplyDelete

Thoughtful commentary welcome. Trolling, harassing, and defaming not welcome. Consistent with 47 U.S.C. 230, we have the right to delete without warning any comments we believe are obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected.

 

Big Trial | Philadelphia Trial Blog Copyright © 2016 BigTrial.net

Privacy Policy: BigTrial.net does not distribute, share or sell email addresses, or any other personal information received from this website.