Saturday, November 8, 2014

Priest Stricken In Prison

By Ralph Cipriano
for Bigtrial.net

Father Charles Engelhardt was transported by ambulance from prison to a hospital last week after he experienced dizziness.

The 67-year-old priest is an inmate at the State Correctional Institution in Coal Township, Northumberland County, where he's serving a six to 12 year-sentence. In a case overflowing with reasonable doubt, a jury on Jan. 30, 2013 inexplicably convicted Engelhardt  of endangering the welfare of a child, corruption of a minor and indecent assault. Even though the alleged "victim" in the case was Billy Doe, a former altar boy turned heroin addict whose crazy stories of abuse defied logic and common sense, as well as all known evidence gathered by the district attorney's own detectives.

Just a week before he was stricken, Father Engelhardt's lawyer, Michael J. McGovern, was in state Superior Court, arguing that his client deserved a new trial because of judicial errors and prosecutorial misconduct.

Last Tuesday morning, doctors at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pa., diagnosed cardiac artery disease and found a blockage in the priest's heart, said his niece, Tracey Boyle, a registered nurse.

The family does not know whether the priest suffered a heart attack because they have been unable to speak to his doctors. The family, however, does know that when doctors implanted a stent in the priest's heart, they discovered blockages in other arteries, Boyle said. By Friday, the priest was back in the prison infirmary, as doctors mulled whether to perform further open heart surgery, his niece said.

"He told my aunt he feels good he does not want us to worry," Boyle said. But she believes the appeal process in the case weighed heavily on her uncle.

"This is do or die and he has to be feeling the stress," she said.

The family has been told to expect a decision from the state Superior Court within 60 to 120 days on whether the priest will be granted a new trial. If he loses in Superior Court, Father Engelhardt, who has already been in jail for nearly two years, will face the prospect of spending at least another four years behind bars for something his family knows he didn't do.

Boyle said her big Irish family has been reeling since they heard the latest news about her uncle. They all felt helpless, she said. SCI in Coal Township is three hours away from Philadelphia. Father Engelhardt also has limited visitation.

"It was a time he needed us by his side and we were unable to be there," Boyle said. "As a nurse myself I wasn't able to be there with him and do the things I love to do on a daily basis with strangers who I treat as if they are my family in their time of need in the hospital."

The other emotion Father Engelhardt's family felt was anger.

"I pretty much blew up," Boyle said. "I was so angry and so upset because they did this to him," she said of Billy Doe and his family. "They caused him to have this episode," she said. "He shouldn't be where he is because he's an innocent man. In my eyes, he's a martyr for the church."

Last Tuesday, the priest "got up in the morning, took his hypertension medication and he started to feel dizzy," Boyle said. "His cellmate noticed how unsteady he was." The cellmate summoned a corrections officer who took Father Engelhardt to the infirmary. The infirmary called for an ambulance.

Since the priest was stricken, information on his condition has been hard to come by because hospitals routinely do not give out information on inmate patients, Boyle said.

"We had no idea what hospital he was in," she said.

Boyle did some detective work and sent the priest's great niece to visit the most likely hospital in the area to perform heart surgery. That's when Father Engelhardt's great niece found him at Geisinger Medical Center. But she still needed the approval of prison officials before he she was allowed to see him.

The priest, according to Father Jerry Dunne, one of his most frequent visitors, usually spends his days in prison reciting prayers, psalms and hymns from the Liturgy of the Hours. Father Dunne has known "Charlie" Engelhardt for more than 40 years. The two priests are fellow oblates of St. Francis DeSales.

"He's a person of very strong faith," Dunne has said of Engelhardt. "He believes there's a purpose for all this. He believes that ultimately justice will prevail."

Father Engelhardt's defense lawyer, Michael J. McGovern, visited the priest days before he was stricken, and said Father Engelhardt appeared fine and was joking with him.

"He was super," McGovern said. "I was shocked to hear the heart event but I do realize how we all internalize stress."

"I only pray that God continues to give him the strength and protect him until the time comes when this wrongful conviction is overturned and his innocence is confirmed and proclaimed to everyone," McGovern said.

"What he has gone through up to this point is a tragedy in the truest sense," McGovern said. "I am confident, however, that he will recover, and in time prevail."

30 comments:

  1. Scary, but thanks for the update Ralph. I wonder what Billy Doe and his mother have been doing these days down in sunny Florida. She's probably keeping a careful eye on him as he's the family's putative cash cow.

    Billy will get his comeuppance if the DA retries them after their successful appeal and certainly at the upcoming April, 2015 civil trial - - Billy will have to face the music and testify. Sooner or later, he's going to crack and the unvarnished truth will gush out.

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  2. Not if the appellate court reverses the conviction.....and bars a reprosecution as they should.

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    1. @anonymous. Call me cynical, but I have very little faith in the so-called justice system in Philadelphia. This whole fiasco cries out for a prompt, thorough and apolitical investigation of the DA's office and the judges involved. How dare they refer to themselves as 'honorable'???

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  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  4. Thou shall not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

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    1. Exactly what Billy Doe has done in this case

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

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  6. Hmmm...Why so many deleted comments? One can only assume that they think differently from Ralph and the others whose comments and thoughts were not like those of Ralph and the Engelhardt/Boyle families.

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    1. You would be incorrect. The deleted comments were about mob boss Joe Ligambi and had nothing to do with the story above.

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    2. Dis is Uncle Joe da boss of da South philly Mob! Danks Ralph for takins dose comments offs about me. If yous needs somtin let me no!!

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    3. Thanks Uncle Joe! My best to your family!

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  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  8. U r incorrect the above comment was strictly about the Catholic church n priests because I wrote it n u removed it

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    1. I'll say something contrary here and see if it gets removed.

      I wish Father Engelhardt's lawyer had done a better job of defending him at trial. I wish he had prevented the Avery debacle on the witness stand which had to sway the jury toward convictions. And if the testimony of the social worker's colleague would have helped, I wish Father Engelhardt's lawyer had deposed her instead of relying on the prosecution to tell him what she said.

      I didn't use bad or nasty words in my comment, and I made what I feel is a rational criticism, so I think it will probably not get deleted.

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    2. @Sarah -

      Hello again. It's hard to believe that this jury convicted anyone based upon the many raised inconsistencies and 'reasonable doubt' issues. Perhaps one (or more) strong willed juror(s) had hidden animosity toward the church - or was less than truthful during the vetting process - and expressed this in their collective verdict.

      You'll note that none of the deliberating jurors have come forward publicly, except for the fashionable, 'barefoot lady' whom Ralph interviewed.

      Where are the others?? We know what two of the alternates had to say.

      Where are the DA's detectives who know the truth??

      Admittedly, one legal faux pas was the subpoena erroneously sent to Billy Doe's lawyer brother by the (very reliable) US mail, not by a suitable server. This was probably a clerical miscue in McGovern's office.

      Were she truly interested in justice, Ceisler could have ordered Billy's brother to appear in her court to testify, but she didn't. Ceisler could easily have thrown out the verdict, but she didn't.

      I disagree with your assessment of the 'Avery debacle' and the impressions it left on the jurors. It took a great deal of courage for Avery - a prosecution witness - to attempt to clear his name in the courtroom.

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    3. Willing judges can deny defense motions to drop serious charges and even to drop the charges. The judges wanted to ensure convictions were obtained in those kangaroo trials to sate public opinion.

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    4. Dear Anonymous: the next time you want to comment about priests try to refrain from proposing that they start raping nuns and your comment might stay up there.

      As for Sarah TX2, I don't think one of her comments has ever been removed. We take plenty of heat on this blog and have always been tolerant of other views. No single person has ever posted more comments on this blog then the late great Dennis Ecker, so nobody can say we don't tolerate contrary viewpoints. The guidelines about what's not allowed are pretty clear.

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    5. it's a travesty this priest continues to suffer further indignities and deteriorating health for a crime he never committed but it's encouraging to see Danny Gallagher's civil trial would appear more & more distant as the appellate court debates several legitimate allegations of judicial and prosecutorial misconduct that were prevalent in the Engelhardt andShero trial......may they see thru this entire scam and wrongful prosecution for what it was and reverse those convictions.........

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    6. Statement made by Dennis Ecker:

      "I am neither the late Dennis Ecker nor the great Dennis Ecker. I cannot concern myself at this time with the health and well-being of Father Engelhardt. I must make my own physical and mental health a priority".

      "When it comes to his innocence or guilt there are only three individuals that know the truth. Engelhardt himself, Danny Gallagher and God. It does not include anyone from the peanut gallery including Ralph". If he (Engelhardt) is truly innocent of the crimes he has been convicted of I can only tell him that GOD DOES NOT WASTE A HURT", and one day we all get the answer WHY.

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  9. Bottom line is send ur kids topublic school

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  10. It is not Fr Englehardt and Shero along with Msgr Lynn but a great many others who get sent to prison because the DA carefully crafted their presentation to ensure a guilty verdict even though they didn't do the crime. And at the same time, guilty people have gone free because a witness failed to show or a victim conflicted himself/herself while on the witness stand.

    Sad to know Fr, Englehardt's family is unable to visit him in hospital or even to get his medical records sent to his personal family physician. Appears the State paid for the implanted stents and is not billing Medicare for those services.

    An outgoing Governor Corbett could issue pardons to Englehardt, Shero, Lynn and the late Joseph Paterno before leaving office. This would short-circuit the current clownish debacle being played on in appellate courts including the State Supreme Court.

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    1. @James - Excellent point! I wonder if any of their lawyers have socialized this possibility with either Corbett or his staff. At this point, what does Corbett have to lose?

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  11. James,
    You think that Msgr. Lynn did not commit ANY crime? Even after all this time, I find comments like this mindboggling. He was a grown man able to make his own decisions. The poor victims were children, who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time - meaning that they were where Lynn decided to send the Pedophiles.

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    1. You answered your question - "He was a grown man able to make his own decisions". Legally he did nothing wrong, his morals and allegiance to the cardinal are crimes that he commited

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  12. I don't think there was any mention of Father Engelhardt's heart problems in the media. With all the coverage here, one would think that whether you approve or disapprove of the entire situation, it is newsworthy.

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    1. The media doesn't give a rat's ass about the truth in this whole situation - they are apparently marching to the beat of another prosecutorial drummer.

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  13. I do feel bad about Fr. Engelhardt's heart condition, but newsworthy? Do they report on other prisoner's medical problems? Just watch the news for one day, as I am sure you do, and you see the horrendous things that happen that should be reported: the murder of a child with autism by his own mother, the 3 year old that was killed slowly - 3 whole days by his own parents, all those that died or injured this week in house fires, one of them a house for the homeless - you get the jist...It seems that the media is busy elsewhere.

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  14. The media has been asleep on the dark side of both the Lynn-Brennan-Avery and Engelhardt-Shero prosecutions. I don't think it can be defended. A grand jury report with 20 factual mistakes in it, that can't be defended. Yet that report been referenced as gospel in the NY Times, Rolling Stone and more than one hundred times in the Inquirer, and is still online today at the DA's website. That can't be defended either. I don't think the media in this town has ever been at

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  15. I fail to see the connection between a convicted person's heart condition being newsworthy and your comment above.

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