|Held Up By A Hustler|
The archdiocese caved; Billy Doe got paid.
That's the depressing bottom line in the civil case of Doe v. Archdiocese of Philadelphia et al, according to multiple sources.
On the court docket today, Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Jacqueline F. Allen dismissed both a motion for partial summary judgment filed by the former altar boy, and a motion for summary judgment filed by the archdiocese, as "moot," because both parties had "settled all claims . . . in the instant matter."
The settlement is confidential. As part of the settlement, Msgr. William J. Lynn, the archdiocese's former secretary for clergy, was dismissed as a defendant in the civil case, according to sources. Billy Doe's civil lawyers had also sued the estate of the late Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua, the former archbishop of Philadelphia, but that claim too was settled, according to the court docket.
The heavyweight in the civil case has always been the archdiocese, the defendant with the deepest pockets. A spokesperson for Archbishop Charles Chaput, who would have had to approve the settlement, did not respond to a request for comment.
Thanks to the archbishop, the civil case is most likely over. Unless the state Supreme Court responds to Hail Mary-type legal appeals filed on behalf of the late Engelhardt and Shero, the criminal convictions will stand. And the civil trial in November may become just a forum for a jury to decide how much more in damages should be awarded to the plaintiff.
"Billy Doe" is a grand jury's pseudonym for the former altar boy turned heroin addict who told an incredible and constantly-evolving story about supposedly being raped by two priests and a school teacher.
In normal times, Billy would have been laughed out of the D.A.'s office on the face of his ridiculous allegations. But in this case, District Attorney Seth Williams wanted to make prosecutorial history. He wanted to become the first district attorney in the country to put a Catholic administrator behind bars for transferring known priestly abusers from one clerical assignment to another.
And Billy Doe's crazy stories were one of only two cases that fit into the statute of limitations.
Even people in the D.A.'s office knew that Doe wasn't a credible witness. He'd been kicked out of two high schools and had been in and out of 23 drug rehabs. He was arrested six times as an adult, including one bust for possession with intent to distribute 56 bags of heroin. He had a long track record of lying to doctors, social workers and law enforcement authorities.
One high-ranking official in the D.A.'s office even confirmed that people in his office agreed with a defense lawyer's characterization of Billy Doe as a "lying sack of shit."
Records back that up. According to medical records gathered for the civil case, Doe at first told his drug counselors that he had "no history of physical or sexual abuse."
Then, according to those records, Billy told his many drug counselors that he was: sexually abused at 6 by a friend; sexually abused at 7 by a teacher; sexually abused or raped at 8 by an unknown assailant; sexually abused or raped at 9 by an unknown assailant; and sexually abused again at 9 by a 14-year-old family friend.
It was, as one defense lawyer, wrote, an ongoing "fantasy of sexual abuse." And that was before Billy told the district attorney he was raped at 10 by two priests, and at 11 by a school teacher.
To make matters worse, the stories that Billy Doe told were constantly changing.
Billy had originally claimed that Father Avery "punched him in the head" and knocked him unconscious. When Billy woke up, he claimed he was naked and that the priest had tied him up with altar sashes. Avery then supposedly then raped Billy anally so brutally that he "bled for a week."
Billy had originally claimed that teacher Bernard Shero had punched him in the face and attempted to strangle him by wrapping a seatbelt around his neck before he supposedly raped Billly in the back sat of Shero's car.
But when Billy Doe told his story of abuse to the police and grand jury, all that anal sex, the death threat, the punch in the head from Avery, the punch in the face from Shero, the claims about being tied up naked with altar sashes and strangled with a seat belt, all those details were dropped from Billy's stories.
Instead, Billy told a completely new tale about oral sex and mutual masturbation with his alleged assailants, complete with brand new story lines about Father Engelhardt supposedly showing him pornography and serving him altar wine, and Father Avery forcing Billy to perform a strip tease to music.
Billy's lack of credibility was accompanied by an law enforcement investigation compromised from day one, because the D.A., against the usual office policy, had allowed Billy's father, a Philadelphia police sergeant, and Billy's mother, a nurse, to sit in on the D.A.'s interview with Billy, who was an adult.
A subsequent grand jury report had more than 20 factual errors in it. And when the D.A. finally got around to investigating the case, nearly two years after the grand jury report was published, what did the D.A.'s own detectives discover? That just about every witness they interviewed, including Billy's own mother and brother, contradicted Billy's stories.
But on the eve of trial, Avery pleaded guilty to involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a child, and conspiring with Msgr. Lynn to endanger the welfare of a child.
Avery, then 69, was facing a sentence of 13 1/2 to 27 years; instead, he got a sweetheart deal, 2 1/2 to 5 years. Avery subsequently recanted his confession, testifying in court that he had lied and taken the plea bargain because he didn't want to die in jail.
In settling the case, the archdiocese's lawyers apparently decided that they couldn't get around Avery's plea bargain. Or the criminal convictions of the other two defendants left in the civil case.
There's a voluntary confidentiality stipulation in the civil case that has effectively silenced all the participants. Lawyers for the archdiocese could not be reached for comment.
Engelhardt, 67, died in jail last November after serving nearly two years of a 6 to 12 years sentence. He had been convicted of endangering the welfare of a child, corruption of a minor and indecent assault.
Engelhardt's estate remains a defendant in the civil case. On the court docket today, Judge Allen denied Billy Doe's motion to overrule Engelhardt's objections to the plaintiff's document requests.
Shero, 51, was sentenced to 8 to 16 years in jail after he was convicted by a jury of the 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.
Reacting to the news of the settlement, Bonnie Shero, the defendant's mother, said she couldn't believe how it just keeps getting worse.
"We all feel the injustice of everything that's happened since day one," she said about the case. "Now for [Doe] to have all this money, to do what? I feel terrible about it. We never thought the archdiocese would cave and give him the money."
Both Engelhardt and Shero lost appeals in Superior Court, and have since appealed their criminal convictions to state Supreme Court, where the success rate is less than 10 percent.
Another recent legal factor going against the archdiocese was the state Supreme Court's recent reversal of an earlier Superior Court reversal of Msgr. Lynn's original conviction. The monsignor was convicted on one count of endangering the welfare of a child, namely Billy Doe.
In Lynn's original trial, the trial judge allowed the prosecution to drag in 21 supplemental cases of sex abuse in the archdiocese, dating back to 1948, three years before Lynn was born.
The state Superior Court had ruled that the state's original child endangerment law did not apply to Lynn, a conclusion that a previous district attorney, Lynne Abraham, and a previous grand jury, had already stated in writing.
But the state Supreme Court reversed the reversal, and blasted Lynn and the archdiocese.
In their opinion, the state Supreme Court described Lynn as the "point man" regarding allegations of sex abuse by the clergy. It was Lynn's job to protect the welfare of children, the state Supreme Court said. Instead, Lynn took no actions to ensure children's safety. It was part of a pattern by the monsignor under the administration of Cardinal Bevilacqua, the court said.
Lynn "suppressed complaints and concerns by the colleagues" of abusive priests such as Avery, the Supreme Court stated. And when contacted by law enforcement in cases involving abusive priests, Lynn "misrepresented facts to thwart their investigation of these priests and their crimes," the Supreme Court wrote.
So it was a pragmatic decision made by a bunch of lawyers and an archbishop playing the numbers. Predictably, it was done under cover of darkness, as have all the sinister deeds in this case beginning with the political calculations of the district attorney and that so-called "investigation" of the grand jury.
Unfortunately in this case, from start to finish, truth was always the first casualty.
Catholics ought to protest the settlement. And everyone associated with it should be ashamed of themselves.
Especially the archbishop, who just signed off on a pack of lies. When the truth would have set everyone free.