|Shame of the city: Our corrupt D.A. Photo: AP/Matt Rourke|
There was a truly cringe-worthy moment at Seth Williams' teary press conference on Friday where he announced that he wouldn't seek a third term as D.A.
It came when Williams was talking about his many alleged accomplishments in office that included the "enhancement of our Conviction Review Unit."
In case you missed it, the D.A. has an entire squad whose mission is, in Williams' words, "to ensure that we do all that we can to exonerate the truly innocent."
"So that not one Philadelphian spends a day in prison if they shouldn't," Williams said.
Unbelievable words coming from this guy, on this day.
Well, the D.A.'s Conviction Review Unit doesn't have to look far to find the "truly innocent." There are four truly innocent men right now that the D.A.'s squad can get started on exonerating. They can begin with Msgr. William J. Lynn and former Catholic schoolteacher Bernard Shero.
Well, they have a point.
Lynn, of course, tells a different story. One of his early official acts as the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's secretary for clergy in 1994, was to go through more than 300 of the church's "secret archive files" to compile a list of 35 abusive priests then in ministry.
Lynn, the new guy on the job, took it upon himself to figure out who the bad guys were on his new beat. He promptly took that list to the late Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua. The monsignor may have expected a pat on the head for his good work in getting out ahead on the sex abuse scandal that was about to hit the Catholic Church, beginning in Boston, and subsequently spreading to Philadelphia.
But the wily cardinal, who was both a canon and a civil lawyer, knew the legal implications of that list, namely that the Catholic Church was guilty as sin for keeping those known abusers in active ministry. So, the cardinal met in private with three high-ranking church officials. Two of those officials, the Rev. Joseph R. Cistone, bishop of Saginaw, MI., and the Rev. Edward P. Cullen, bishop emeritus of Allentown, PA, are still at large. Then, the cardinal gave the order to shred the list.
A lot of people would like to forget that.
Some people also have a problem putting the words "Ed Avery" and "innocent" in the same sentence. Because Avery had a history of at least one known prior incident involving the molestation of a teenager. [That's why he was No. 1 on the list that Lynn compiled.]
I get that too.
But, going by the law, Lynn, Shero and even Avery are truly innocent of the crimes that Seth Williams put them in jail for.
Because, as we now know, those crimes never happened. They were only figments in the imagination of a demented former altar boy turned heroin addict named Daniel Gallagher, AKA "Billy Doe," who, at the time, was scheming to figure a way out of jail.
Little did Gallagher know that his false tales of rape were music to the ears of Seth Williams and the prosecutors who worked for him. Because they fit precisely into the statute of limitations for sex abuse victims.
Or that those out-and-out lies would lead to the white-washing of Gallagher's criminal record, thanks to the D.A. And a pot of gold, in the form of a $5 million civil settlement secretly approved by Archbishop Charles J. "Checkbook Charlie" Chaput.
But now we know that Gallagher's stories were lies, that the series of violent rapes imagined by Gallagher never happened, and that the district attorney's entire prosecution of the church was a complete fraud from day one.
How do we know this?
We have two forensic psychiatrists who interviewed Gallagher for hours and went over his copious medical records from some 28 doctors, hospitals and rehabs. One of those shrinks concluded that all of Gallagher's claims of alleged injuries, both physical and psychic, were disproven by his medical records.
We know from both psychiatrists that Gallagher admitted that he told many lies, including many tales of alleged sex abuse when he was a kid. He also falsely told the shrinks that he was a former professional surfer, emergency medical technician, and that he once weighed at least hundred pounds more than he did.
Last month, retired detective Joseph Walsh, the man who led the D.A.'s own investigation into the Billy Doe case, took the witness stand to testify that when he repeatedly questioned Gallagher about all the contradictions and factual consistencies in his many fables of abuse, that Gallagher either said nothing and put his head down, or claimed he was high on drugs.
We know when Gallagher was deposed in his civil case, he explained away those inconsistencies by saying that he couldn't remember more than 130 times.
Today, we have every reason to believe that Danny Gallagher is a liar. We have every reason to believe that the D.A. who put Gallagher on that witness stand is himself a liar, and possibly facing jail time as a consequence.
And we have the word of former Detective Walsh that when he told all of the factual inconsistencies to the prosecutor handling the case, former Assistant District Attorney Mariana Sorensen, a zealot blinded by her own hatred of the church, she replied that Walsh was killing her case with the truth.
On Monday, somebody in the D.A.'s Conviction Review Unit should call off the retrial of Msgr. Lynn, scheduled for May.
Somebody in the D.A.'s Conviction Review Unit should help get Bernie Shero out of jail, where he's now serving an 8 to 16 year jail term for an imaginary rape of Danny Gallagher.
Even Ed Avery deserves to get out of jail, where he is now doing 2 1/2 to 5 years for another imaginary rape of Danny Gallagher.
|Father Charles Engelhardt|
The D.A.'s office, even at this late date, should apologize to Engelhardt's family for the heinous crime they committed against a "truly innocent" man.
And then the D.A.'s office could go about helping Engelhardt's religious order, the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, in their campaign to posthumously clear Engelhardt's name.
The only reason Seth Williams crucified these four men was for the advancement of his political career.
But now that career is over.
It would truly be an act of justice for a man who has perverted it for so long, to right these wrongs now.
And if he won't do it, somebody else over at the D.A.'s office should.
So the truth can set everyone free.
Ralph Cipriano can be reached at email@example.com.