Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Defense Lawyers Put "Billy Doe" In Wayback Machine

By Ralph Cipriano

Defense lawyers today took the 24-year-old sex abuse victim known as "Billy Doe" on a one-way trip back to Catholic grade school, courtesy of what one lawyer jokingly referred to as "the Wayback machine."

For those of you who missed the old Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, the Wayback machine used to transport Mr. Peabody the time-traveling mutt and his pet boy Sherman back to famous moments in history.

In Courtroom 304 at the Criminal Justice Center, Billy was confronted with blown-up copies of all his report cards from grades five through eight. He was quizzed about his attendance record, the names of his old grade school teachers, and they even handed him a parochial school uniform, with a monogrammed blue short-sleeve polo shirt and pants, just like the one he used to wear back when he was a fifth and sixth grader at the St. Jerome Catholic School in Northeast Philadelphia.

It was all part of a rigorous two-hour cross-examination that found many inconsistencies in Billy's story, but landed no knockout blows. At the end, a deflated-looking Michael J. McGovern seemed to cut short his questioning prematurely. Prosecutors appeared surprised and elated by how well Billy had held up on cross. And Billy's supporters left the courtroom saying the defense hadn't laid a glove on their boy.

Defense lawyer Burton A. Rose, representing Charles Shero, Billy's former sixth-grade teacher, got things started today by placing Billy's blown-up report cards on a flimsy easel that would soon collapse.

Rose asked Billy if he had seen his old report cards lately.

"Not in a very long time," Billy said.

Rose reviewed Billy's direct testimony. The witness had claimed that back when he was a 10-year-old in fifth grade at St. Jerome's, he was raped by two priests, Father Charles Engelhardt, on trial in Courtroom 304, and a former priest, Edward V. Avery, now serving a 2 1/2 to 5 year prison sentence for raping Billy.

Billy's story was that he underwent a severe personality change after the rapes, morphing from a popular extrovert to a sullen and depressed loner. Rose, however, pointed to Billy's report cards, showing a consistent B average, starting with an 88.6 average for the year in fifth grade, and ending with a 80.7 average for the year in eight grade.

Along the way, Billy remained involved in numerous school activities, had a largely satisfactory behavior record, and a stellar attendance record. He missed only six days in 5th grade, and only five days in sixth grade.

The day after Billy claimed he was raped by Father Avery during the 1988-89 school year, "You went to school the next day," Rose said. What's up with that?

"It was a school," Billy replied. "I had to go."

"And you tell no one about this?" Rose asked.

"No," Billy said.

Billy also told a grand jury that after he was raped by Father Avery, he got sick and missed a lot of time at school. But his fifth grade report card showed that during the quarterly marking period where Billy said he was raped by Avery, he didn't miss one day of school.

"I was going to school," Billy said, and often leaving early. "I went to the nurse" a lot, he added.

A few weeks after he was raped by Father Avery, Billy testified he went to the doctor's to check out what he described as testicular pain.

Did you tell the doctor what happened to you, Rose asked.

No, Billy said.

"Well how did you expect them to treat you if you don't tell them what happened," Rose asked.

"They're doctors," Billy replied.

Why didn't you tell the doctors, Rose asked.

"I was scared," Billy said.

"Of the doctors?" Rose asked incredulously.

"I thought I was gonna get in trouble," Billy said.

Rose also asked about Billy's weight. Billy had said he lost a lot of weight after he was attacked, but Rose said the boy's medical records showed he had gained weight during that period.

Rose quizzed Billy on all the drugs he had taken.

He started at 11 with marijuana, Billy said. Then he graduated to Percosets, Xanax, and hallucinogenics, namely acid and mushrooms.

"You would see things?" Rose asked.

Yes, Billy said, on magic mushrooms he had "out of body experiences."

Rose wanted to know why Billy and his family consulted with two civil lawyers, one of whom was Adam Beloff, after Billy notified the archdiocese in 2009, via a telephone hot line, about how he had been abused.

"We wanted someone as a front man for protection," Billy said. The lawyers told Billy he had missed the statute of limitations, so there was nothing they could for him.

Rose reviewed Billy's accusations against his client, Bernard Shero, Billy's sixth grade teacher. Billy said the year after two priests raped him, Shero drove him to a secluded spot in Pennypack Park, took Billy in the back seat, and undressed him. Then he took off his clothes and had sex with the boy.

"You can see what's gonna happen," Rose said. "You don't bolt then and there?"


"Why not?"

"Cause I was scared," Billy said.

Rose cited inconsistencies in Billy's story. Billy told counselors from the archdiocese that during the attack by Shero, the teacher tore off the boy's shirt and punched him in the face.

Billy said he was high when he spoke to the archdiocese counselors, and didn't remember what he told them.

You also told them that Shero took a seat belt and wrapped it around your neck, Rose said.

"Did that happen?"

"No," Billy said.

Billy also told the counselors that Shero tried to have the boy put his penis in the teacher's anus.

That happened, Billy said. "It wasn't successful."

Rose asked what positions the two were in during the alleged attack in the back seat of Shero's car.

"He tried to sit on top of me," Billy said. "He was sitting there and he was trying to push back on me."

Rose reviewed Billy's arrest record, including an arrest from last June. Two months after he testified at the trial of Msgr. William J. Lynn, Billy was arrested for having "a large amount" of drugs "in his possession, namely "56 bags of heroin."

"What were you going to do with them?" Rose wanted to know.

"Do them," Billy said. At the height of his heroin addiction, Billy said, he was dong "about 15 or 20 bags a day."

The case against Billy is still open, and has been postponed until after the current archdiocese sex abuse trial.

The postponement was decided by Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Adam Beloff, Rose said. The same Adam Beloff that Billy said he had consulted when Beloff was still a lawyer.

Judge Ellen Ceisler promptly shut down that line of questioning. "That's a misstatement of the evidence," she told Rose.

Judge Beloff committed suicide last December.

Next, it was Michael J. McGovern's turn to question Billy on behalf of his client, Father Charles Engelhardt.

McGovern asked Billy when he started drinking wine. Back in second grade, he said. Later on, as an altar boy, he helped himself to sacramental wine.

Billy admitted at 11, he was smoking pot on a daily basis. He also admitted firing up a blunt as a 10th grader on the day he met his high school best friend, Leo Hernandez. Hernandez joined him in smoking the blunt, Billy said.

McGovern returned to the subject of Judge Adam Beloff postponing Billy's current drug case until after the current archdiocese sex abuse trial is over.

"You think that's a coincidence?" McGovern wanted to know.

"I don't have a say when they schedule it," Billy said.

McGovern sited inconsistencies between Billy's testimony on the witness stand, and what he told the counselors from the archdiocese who came to his house after he called the archdiocese sex abuse hot line.

"I was not mentally there," Billy said.

But you told the counselors that Father Engelhardt anally raped you in the sacristy at St. Jerome's for five hours, McGovern said.

The judge took Billy's side. "He doesn't remember anything of what he said to them," she told McGovern. Time to move on.

McGovern turned to another subject, the rape of Billy by Father Avery. Your story is that you were a fifth-grader working in the sacristy as part of the maintenance crew for the church's bell choir, and the priest asked you to stay after Mass, McGovern said.

Billy agreed.

Would it surprise you, McGovern said, to know that the teacher who ran the bell choir at St. Jerome's was interviewed by a detective, and she said that not only were no fifth-graders allowed to be part of the bell maintenance crew. Neither were sixth or seventh graders allowed. Only eighth graders could be members of the bell maintenance crew, McGovern said.

Billy seemed surprised by that. Expect to hear all about that bell choir maintenance crew next week, when the defense puts on its case.

McGovern said that Billy had told the jury he had one sexual encounter with Father Engelhardt, in the church sacristy at St. Jerome's. But he told a detective from the Special Investigations Unit that he had five encounters with Father Engelhardt.

Did you ever see the statement from the detective?

No, Billy said.

The detective is on the witness list for tomorrow.

McGovern asked Billy about his use of psychedelic drugs.

"Ever get flash backs?"

"Yes," Billy said.

McGovern asked Billy about the death of his feisty Italian grandmother, who had cancer that turned her into a virtual skeleton before she died in 2002 at 61.

She was more than a grandmother to you, the lawyer said, she was a second mother? Yes, Billy said. Why did you have a large crucifix tattooed on your back with the legend, "In Memory of Maggie?"the lawyer asked. "To memorialize that tragic event?"

"No," Billy said, he wasn't memorializing his grandmother's death, he wanted to "memorialize my grandmother."

On redirect, Assistant District Attorney Mark Cipolletti had a simple solution for all the inconsistencies the defense had found in Billy's story. Like a mantra, Cipolletti kept asking questions that involved pointing out how old Billy was when all of this happened to him.

Billy was ten years old in fifth grade when the two priests allegedly raped him; he was 11 years old in sixth grade when Shero allegedly raped him.

Ten and Eleven. Like a judge holding up an Olympic scorecard, Cipolletti kept using Billy's testimony to emphasize those numbers, ten and eleven.

Cipolletti also addressed the issue of Billy's weight, first raised by Rose. Billy had claimed he lost weight after he was raped; but Rose said Billy's medical records showed that he had gained weight.

Between 10 and 14, Billy said, in response to questions from Cipolletti, his weight jumped from 63 to 75 pounds, but he was also going through puberty. That seemed to put that issue to bed.

Why didn't you tell anybody you were raped, Cipolletti asked.

"I was scared, I thought I was gonna be made fun of," Billy said. "I didn't think anybody would believe me ... I was alone."

Billy blamed himself for the attacks, he testified; he also wondered if he was gay.


  1. I am getting a little chuckle over this paragraph:The day after Billy claimed he was raped by Father Avery during the 1988-89 school year, "You went to school the next day," Rose said. What's up with that? Well, Mr. Rose what is up is it only shows how credible Billy is. I don't believe I need to bring up again that Mr. Avery admitted to RAPING Billy and is now in prison for his actions, and unless a reason comes to light for Billy to falsly accuse these two individuals then lets throw them in a cell and throw away the key.

  2. We must remember once this trial is over there still is the retrial of Father Brennan, both cases thrusting the Archdiocese of Philadelphia into the spotlight. In addition there are those priests who are under a internal Archdiocese of Philadelphia investigation for possible abuse towards children. In the next day or so I will be posting a multi e-mail conversation that I had with Father Chaput when questioned about the reason for the delay in the Archdiocese findings.

    1. Mr. Ecker, you do not seem to have read the trial blogs regarding Fr. Brennan's accuser and his family, their motives in question all day is a weak case. You seem to be dreaming of conviction when it is not likely to happen.


  3. From: Dennis Ecker []
    Sent: Thursday, October 11, 2012 11:34 PM
    To: Archbishop Charles Chaput
    Subject: Don't you believe it is now time ?

    Dear Fr. Chaput,

    Don't you believe it is now time for the archdiocese to come forward with the findings of the remaining clergy members under your
    investigations for abuse towards children.

    When you came to Philadelphia and accepted your position as the leader of the Philadelphia archdiocese you knew the position came with great
    responsibilities and you accepted that position knowing the archdiocese had a severe black eye at the hands of its own priests, and you took the position of your own free will which I feel you deserve respect for.Taking the helm of a sinking ship.

    However, I feel as many others do you are trying to delay your own investigative findings for your remaining clergy members under
    investigation. There is no excuse for not even one investigative report made public on any remaining investigated priests. In fact the only report made recently regarding this matter had to deal with the rearrest of Fr. McCormick.

    You must look at your actions from the eyes of victims and victims families. Your delay is only being looked at as another attempt to brush it under the rug. The same old Philadelphia Archdiocese.

    You must also know that the archdiocese is under a microscope not only in the Philadelphia area, but across the country. This subject and the future court cases involving Fr. McCormick, the re-trial of Fr. Brennan and the trial of a priest and school teacher who taught at St. Jeromes will once again put the spotlight on you and the archdiocese.

    Please announce your findings

    We are watching and waiting


    I do not respond in detail to email which tries to pressure me to do things as you suggest, Mr. Ecker.

    God bless you.


    1. The Archbishop is very gracious to even answer you, Mr. Ecker

  4. What's wrong with this picture??

    Here we have a case where one young victim was allegedly and sequentially abused by three 'perps' - all from the same church / school. This in and of itself is enough to cause some initial, serious doubt.

    First, Father Engelhardt allegedly abuses Billy, using the word 'session'. When Engelhardt allegedly offers a second 'session', in the words of the Grand Jury Report - 'Billy emphatically refuses'. He said (in court) that he threatened to kill the priest.

    And yet, when Father Avery offers Billy a follow-up 'session', Billy supposedly accepts - not ONCE, but TWICE (though he says his stomach turned). Throughout all of this, Billy allegedly tells nobody: not his mother, not his policeman father - NOBODY.

    These abuse 'sessions' allegedly occurred in a sacristy closet after Mass. (I don't believe that the closet per se was mentioned in the Grand Jury Report).

    Any Catholic can tell you that the sacristy can be a very busy place after Mass - virtually anybody can stop in unannounced, perhaps even to retrieve an item from THAT VERY SAME closet.

    Does it make any sense that a grown man - a priest - would put himself in such a vulnerable and compromised position of being caught fully naked while engaging in a sex act with a naked young boy - - who might be screaming in pain at the time - - - in such an easily accessible location???

    Finally, Billy supposedly gets into a car driven by Shero - allegedly known by his students as a 'touchy / feeley' kind of guy with a very odd hygene fetish. When Shero supposedly tries to rape him, Billy 'screams and pulls away'. But after screaming, Billy reportedly gives Shero oral sex, gets dressed, opens the door and walks back home.


    It seems that Billy is quoting almost 'chapter and verse' from the Grand Jury Report with some additional 'clarifications' (like the sacristy closet) thrown in to enhance his credibility.

    1. First, Avery admitted oral sex with this boy in his guilty plea. Raising doubt about the Avery contact is silly because he pleaded guilty and admitted to the act in a written and oral colloquy. Billy was raped by at least one priest at St. Jerome. Even when these priests admit their guilt, you apologists find reasons to blame the victims.

      Second, as a catholic and former altar boy, I can tell you that sacristies can be dead empty particularly during a weekday mass. This incident was in 1988-89, not 1969; and only the church of your long gone boyhood fantasy was busy. The priest can lock the church and there are tones in many sacristies that announce when doors are opened and closed; most churches have alarms. Nobody is just walking into a locked church spontaneously or unannounced.

      Third, if priest asks you to stay after mass to clean bells or wash out cruets, etc; you will stay regardless of what grade you are in, or whether you are part of the bell choir.

      Fourth, yes, these priests and abusers put themselves in very vulnerable situations all the time. He is not wining and dining a well adjusted woman by candlelight, to retire to a rose covered bedroom. He is pulling a young kid into a closet to get off. Sandusky was raping kids in the shower of one of the largest sports complexes in the state while assistant coaches and janitors were about.

      Fifth, I am fortunate never to have been raped as a child by an adult, so I can't tell you how I would act. Generally, kids want to please adults and a kid starving for affection may have very mixed feelings about hanging out with Father or Mr. Feeley.

      Billy could be telling a tall tale with respect to the other two priests, but none of your points raised raise any real doubts that it could have occurred as Billy says it occurred. It is a he said/he said situation with a significant gap of time; and a victim with a very troubled past. It is a tough case for the prosecution for that reason, not due to minor inconsistencies in sacristy protocol or bell ringing etiquette. He was however assaulted sexually by Avery so that is not an issue for this jury; and a conviction by guilty plea really ends any doubt, reasonable or otherwise about that violation.

    2. Joe1944-Your points 1-5 are all on the money as to why this story of Billy's is ridiculous.

  5. Rose asked what positions the two men were in during the alleged attack in the back seat of Shero's car.

    It wasn’t two men, it was a man and a boy.

  6. It will be interesting to see if Billy changes his story yet again for the civil case now that this latest story was determined to be false since bell choir students are only 8th graders. Not a big deal, I'm sure he will just say he was on heroin when he told that portion of the story to the grand jury and doesn't recall saying it.

  7. Ralph,

    Do you really think this kid and his family are credible? He says Avery raped him when he was a 5th grader, when he was in the bell choir maintenance crew. Only to find out that 8th graders are the only kids that are in the bell choir maintenance crew? Not 5th, 6th, or even 7th graders. The kid is anally raped as a 10 and 11 year old, has no desire to see a doctor, tell his parents, police, or someone at the school like a principle. His parents and other teachers the next day never say anything about his walking funny or in pain. Has shown no physical evidence to date. Never told his doctor anything during regular visits. The police officer father would not open the door for two women from the diocese? Yet he could have went out with his badge and said please get off of my property or I am calling for a squad car. Billy said that someone from the D A's office told them which civil lawyer to contact. Says he was high when he gave all of this tesimony back in 09. But yet his parents were with him down meeting the detective and the DA. They took a clearly high and not mentally stable person to speak with law enforement and the DA? Anyone want to clue me in about where this kids story adds up...

    1. cherryhillsks1,

      In my opinion, it doesn't add up.

      We have a 24 year old man who claims that the sequential abuse he suffered at the hands of 3 'perps' - all from his same school / church - precipitated his drug abuse which - in turn - caused him to either misreport or exaggerate his statements to the DA. This looks like a self fulfilling, self serving prophecy to me.

      "I forget"
      "I was scared"
      "I was retarded"
      "I was high on heroin"
      "I went to the nurse a lot"
      "I thought I was going to get into trouble"
      "I was high on numerous drugs and semi-comatose"

      Where were his parents when all of this was going on?
      Did not his father - a Philly cop - recognize the signs of drug dependency and try to help?

      In their zeal for a conviction, did the Phila DA's office give Billy a polygraph exam to assess the varacity of his testimony as they did to Father Avery who reportedly passed.

      Are we to believe the 'then' Billy or the 'now' Billy?

      I'm beginning to think that anyone who believes this story IS from another planet.

    2. @CherryHill: "He says Avery raped him when he was a 5th grader, when he was in the bell choir maintenance crew. Only to find out that 8th graders are the only kids that are in the bell choir maintenance crew? Not 5th, 6th, or even 7th graders"

      And Avery admitted to oral sex with this kid in a guilty plea. So, after a guilty plea where the pleader admits to the underlying elements of the crime in a written and oral colloquy, there is no doubt, reasonable or otherwise. When you plead guilty you have to testify that the plea was knowing, voluntary, and without coercion. Avery violated this kid. Whether he did it in the sacristy with the candlestick, or in the conservatory with Professor Plum--that part is admitted.

      The kid has a very troubled past; and without maligning his family, troubled kids often come from troubled parents--who are sometimes all too anxious to dump the kid with some other adult who expresses interest in their child. Being a cop is a tough situation; being a cop's wife and kid is no picnic as well. Sandusky's kids were troubled kids. Fast Eddie Savitz's kids were troubled kids from Devil's Pocket/Gray's Ferry. This kid meets the profile of the typical abused kid. Does that mean that anyone other than Avery raped him? No. Does the fact that he is troubled mean that the other two didn't rape him or abuse him when he was a kid, "no." is it unusual that there would be inconsistencies from a story that arose in 1989, No. If you asked you and your buddies to describe an event from 5th grade, my guess is that there would be discrepancies in the stories, some of them large discrepancies.

    3. Read the stories that Avery took a positive lie detector test which is not permissable in court and said he did not know the victim nor molest him in any way. He took the deal because they were going to bring all the per-St. Jerome's cases at him during the 1st trial. He got a sweetheart deal. Know the facts please. And don't give me your bleeding heart BS and inner city ghetto compassion below. We are talking about THIS CASE on THIS FORUM. This "victim" has nothing to lose and millions to gain. Remember that. Check later and see that the detective he gave the statements too originally gave a totally different story than this kids testimony over the past two days.

  8. I don't get it. Why do the lawyers keep implying that he's a liar when it's already been admitted that he was raped at 10 years old? Why would anyone grill someone like this, bringing their school uniform and such, when they know that that person as a 10-year old boy was tortured by at least one of these madmen? How is the jury taking all this?

  9. They don't know anything because all the kid has is a story. No evidence. A story fabricated for a platform to sue the archdiocese for money. The kid is a degenerate and his family is on for the ride for millions. That is their motivation. There stories don't add up. Why does the majority belive him when there are two innocent men on the defense who have had their lives ruined because of this story

    1. Why don't I see your sense of outrage over the he said/she said rape cases that occur every day in Philly. See if it is a ghetto girl accusing a ghetto boy of rape based solely on her story; then my guess is that there will be no cry that the young man is innocent. And these folks are defended by high volume poorly paid public defenders. Rape cases are hard because there is rarely evidence--except in the true case of stranger/danger rape where there is physical trauma and/or a prompt report. Even where there is evidence of penetration--- which doesn't occur in a case of forced oral sex, there is always the consent issue. Child rape cases where the victim comes forward as an adult are tough cases which, in all likelihood, the ADA will lose if they are defended by competent private attorneys. But here, based upon Avery's guilty plea, Billy is a victim of one rape. Whether these other two raped him is up to the jury. Clearly, nobody is getting railroaded.

  10. cherryhillks1,

    Well said.

  11. Hi folks,
    Taleah Grimmage here, Juror #7 from the first Archdiocese trial.
    I remember Billy Doe quite well. i am astounded that some of these comments seem to suggest that an 11 year old had a choice in whether or not he was assualted by a much larger adult male.
    I was there the day he testified and I will tell you... it was very hard for all of us. Myself especially.
    This kid displayed all the classic signs of someone who has been abused.
    I am horrified that the system completely "failed" this child in every since of the word. How do we allow one child to be used by three people like this?
    It's horrifying.

    1. Honestly, your comment makes it apparent that you did not pay much attention as a juror. That is pretty scary...

  12. kopride & juror #7

    check out the latest Inquirer....looks like Avery didn't do it after all...

    could the jury have mistaken long term drug abuse for sexual abuse??



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