Saturday, November 5, 2016

Rolling Stone's All Too Perfect Stories About "Jackie" And "Billy"

Sabrina Rubin Erdely, her editor, and her lawyers
By Ralph Cipriano

In his closing statement to the jury, Tom Clare, a lawyer for the plaintiff in the Rolling Stone libel case, talked about the fraudulent gang rape of "Jackie" by a bunch of imaginary frat boys.

"It had all the elements of a perfect story," Clare told the jury, according to The Washington Post. "And when something appears too perfect it usually is."

On Friday, a jury in Charlottesville, VA, decided that Rolling Stone and its reporter, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, had not only defamed Nicole Eramo, a former administrator at the University of Virginia, but acted with actual malice. That meant the jury believed that Erdely and the magazine's editors knew that Erdely's 2014 story was false but they went ahead and published it anyway, with reckless disregard for the truth.

After the trial was over, Rolling Stone apologized a second time for their since-retracted story about Jackie. But the magazine has never apologized for another all-too-perfect story Erdely wrote in 2011 about a Philadelphia altar boy dubbed "Billy Doe" who supposedly was raped in savage attacks by two priests and a Catholic schoolteacher.

With all due respect for the plaintiff in the $7.5 million U-Va. libel case, former dean Nicole Eramo, the scandal of what happened here in Philadelphia with Billy dwarfs what happened in Virginia with Jackie. Because in Virginia, the worst that happened was that people were libeled with actual malice.

As bad as that is, in Philadelphia, three priests and a Catholic schoolteacher went to jail because of a fraudulent narrative about Billy, and one of those priests died there. [Another one of the priests, Msgr. William J. Lynn, is scheduled to be retried next May 1 for imaginary crimes against Billy.]

To make things worse, in Philadelphia, our district attorney is more irresponsible than Rolling Stone. The false narrative about Billy Doe that got printed in Rolling Stone drew heavily on a 2011 grand jury report issued by the D.A.'s office. It's a report filled with 20 mistakes as well as actual malice, because the D.A. repeatedly rewrote grand jury testimony to fit a preconceived story line.

But unlike what happened in Virginia, we didn't have The Washington Post riding to the rescue to expose factual discrepancies in the Jackie story. No, here in Philadelphia, we have The Philadelphia Inquirer, a newspaper that's committed journalistic malpractice by covering up the D.A.'s sins, and uncritically passing off Billy Doe's fantastic rape stories in the news and editorial columns as though it really happened.

In their apology after the jury's verdict Friday, Rolling Stone made some admissions that could easily apply to Sabrina Rubin Erdely's Billy Doe story, entitled "The Catholic Church's Secret Sex Crime Files:"

"In our desire to present this complicated issue from the perspective of a survivor, we overlooked reporting paths and made journalistic mistakes that we are committed to never making again," the magazine wrote. "We deeply regret these missteps and sincerely apologize to anyone hurt by them . . ."

In his closing statement to the jury, Clare said that Dean Nicole Eramo -- the villain of the Rolling Stone U-Va. story who was allegedly indifferent to rape victim Jackie's plight -- was "collateral damage in a quest for sensational journalism."

But, Clare argued, Jackie's account of her gang rape was so brutal and so vile that the magazine should have figured out that it wasn't credible.

While we're talking about vile and brutal stories that somebody should have figured out weren't credible, we should mention that Billy Doe, AKA Danny Gallagher, initially claimed that he was viciously raped three times when he was a fifth and sixth grader by two priests and a Catholic school teacher.

And that as bloody and vicious as these attacks were, nobody noticed at the time, including his older brother who was also a student/altar boy at the same church and school, his mom the nurse, and his father the police sergeant, all of whom lived less than a mile away from the scene of the alleged crime spree.

In Erdely's Billy Doe story, the writer referred to the former altar boy as "a sweet, gentle kid with boyish good looks" who was "outgoing and well-liked" before he was callously "passed around" from predator to predator. And those brutal attacks turned him into a sullen, drug-addicted loner.

In the Billy Doe case, what Erdely didn't know [or bother to find out] was that Billy had a history of a half-dozen arrests for retail theft and drugs, including one bust for possession with intent to sell 56 bags of heroin. And that every time Billy told his story, the details kept changing.

Which usually has some effect on a witness's credibility.

But not when a district attorney is looking for the perfect victim's story that falls within the statute of limitations, so he can be the first prosecutor in the country to throw a priest behind bars for covering up sex abuse in the church.

In the case of Billy Doe, the former altar boy initially claimed to two social workers for the archdiocese that in the first attack, one priest anally raped him for five hours in the sacristy and then threatened to kill him.

In the second attack, Billy claimed he was punched in the head and knocked unconscious by another priest. And when he came to he found himself naked and tied up with altar sashes. After which he was anally raped so brutally that he supposedly bled for a week. And after the rape, the priest supposedly threatened to hang Billy by his scrotum. And then the priest forced Billy to suck blood off the priest's penis.

In the third attack, Billy claimed he was punched in the face by a school teacher and strangled with a seat belt before he was raped in the back seat of a car.

Honestly, how could anybody believe this nonsense?

Then, Billy retold his tales to the police and a grand jury. And all of the fantastic details you just read -- the anal rapes, the death threats, the getting punched in the head and supposedly knocked unconscious, the business about being tied up with altar sashes and strangled with a seat belt, and being forced to suck blood -- all of those details disappeared from the story.

In its place the resourceful Billy invented a whole new story about being forced to perform strip teases, oral sex and mutual masturbation with the same trio of assailants.

The details, however, kept changing.

In the case of the school teacher, Billy gave three different locations for the alleged rape -- in the classroom, in the back seat of the teacher's car, and in a park.

In the U-Va. libel case, the jury found that Rolling Stone editors acted with actual malice because they did not take down the original November 2014 story immediately, but left it online until the following April, when it was retracted.

Editors at the magazine did not respond to a request for comment on the Billy Doe story from 2011, which is still posted online. 

In response to the U-Va. verdict, Bill Donohue, president of The Catholic League, wrote in an email that, "In just one week, Gawker and Rolling Stone have been found guilty of libelous stories, costing them millions."

But, Donohue wrote, as "Bad as those two are, they pale in significance to the damage done by the Philadelphia D.A. in his mad pursuit to hunt down priests and Catholic laymen."

"It is not enough that he has been proven to be unethical -- and a loser -- justice demands that he be sanctioned," Donohue wrote about the Philly D.A. "As for the Philadelphia Inquirer, its ancillary role is despicable."

Donohue was referring to several recent scandals involving D.A. Seth Williams. Our ethically-challenged D.A. has already admitted that he took in $160,000 in gifts and free vacations and failed to report them, and that he failed to report to authorities a tire-slashing of an official car by his angry girlfriend.

Thomas Bergstrom is the lawyer for Msgr. William J. Lynn, who on May 1st, is scheduled to be retried for allegedly endangering Billy Doe's welfare by not adequately supervising one of the priests who supposedly raped Billy.

In the Erdely story, Lynn was portrayed as a "company man" who started out his priestly career in the seminary as a "friendly, overweight boy whose acne-scarred face was topped with jet-black hair."

Bergstrom agrees that as bad as the U-Va. gang rape hoax was, what happened here in Philadelphia with lying altar boy Billy is a far worse travesty of justice.

In the U-Va. alleged gang rape case, Bergrstrom said, they were dealing with "just a lying witness."

In the first Archdiocese of Philadelphia sex abuse trial, Bergstrom said, he was not only battling Billy's bogus rape tales, but also bad judicial rulings, as well as prosecutorial misconduct.

At Lynn's original trial in 2012, the trial judge allowed in as evidence 21 supplemental cases of sex abuse dating back to 1948, three years before the monsignor was born, to show a pattern of coverups in the archdiocese.

An appeals court cited those supplemental cases when they threw out Lynn's original conviction.

At Lynn's original trial, Bergstrom said he also didn't know that the detective who led the investigation of Billy Doe's claims had interviewed the alleged victim numerous times. And that when Detective Joseph Walsh questioned Danny Gallagher about nine different factual discrepancies in his stories, Gallagher either sat there and said nothing, claimed he was high on drugs, or told a new story.

"We didn't know anything about the Walsh stuff," Bergstrom said, which was disclosed in a civil deposition and subsequently, a Newsweek cover story. "We had no idea idea that he [Walsh] had interviewed Gallagher as many times as he had done."

"The chief prosecution detective didn't believe the one and only witness they had [Gallagher], and they hid that," Bergstrom said of the D.A.'s office. Which is why Bergstrom plans to file a motion to have the charges against his client thrown out because of prosecutorial misconduct.

Detective Walsh isn't the only sceptic who didn't believe Danny Gallagher.

Dr. Stephen Mechanick, a forensic psychologist who examined Gallagher for nearly three hours, concluded that he was "paranoid," manipulative, passive aggressive, and delusional. And that Gallagher had provided "conflicting and unreliable information" to the psychiatrist about his past, and "was not always honest with his medical providers."

Mechanick also plowed through Billy's medical records from 28 different drug rehab facilities, hospitals, doctors and drug counselors as well as his academic records. The psychiatrist used those records as evidence to disprove all of Gallagher's numerous claims of physical and psychological abuse.

When Gallagher was deposed during a civil suit he filed against the archdiocese for damages, he responded to questions about his numerous conflicting claims of abuse by testifying that he didn't remember more than 130 times.

There's one other big difference in the fraudulent rape stories told by Jackie and Billy.

In Jackie's case, she was exposed as a fraud.

In Billy's case, thanks to our unscrupulous D.A. and the willfully negligent Inquirer, he still gets to pose as a sex abuse victim.

And in a confidential settlement that the church would like you to forget about, Billy collected $5 million from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.


  1. Chaput paid Billy Doe 5M because the Pope told him to do so. He thought that bought him a Cardinal's red cap and the Pope didn't choose him at all to become Cardinal. Only a fool would give 12 pieces of gold for nothing.

  2. Its obvious to those have been following your blog, too bad the INKY is keeping the rest of the region in the dark. Prosecutors would think twice before bringing countless bogus cases, hiding evidence and ruining the lives of innocent individuals. If the one news media outlet in the area would expose team prosecution, justice would prevail for all.

    My only conclusion is fear, reporters must be fearful to say anything against the government or the DA's office. Not too interested in hearing how the media uncovered the DA's tax issues , unless of course he goes to jail for it, I want to know who he sent to prison that was innocent.

    There can be no other reason for the alarming rate of reporters refusing to admit to the truths they witness in the courtroom, or is it that they are concerned the public would not believe their government would commit such crimes on a daily basis.

    Journalist can only save democracy if they report true facts, by asking questions and digging for the truth. Not the truth handed to them by the prosecution. Think of how ludicrous that sounds, the media runs with one side of an argument, it would not work for any two sided story,its bad journalism to take one position or any one point of view when you are reporting the news. But it seems like the public is only getting one side of the news, the prosecution side , how unfair to the rest of us. How truly disappointing to realize how many innocents the media has helped convict.

  3. Well well well, now that the nation knows the FBI is used a political tool,the agent on the Traffic Court case that lied to the grand jury to get indictments and again at trial, all falls into place. What will happen to the feds when the FBI is exposed as the political machine it has become and lose all credibility as seekers of justice. Too bad for all the agents that do good, to keep our country save everyday , to be upstaged by those agents that specialize in political espionage for the ruination of one political party for the benefit of another political party.

  4. Sabrina Rubin Erdely should be investigated for willful and intentionally fabricating sensational and criminal provoking journalism that is the hallmark of the ethical decline of the 4th Estate.

    She should face criminal consequences as did AG Kane for similar offenses in an attempt to rig the Justice System and public opinion.

    Its time to prosecute and incarcerate members of the media.

  5. Wait, D.A. Seth Williams failed to report to authorities a tire-slashing of an official car by his angry girlfriend? Well, that proves it. Williams must have been fraudulent in everything he's ever done. No wonder Donohue jumped all over it in his angry email reported at length here. That information completely undoes the case against Msgr. Lynn despite the fact that Msgr. Lynn freely admitted that he had made a list of 35 priests who he personally confirmed had raped boys in Philadelphia but kept silent about them and did nothing about them, ever, even though it was Lynn's job to manage these priests. Donohue's right. The angry girlfriend thing is the smoking gun here.


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