Friday, January 13, 2017

"You're Killing My Case"

By Ralph Cipriano

On the witness stand today, retired Detective Joseph Walsh detailed numerous inconsistencies in the many contradictory stories told by Danny Gallagher, the former altar boy who famously and improbably claimed he was raped by two priests and a Catholic schoolteacher.

And when Walsh told Assistant District Attorney Mariana Sorensen about those inconsistencies, her response, according to Walsh was, "You're killing my case."

At the end of a nearly three-hour pre-trial hearing today, Thomas A. Bergstrom, a lawyer for Msgr. William J. Lynn, stood before the judge and stated what Sorensen should have done when faced with all those inconsistencies: confront Gallagher and find out what was the truth.

But Sorensen, who was not called by the District Attorney as a witness to refute Detective Walsh, never did confront Danny Gallagher, Bergstrom told the judge. Why? Because, Bergstrom said, Sorensen had to know, "That the kid's a liar."

Today's hearing in Common Pleas Court today was held before Judge Gwendolyn N. Bright. The judge was trying to decide whether to grant a motion by Bergstrom to dismiss the retrial of Msgr. Lynn, scheduled to begin on May 30th, because of Bergstrom's allegations of prosecutorial misconduct.

The judge, who spent much of her time in the back room trying to referee a grudge match between Bergstrom and Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington, gave the attorneys in the case deadlines for filing briefs before she would rule March 1st on the motion to dismiss.

Bergstrom and Blessington were adversaries in 2012, at the first trial of Msgr. William J. Lynn, the verdict of which has since been overturned. At that first trial, a jury convicted Lynn on a single count of endangering the welfare of a child, Danny Gallagher, by allowing Father Edward V. Avery to return to ministry. It was Avery who was accused of sexually assaulting Danny Gallagher after a funeral Mass.

It was a strange sight to see retired Detective Walsh testifying on behalf of the defense. Walsh, who wore jeans, sneakers and had a pair of sunglasses tucked into the collar of his green sweater, was the district attorney's original lead detective in the investigation into Gallagher's sensational allegations of sex abuse.

At the 2012 trial, Walsh, usually wearing a suit and tie, spent day after day, week after week, reading grim accounts of past cases of sexual abuse by priests into the record, to show a pattern in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia of covering up abuse.

Walsh, as many lawyers would tell you, is a witness straight out of central casting. He's got the square jaw, the swept-back white hair, and just-the-facts manner that's accompanied by plenty of charm, and an easy smile. In short, if there is a retrial of Msgr. Lynn, Walsh on the witness stand testifying on behalf of the defense is going to be a problem for the district attorney. He's that credible.

When he was telling Sorensen about the problems in her case, Walsh said, she replied, "I believe him, I believe him," meaning she was putting her faith in Danny Gallagher's crazy and wildly conflicting stories/fables.

When ADA Sorensen told Wallsh he was killing her case, Walsh said he replied that he was just asking questions and writing down what people told him.

All he was doing, Walsh said he told Sorensen, was, "getting the truth."

But Sorensen didn't want to hear it. The truth, Walsh said she told him, was killing her case.

Asked on cross-examination by Blessington whether he ever put that alleged remark by Sorensen down on paper, Walsh replied, "No, sir."

The other bizarre element to today's hearing was that Bergstrom repeatedly attempted to enter the prosecution's own records into evidence, to demonstrate the many inconsistencies in Danny Gallagher's stories. But ADA Blessington kept strenuously objecting to keep those same documents from being admitted as evidence.

The height of this absurdity occurred when Blessington successfully convinced the judge to keep the D.A.'s own 2011 grand jury report out of evidence. One of the reasons Bergstrom may have wanted to use that grand jury report written by Sorensen was to show the many errors in it, as more evidence of prosecutorial misconduct.

Such as when Danny Gallagher's mother, a registered nurse, told the grand jury that she noticed a drastic personality change in her son at age 14, after he entered high school. But when Sorensen wrote the grand jury report, the mother's testimony was changed to say that the drastic personality change "coincided with the abuse," which supposedly happened when Gallagher was 10 and 11 years old and was back in grade school.

How was Sorensen going to explain that rewrite? But Bergstrom never got the chance to ask because the judge excluded the grand jury report as evidence, at the request of our unscrupulous district attorney, and Sorensen wasn't called as witness. Even though Blessington had previously told the judge that Sorensen denied Walsh's claim that she said he was damaging her case.

Maybe Sorensen wasn't called as a witness because she was going to plead the Fifth Amendment.

But at the hearing, Bergstrom was able to get into the record before Judge Bright the curious time line of the Danny Gallagher case. It goes like this:

-- Gallagher, who first came forward in 2009 with his incredible allegations of abuse, was first interviewed by the D.A. on Jan. 28, 2010, after they busted Gallagher out of jail, where he was serving time for a parole violation. On Jan. 21, 2011, the 2011 grand jury report was issued, based completely on the totally unverified stories told by Danny Gallagher and another since-discredited alleged victim, Mark Bukowski. A month later, the five defendants in the case, led by Msgr. Lynn, were arrested based on those completely unverified allegations in the grand jury report, as compiled by master fiction writer Mariana Sorensen.

-- In December 2011, nearly a year after the grand jury report was issued, and nearly two years after the D.A. first took a statement from Gallagher, Detective Walsh, at the request of former First Assistant District Attorney Ed McCann, began to investigate Gallagher's claims. It was Detective Walsh who interviewed Gallagher's mother, and older brother [also an altar boy at the same parish], as well as the teachers and priests at St. Jerome's. And what did Walsh discover? That every witness statement he took, including the ones from Gallagher's own family members, contradicted Danny Gallagher's wild and crazy stories.

The judge at times seemed confused by the simple truth of the time line. Under District Attorney Seth Williams, the modus operandi when prosecuting the Archdiocese of Philadelphia was to first publish completely unverified allegations in the grand jury report. Then, a month later, arrest the defendants. And with the full cooperation of the news media, hang those defendants out to try publicly, while protecting Danny Gallagher under the moniker of "Billy Doe."

Nearly a year later, after the D.A. finally got around to investigating those allegations, the lead detective suddenly discovered that none of it was true. That's why, Bergstrom insisted to the judge, that ADA Mariana Sorensen told Detective Walsh, "You're killing my case."

"She had the case locked up," Bergstrom told the judge. "But the good detective unlocked it."

In court today, Bergstrom dwelled on two simple story lines that showed that Danny Gallagher was a complete liar. First, Gallagher claimed that he was assaulted by Father Charles Engelhardt after an early morning Mass, which Gallagher stated was at 6:30 a.m.

But Gallagher got the time of the early morning weekday Mass wrong at St. Jerome's, in Northeast Philly. It's held at 6:15 a.m., followed by an 8 a.m. Mass.

Gallagher first told a drug counselor, and then two archdiocese social workers, the same wild story, that he was allegedly taken hostage by Father Engelhardt and savagely abused in an anal ramming attack that went on for four or five hours in the sacristy of the tiny church. After he was done raping the boy, the priest allegedly threatened that if Gallagher told anybody, the priest would kill him.

But every month at St. Jerome's, Detective Walsh explained, the pastor put out a Mass schedule. And every month, Gallagher's mother would take the schedule home and write on her calendar, which she kept on the fridge in her kitchen, the dates of the Masses that Danny and his older brother, James, also an altar boy at the same church, were scheduled to serve at.

But, Detective Walsh told the judge, the mother's meticulous calendars showed that during the 1998-99 school year, when Gallagher claimed he was raped as a fifth-grader, Danny Gallagher wasn't scheduled to serve at any 6:15 a.m. Masses. But his brother did serve one early morning Mass, with Father Avery.

Lost in the flow of today's hearing was the fact that Gallagher had completely backed off his original wild stories of violent abuse, punches, kicks and death threats, along with supposedly being tied up in bondage, that he had first told his drug counselor and the two social workers from the archdiocese. Then, he invented a completely new and different story line about being forced to perform a strip tease, as well as mutual masturbation and oral sex with his alleged assailants.

Gallagher explained away his early wild stories by telling Walsh that he was high on drugs when he talked to his drug counselor, and when he talked to the two social workers. But Walsh knew from his investigation that the drug counselor said that Danny Gallagher was sober when he told his stories of alleged abuse. And Walsh knew that when Gallagher talked to the two archdiocese social workers, and told them the same wild stories, just minutes earlier, he had been chauffeured home from a drug clinic by his father the police sergeant.

Where did he find the time and the drugs to get high, Walsh said he asked Danny Gallagher. Gallagher, Walsh said, had no answer.

Walsh alluded to many other factual contradictions in Gallagher's stories. Gallagher claimed that Father Engelhardt accosted him after the 6:15 a.m. Mass when he was supposedly putting away the sacramental wine. But Gallagher's older brother told Detective Walsh that it was another church officer, the
sexton, who put away the sacramental wine. And that the sexton was the last to leave the church, after he locked up. Which would have meant that it was impossible for Danny Gallagher to be alone with Father Engelhardt in the sacristy after the 6:15 Mass, which only lasted about 25 minutes.

"There were just so many inconsistencies," Walsh told the judge.

Not to mention what happened to the 8 a.m. Mass? Was it cancelled because an elderly priest was busy anally raping a 10-year-old altar boy behind the locked doors of the sacristy? While people who showed up early for the 8 a.m. Mass in the tiny church were busy reciting the Rosary?

Didn't they hear Danny Gallagher's cries for help? Gallagher's cockamamie story made no sense, Walsh told the judge.

Danny Gallagher also told Detective Walsh that when he was attacked after Mass, he had walked to and from the church. But Walsh said that Gallagher's older brother told him that whenever he served Mass, his parents would drive him to and from the church, even though they lived less than a mile away. [Danny Gallagher's mother testified at trial that she would drive both of her altar boys to and from church].

"They were good parents," Walsh said.

Walsh also told a story about two textbooks on sex abuse that Danny Gallagher kept under his bed. In the 2011 grand jury report, Sorensen wrote that Gallagher was self-diagnosing by reading those books, supposedly trying to come to terms with the horrors of his own abuse.

But according to Detective Walsh, when Danny Gallagher saw the books on Walsh's desk, "He pointed at" them, laughed, and said, "that's where I used to crush my pills and get high." Gallagher then pointed out to Walsh numerous indentations in the hard covers of the two textbooks.

The second simple story line highlighted by Bergstrom: Danny Gallagher claimed that a second assailant, Father Avery, accosted him after school while he was a member of a maintenance crew during fifth grade that was helping to put away the bells and some heavy 7-foot tables used after a bell choir concert.

But, Detective Walsh told the judge, three teachers at St. Jerome's, including the school's longtime music teacher, told him that only eigth-grade boys were allowed to serve on the bell choir maintenance crew, because they were generally the "biggest and strongest" kids at the school. So they were physically capable of handling the heavy bronze bells and seven-foot tables before the concert.

The maintenance crew, however, only set up equipment for the bell choir concerts, Walsh told the judge. Then. they went home. After the concerts, which lasted no more than an hour, the members of the bell choir, which included two teachers, put away the bells and tables, Walsh said. Not Danny Gallagher, who was a member of the maintenance crew when he was an eighth-grader, but not when he was a fifth-grader, Gallagher's former teachers told Walsh.

Based on those two simple stories, Bergstrom told the judge, if Danny Gallagher never served at a 6:15 a.m. Mass and he never served as a fifth-grader member of the bell choir maintenance crew, "These men should have never been convicted," Bergstrom said about the defendants in the case.

"Neither of these things are true," Bergstrom said about the early morning Mass and serving on the bell choir crew as a fifth-grader. "It's that simple."

A month before the first trial of Msgr. Lynn, Walsh said he sat down with Danny Gallagher to prepare the D.A.'s star witness for testifying.

"There were a lot of discrepancies," Walsh told the judge. "I was going to iron out the discrepancies."

But, Walsh said, when he confronted Gallagher about the many factual discrepancies in his stories, "He just put his head down" and said nothing. Or claimed he was high on drugs.

When Gallagher refused to respond, Walsh said he told him that during a trial, a judge would force him to answer those questions.

"You can't just sit there and not answer those questions," Walsh said he told Gallagher. But, Walsh said,  Gallagher "would stare at the table" and say nothing.

"He wouldn't answer," Walsh said about Danny Gallagher. "He would clam up and put his head down."

At the end of today's hearing, Bergstrom told the judge that the prosecution should have informed defense lawyers about Gallagher's non-responsive answers in response to Detective Walsh's repeated questioning. The prosecution should have also told the defense about Mariana Sorensen's alleged response to the factual discrepancies in Gallagher's stories, namely, "You're killing my case."

The judge now has some time to mull over whether to respond to Bergstrom's motion by throwing out the D.A.'s case against Msgr. Lynn.

Meanwhile, it was obvious to everyone in court today, including the D.A.'s trio of representatives, that Danny Gallagher is a liar who was just making up stories that the D.A. wanted to hear.

And if Danny Gallagher made it all up, four innocent men were sent to jail. Two of those men, former  school teacher Bernard Shero, and former priest Ed Avery, are still in jail.

One jailed priest, Father Engelhardt, died there.

The last of the defendants, Msgr. Lynn, the archdiocese's former secretary for clergy, served 33 of his minimum 36 month sentence, plus 18 months of house arrest. But Lynn's legal ordeal isn't over as the official scapegoat for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. If Judge Bright doesn't grant Bergstrom's motion to dismiss, Lynn faces a retrial starting May 30th.

In the courtroom today, Lynn's relatives showed up, along with Father Engelhardt's niece, and Bernie Shero's mother, father and sister. Before the hearing, the tearful Shero family thanked Walsh for coming forward to tell the truth.

Also in the audience today was one of the lawyers for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia who negotiated what was supposed to be a confidential civil settlement for Danny Gallagher of $5 million for his alleged pain and suffering.

That lawyer was probably worried about the fallout, as more and more people, including possibly Judge Bright, come to the realization that Danny Gallagher is a complete fraud. And that the D.A. knew it, but went ahead anyway and sent four innocent men to jail. For the sole purpose of  political gain. By conducting a witch hunt, with the full cooperation of the news media, against the local Catholic Church.


  1. Nice coverage Ralph. I see the Inquirer found it interesting as well.

    None of this is particularly surprising, but it's a big deal that it got in front of the judge. I don't see any way this trial can move forward without Sorensen becoming a witness, and your point about why she wasn't called is probably spot on. The DA looks bad either way if Bergstrom calls her - if the DA fights it, he's hiding something. If he allows it, she either contradicts her own detective or admits.

    Maybe the biggest question isn't whether this goes to trial but rather who loses their law license along the way and what exactly motivated Sorensen in particular to 1) keep pushing the first trial and 2) quit afterwards

    Not the kind of shit Seth Williams needs right now either. Maybe he should have let this go when he had the chance. Now we have a falsified grand jury presentment and a detective testifying for the defense in the middle of a primary.

  2. Nobody told Seth Williams to prosecute this case again, only Seth made the decision. Who will lose licenses to practice law will be Seth Williams , Blessington, Sorenson, Judges Sarmina and Ceisler . All that is left is for Judge Bright is to close the pathetic act of a legal charade that would be so funny if it was not for a priest who died in prison. If Bright continues this charade on to trial, she will be added to the list. The Archdiocese will have plenty to reasons to sue the City of Philadelphia for their egregious case of legal abuses over multiple trials. Any other judge would have killed the case on the spot if not for Bright who must consult with her minders because of political correctness issues involving a black DA.

  3. Great reporting Ralph. It's a total disgrace what the DA's office did in this case. It's also sad for the victims in other cases where their allegations were true. What the DA did here minimizes their cases..

  4. That's always been my position. A fraudulent victim such as Gallagher undermines every real victim.

    Meanwhile, the Inky is making great progress. After calling Gallagher Billy Doe for seven years, Gallagher is now known in the columns of the Inky as "the accuser."

  5. Excellent reporting. Crystal clear. What an utter disgrace this whole pantomime has been. As an expat living in the US I have been sharing this site with friends back home - several of whom work in the legal field. Their response has been uniform: disgust.

  6. Hi Ralph - as usual, excellent reporting.

    Looks like that first comment may have been from Kopride - or perhaps from another sympathetic lawyer - but it's hard to tell. For sure, though, it wasn't from Slade McLaughlin.

    It's interesting how the Inky is now taking at least token interest in the case. I guess they don't want to be viewed as disinterested or uninformed whenever this case finally busts wide open. They should have been involved from the get-go.

    Were it not for your dogged efforts, this manifest Philadelphia Criminal Justice travesty would have remained under the proverbial rug in the DA's office.

    I - among many others - have long been praying and hoping for an expeditious and totally satisfactory end to this fiasco. To me, this would mean the recovery of the 5 million dollars paid to Doe and his legal team by Checkbook Charlie, whatever else Avery, Shero and the Oblates may have forked over, proper financial compensation for their legal fees and for the public humiliation and time they spent incarcerated followed by the appropriate punishment for those involved.

    I wonder if Mariana Sorensen will again grace this blog with her comments.

    Mariana - I double dog dare you (pun intended)!

  7. Today's headlines reads "Trump Team May Eject Press Corps,Alarming Reporters" which rightly so,astonished the media. We the readers of bigtrail have been pleading, imploring, begging, beseeching the media to get involved, to see what we are seeing, to listen to what we are listening to in court, of grand juror testimony and at sentencings.

    All words have been exhausted in asking for your assistance in helping to level the playing field for defendants. We need help, defendants need help, the public needs help, we need the help to teach good people what absolute power prosecutors have over ever one of us, whether we believe it or not. To help educate them to the horrors of the current judicial system, listen to what you are being told, listen to what people have been trying to tell you.

    Women having the right to vote, the civil rights act,same sex marriages,would at one time have been unheard of, until people fought for their rights. Defendants deserve more from the media, my idea is that no media outlet be allowed to write one word about a defendant before a trial.

    We should not allow the abuse by the media to continue,condemning a defendant before they step inside a court room , its just unacceptable, its how the feds are so highly successful with their high rate of convictions.

    We are we allowing the prosecution to teach the public how to think and what to feel, there is no filter, it spews forth from the pages.
    There is so much information the Inky is not sharing with its readership, real life stories of lives ruined by the greed and corruption of the prosecution.

    1. @anonymous 8:55


      Justice in Philadelphia??

      Does anyone remember Judge Renee Cardwell Hughes? She was supervising judge involved with the ‘intellectually dishonest’ the Grand Jury Report that precipitated the indictment of Lynn, Avery, Engelhardt, Shero and Brennan.

      In spite of what is described below, Hughes is still an active lawyer (member 43146), with no disciplinary actions recorded by the Philadelphia Bar Association.

      Excerpted from the Catholic World Report - February, 2012….

      The first judge to oversee the case’s hearings, Renee Cardwell Hughes, was quite antagonistic to attorneys for the accused clerics.

      In a hearing last spring, Hughes repeatedly berated the defense attorneys, addressing them as “baby” and angrily ordering them to “shut up and sit down.” When a defense attorney legally challenged the judge on a particular point, Hughes snapped, “Well, snapdoodle!”

      At one point during another hearing, Judge Hughes blurted out, “Avery, Engelhardt, and Shero (three of the defendants) picked a child and singled him out.”

      Well, that bold assertion sure seems like something for a jury to decide. Yet Hughes appeared to betray her impartiality and opine that the issue had already been settled.

      ……………..The Pennsylvania Supreme Court chastised the judge last May after it was learned that Hughes ordered a court reporter to illegally alter a court transcript in a 2008 death penalty case. Hughes wanted the transcript altered to remove derogatory remarks she had made about a defendant. The Supreme Court said Hughes’ actions were “reprehensible” and “should be condemned universally.” Judge Hughes left the bench last April to take a leadership position with the Red Cross.

    2. indicted before the investigation was even begun by the DA's detectives including Joe Walsh

      Railroaded by Hughes during those early hearings mentioned above, ah, I can still hear those famous words: somebody's going to jail for this abuse....convicted long before their day in court by the likes of Hughes, convicted in the court of public opinion by the likes of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News...

      didn't matter what the defense offered particularly those arguments concerning Danny gallaghers claim he was molested in "5th grade" while a member of the bell crew, a claim clearly refuted on the stand in the Engelhardt/Shero trial by several St Jerome's teachers and a Nun, who I believe was either the principal or asst principal..

      Reasonable Doubt, plenty of it but those ignorant jurors in these cases chose to convict based on a pack of lies by Danny Gallagher and a deceitful and deliberately false & malicious prosecution by all connected to the Philadelphia DA's office...the corruption starts at the top with Seth Williams......

    3. Considering her attempted tampering with a court record, it's hard to believe that Judge Hughes wasn't disbarred.

      But - then again - this is, suck it up

  8. ah, it's refreshing to see the $ 62,000 fine imposed on Seth Williams yesterday for his ethics violcaiton for all the bribes he took from his friends in high since he can't raid the bogus non-profit and his friends I'm sure will not lend him any more money, what rock will he turn over to pay the fine....(NO INSTALLMENTS PLEASE)

    also, haven't seen it yet but I know I'll also love the FOP
    "HELP WANTED for a DA" billboard up on I-95 ...the FOP should make their choice and put every resource available to defeat this corrupt District Attorney...

    now if only the feds can complete their ongoing investigation and bring this thug up on charges like the other political hacks that are on their way to jail....

  9. Re: 'The judge, ...... gave the attorneys in the case deadlines for filing briefs before she would rule March 1st on the motion to dismiss.'

    What was her ruling????
    Read more at"


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