"I do believe that a Roman collar has become a bull's-eye, that the presumption of guilt has become overwhelming in our society …
"[I] believe that there is child abuse undoubtedly, and it's an insidious and tragic occurrence. However, also, when an innocent priest is convicted of something he didn't do, that's equally tragic."
– Philadelphia defense attorney Michael McGovern, after the verdicts
Are three innocent men, including two Catholic clerics, sitting in prison for crimes they did not commit? A lot of people think so, and there is disturbing and overwhelming evidence that this may indeed be the case.
Last week's conviction in Philadelphia of Fr. Charles Engelhardt and former teacher Bernard Shero on bizarre charges of sadistic abuse is an episode which cries out for someone in the media to investigate the accuser's wild tales.
Yet as it stands now, a jury actually believed the inconceivable claims of Daniel P. Gallagher, an admitted drug addict with an extensive arrest record, that during the 1998-1999 school year, when he was a 10-year-old altar boy at St. Jerome's Parish in Philadelphia, he was viciously abused by three separate men (Engelhardt, Shero, and former priest Edward Avery), all of whom barely even knew each other.
Stunned trial attendees
Persons who attended the trial have said that they were completely "stunned" at the guilty verdicts after they were announced. Indeed, as an indicator at how unlikely everyone thought guilty verdicts would be in this case, even the accuser himself was not in the courtroom when the verdicts were announced, as Gallagher reportedly slipped off to Florida for more drug rehabilitation.
Most notably, even Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams himself openly acknowledged that he "really didn't expect" the verdicts, which is an eye-opening admission for an elected prosecutor to make.
The accusers many different accounts
While some minor inconsistencies are to be expected in stories of abuse that took place years ago, Danny Gallagher's radical differences in his wild accounts of rape defy explanation. As veteran writer Ralph Cipriano dramatically reported at the must-read BigTrial.net blog, trial watchers witnessed how Danny's tales of his abuse haphazardly changed over time.
[NOTE: The following sections contain graphic language.]
In the case against Fr. Engelhardt: In 2009, Danny first told an archdiocesan social worker that a decade earlier after a 6:30 a.m. Mass in the sacristy, Engelhardt took off all of his clothes and forced him to have oral sex. Then, Danny claimed, the priest turned him around and viciously sodomized him for five straight hours until noontime. It was a shocking claim, indeed.
However, in 2010, Danny told the D.A.'s office an entirely different story: that there were actually two episodes with Engelhardt, neither involving oral sex nor sodomy. It was masturbation, Danny claimed.
Finally, when the accuser took the stand in a Philadelphia courtroom a few weeks ago, Danny's ultimate story was that there was just a single attack from the priest, this time only involving oral sex.
Somehow, Gallagher's previous tales of masturbation and five straight hours of ferocious sodomy magically disappeared. What happened? Was the jury even listening?
In the case of Bernard Shero: In 2009, Danny told the archdiocesan social worker that Shero, a man with severe vision impairment since birth, had barbarically raped him in the back seat of a car after punching him in the face and strapping a seat belt around his neck.
Then, over time, Danny told others that the rape had actually occurred in a school classroom. Then Danny claimed it happened in the car again. And when Danny took the stand last month, he decided on the claim that Shero had attacked him in a place in Philly called Pennypack Park. Danny's previous story about being punched in the face and the seat belt being wrapped around his neck magically disappeared.
There is even a lot more to this. The number of wild inconsistencies in Danny's narrative are truly astonishing. And, again, these inconsistencies are not even close to being little details. They go to the very heart of Danny's accusations. Writer Cipriano summed everything up as best as anybody:
"There was no physical evidence in the case, and no corroborating witnesses. Just Billy [Danny's pseudonym] and his stories about how he had been brutally raped by three men in two years, while his mother, a nurse, and his father, a Philadelphia police officer, and his doctor, who testified in the case, never noticed a thing. Not even a pair of bloody underwear. Are you kidding me?"
How the jury in this case did not see "reasonable doubt" – at the very least – borders on inconceivable. Indeed, individuals on this jury may have been lying through their teeth when they said that they did not have a predisposed bias against Catholic priests.
Danny's troubling record
While media outlets touched on Gallagher's long history with drugs and skirmishes with the law, we suspect the full story has yet to be told.
While describing Gallagher as a "shipwreck," Cipriano has reported that Danny has been in-and-out of 23 drug re-habs, has been in-and-out of jail numerous times, and he was recently arrested with 56 bags of heroin. Meanwhile, Cipriano reports, the Philly D.A.'s Office has at least once offered Danny a "get-out-of-jail-free" card in exchange for his testimony to nab the Catholic Church.
Where is the justice here? Where is the media?
TheMediaReport.com has yet to obtain Danny's full criminal record, but we have obtained two recent court dockets from a 2011 drug possession arrest and a 2010 theft arrest at a retail outlet.
[UPDATE, 3/8/13: Here is a court summary of Dan's extensive arrest record.]
Stay tuned. For now, here is another quote following the verdicts from Fr. Engelhardt's defense attorney, Michael McGovern:
"I've been doing this 37 years, presenting trials to jurors, and this is the first time in my life I can tell you that I am extremely disappointed and actually shocked …
"There will not be a night that goes by for many, many nights when I don't ponder how I let him down."