The bizarre and wildly inconsistent claims of sadistic abuse against Philadelphia Catholic priest Fr. Charles Engelhardt and former teacher Bernard Shero were so unbelievable that January's convictions of the two men actually "required the suspension of all rational thought."
That is the eye-opening conclusion of veteran writer Ralph Cipriano, who continues to examine this very troubling case over a month after the shocking verdicts.
Cipriano unearths more troubling details
Kudos to Cipriano for his dogged investigative work into the claims of abuse by Danny Gallagher, who has accused three individuals, Fr. Engelhardt, Shero, and former priest Edward Avery (all of whom barely knew each other), of depraved abuse.
Among Cipriano's stunning revelations:
- Even members of the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office did not believe Gallagher's wild claims and questioned whether they should even try the case against Engelhardt and Shero;
- Fr. Engelhardt easily passed a polygraph test denying that he abused Danny or anyone, and the test administrator was a guy often hired by the Philly D.A.'s Office itself;
- On December 3, 2010, Fr. Engelhardt waved his fifth amendment rights and voluntarily appeared before the Philadelphia grand jury, at which he asserted his innocence and testified, "I have no knowledge of who the person is. If he's sitting in this room today, I can't pick him out … I found it to be a very humbling thing to be called on the phone … when you know, there was no truth or that was something unrealistic that was happening to you";
- Triple-accuser Danny has been in-and-out of some 23 drug re-habs, has been in-and-out of jail a number of times, and he was recently arrested with 56 bags of heroin [Update, 3/8/13: We have located a more complete court summary on Gallagher]; and
- Most notably, as we have relayed before, Gallagher has told separate tales of perverted abuse have been wildly and dramatically different and inconsistent over time.
When it comes to the wild inconsistencies in the tales of the abuse he claims to have endured, Gallagher has tried to explain that he was under the influence of drugs at the time he told his differing stories to archdiocesan employees and others.
Gallagher makes no sense at all
But this excuse makes no sense at all. For example, there was an important episode on January 30, 2009, when Archdiocesan victim support worker Louise Hagner went to interview Danny the day after he left a phone message with the Archdiocese that he had been abused. On that day, Hagner took careful notes and recorded that Danny had told her that Edward Avery violently sodomized him on two occasions, even brutally punching him in the head and tying him up with "altar sashes."
Danny now says he completely forgot what he told Hagner that day because he was "wasted" on drugs. Yet according to the Danny's 2010 grand jury transcript, which Ralph Cipriano has posted, here is what Danny did remember about the very day that Hagner went to go visit him:
- Danny remembered getting a call on his cell phone from the archdiocese;
- Danny remembered that he agreed to meet with the archdiocese;
- Danny remembered his father telling him that he did not want him to meet with them;
- Danny remembered Louise coming to the house and knocking on the door;
- Danny remembered his dad not allowing him to answer the door;
- Danny remembered that he sneaked out of the house and hopped into the car with Louise;
- Danny remembered Louise "drove down the street a little and parked the car";
- Danny remembered that Louise identified herself from the Archdiocese victim services;
- Danny remembered that he was alone in the car with her;
- Danny remembered that Louise was taking notes.
But Danny now says that he somehow does not remember anything at all what he actually told Hagner about his abuse when they were in the car that day.
Why does Danny now say that he does not remember what he told Hagner from the archdiocese? Danny blames it on the drugs, but the obvious explanation is that a year later, in January 2010, Danny told the Philadelphia D.A.'s Office radically different stories about his abuse from Avery and he needs to explain away the glaring conflicts in his accounts.
As Cipriano has reported, the claims of violence, anal sex, and being tied up by Avery were magically gone and replaced with tales of stripteases, masturbation, oral sex, and other perversions.
The differences are mind-blowing, and the fact that a jury actually convicted Engelhardt and Shero despite these blatant discrepancies will never cease to astonish.
As sentencing nears
Engelhardt and Shero are scheduled to be sentenced on
March 18 June 12, and as that date looms nearer, there appears to be only a few scenarios that could prevent the innocent pair of men from living out the rest of their lives in prison:
1. The judge overturns the verdict or orders a new trial.
2. The accuser, Danny Gallagher, finally comes clean and recants his wild stories.
3. A major media outlet shines a light on this troublesome case.
Unfortunately, none of these scenarios seem likely, especially the second one, as Gallagher is looking at a huge cash payout in the future from a civil lawsuit he has filed.